Style on a budget
Guest post by Robyna from The Mummy and The Minx
Someone wise once said “Fashion is what you buy. Style is what you do with it.”
Isn’t that awesome? That money might buy all the clothes in the world, but style is something very different? After all, who do you think is more stylish and creative – the woman dressed head to toe in an outfit already seen on the catwalk? Or the woman who has pulled together a chain store basic, an op shop find and something unexpected in a beautiful way?
A designer wardrobe might not be within grasp, but style certainly is.
Before we even think about spending money, there are some basic foundations to great style.
Know what works for you
What works for you will depend on three things: what looks good on you, what you feel comfortable in and what suits your lifestyle. If you need help sorting this out, you cannot go past Nikki Parkinson’s awesome book, Unlock Your Style .
Know your wardrobe
Do you know exactly what’s in your wardrobe? Honestly? Wardrobe space is precious – everything hanging in your closet should be earning its keep. Take the time to regularly audit your wardrobe.
Know your gaps & overlaps
Once you have a well-edited wardrobe, the gaps should become clear. Likewise, those things that you have way too many of should reveal themselves. I cannot go past a cute, white, lacy top. But I really don’t need five of them.
If you have a clear idea of your style and a wardrobe that is working for you, then shopping should be a pleasure. Rather than an exercise in panic, frustration or buying things we just don’t need.
Let’s Go Shopping – Tips to keep your wardrobe within budget
- If it’s a separate, don’t buy it unless it will go with three existing things in your wardrobe.
- A good price is only a good price if you will wear the item and it’s not a repeat of something you already have. Otherwise it’s just a waste of money – even if it’s 75% off. Be honest with yourself.
- On a similar note, check the laundering instructions before purchase. I once bought an incredible dress for $35, reduced from $300. Because it was $35, I treated it as an every-day dress rather than occasion one. But it needed to be dry-cleaned. The dress was cheap, the maintenance was not.
- There is nothing wrong with a bit of an impulse shop – I have picked up some incredible sale items that way. But if it’s the only way you shop, you will be left with a wardrobe devoid of basic pieces and nothing to wear. Do make basics shopping a priority. Don’t be distracted by all the shiny.
- If you are buying a dress for a specific occasion, thinking about borrowing something first. We often just want to wear something new because it’s an occasion, and then we end up with a wardrobe full of occasion wear. Borrowing from a girlfriend, sister or mum with similar style will still give you that “new” feeling.
- If you really want something new of your own for an occasion, considering buying separates rather than a dress – it will give you more options to integrate that outfit into your regular wardrobe.
- It is often advised to spend money on quality basics and spare change on the trend items. I actually think the opposite works. A plain black pair of pants doesn’t scream its origin and discount department stores have a wide variety of budget-friendly options. However, if you buy the on-trend item featured in a chain store’s display window, you risk everyone knowing exactly where you shopped. I think style needs a bit of mystery. Shop for those special, stand-out pieces in smaller boutiques, consignment stores and op shops.
- Accessories make an outfit pop and there are plenty of costume jewellery stores to choose from these days. They often have excellent sales. Don’t forget jewellery in chain stores. Again, these items are often discounted and an absolute (untapped) treasure trove. If you want something truly unique, check out Etsy or your local markets for a piece of handmade gorgeousness. If you are going to splurge, I think it’s nice to do so with a local artisan.
- In the weeks following stocktake, department stores will continue to slash prices until they clear stock. During those weeks you will often see 75% off the marked-down price racks in women’s wear – don’t forget to check out the accessories counter at the same time for similar bargains.
- Get on the mailing lists and VIP card programs of the chain stores you love. Remember, if you see something you adore on sale, but they don’t have your size, you can very often get it online.
Working with what you already have
Even if you have absolutely no money to spend on clothes, you can still up your style stakes.
- A clothes swap with friends is a great way to gift on the clothes that no longer work for you and receive new ones. I think it’s easier to let go of that amazing dress when you know it’s going to a good home.
- If you have a friend or family member who is a similar size and has a similar style then see if you can have a regular borrowing arrangement. Just make sure you return the (clean) items in a timely manner.
- Go through your wardrobe and see what could be altered, or worn in a different way. Shorts and skirts can be brought in with the addition of a few darts. New buttons can breath life into an old coat. Old jeans can be shortened. Corporate wear can be translated into casual wear. Get a bit creative with what you already have.
- You probably have a few go-to, fail-safe outfits. Next time you wear one, add one extra thing. Maybe a necklace, a hat or a scarf. It will add a lift to your outfit and put a smile on your face. Promise.
Do you have any tips to stay stylish on a budget?
Robyna May writes at the Mummy and the Minx, a blog dedicated to empowering mothers and inspiring minxes. She writes about getting the mojo back into your life after kids and expanding possibilities when they contract after having babies. Her passions are writing and creating beautiful things. She has unkempt hair, a crazy, messy house full of boys, a racing brain and too many ideas.