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Advice For Dressing Well On A Budget

Updated on December 27, 2013

We live in tough times, and everyone wants to watch not just her dollars but her pennies too. But we all want to enjoy life as much as possible, and confidence we look stylish and chic puts a smile on the face and a spring in the step. Below is a guide to expressing your personal style: making the most of what you have in the first place, and wisely adding at little or no cost.


Clean out your closet

Taking inventory is the first step. If you are like most of us, the closets and drawers have not had a thorough going through in some time. Sort into four categories:

· Definitely Keeping Is in good condition, fits well, looks good and I’m comfortable wearing it. If any of these is missing, it’s not a Definitely.

· Probably Keeping Not up to snuff for some reason, but I’m not willing to let go yet.

· Good enough for a resale shop If a piece of clothing is in good condition, a resale shop may be able to sell it, and share the proceeds with you. Perfect items for resale are things that don’t fit correctly, things that you don’t wear because they just aren’t you, and gifts that missed the mark somehow, but can’t be returned because there was no gift receipt in the box. Resale shops are pretty much always individually owned, and they are as unique as the women who operate them. Every resale shop owner I’ve met is a business woman who cares about fashion and has her own aesthetic. What they will take varies widely. Some are conservative, some edgy, some very upscale, some shabby chic, some vintage. Finding all these types of establishments in your area is worth your while, so check the yellow pages and ask a local fashionista or two, plus your hairdresser. Most carry shoes, belts, handbags and jewelry as well as clothes, so don’t neglect to clear your closet and drawers of these items too. If one place doesn’t take your things, don’t be discouraged, just move on to the next. If nothing else, you will get a look inside all the resale boutiques in your area.

· Charity What you can’t recover some money on will benefit someone else. Goodwill and Salvation Army have excellent reputations.

Now that you’ve culled the closet, reorganize. Really shake up the order: if pants always went on the far right, move them to the center: if dresses were in middle, put print dresses on left and solids on the right. Or long on the left, short on the right. Make it very different. The purpose of this is to shake you out of your fashion rut, and open up new possibilities.

Once all the Definitely Keeps are settled in their new places, take another look at the Probably Keeps. Do they look like they belong? Will you wear them? Do they fill a valuable place, or are they the least attractive of three lime green sweaters?

A great scarf makes the look.
A great scarf makes the look. | Source



Accessories express your unique style more than anything else. They also stretch your wardrobe. The same basic outfit takes on a different flavor with a change of jewelry and a scarf and hat. Accessories are the most memorable and eye-catching element of many ensembles.


A wardrobe of simple, easy to coordinate and easy to care for pieces, which serve as a background for a wide variety of accessories, will take you far.

My daughter the fashionista. She gives me advice.
My daughter the fashionista. She gives me advice.

Mix it up

No matter how much a person has, she tends to drift into wearing the same favorite few outfits. Before buying anything new, look at using what you already have more, and in different combinations. Now that your fashion space has a little more elbow room, and contains only clothes that look good and fit great, let’s look with fresh eyes.

First of all, did the reorganization turn up anything great that hadn’t been worn in awhile? It’s as good as getting something new!

Second, come up with some new pairings. You always wore the cranberry top with that peasant skirt, but what else presents a match? What can layer that you never wore in layers? That top always went with jeans? How about khakis? Can that summer dress move into fall and even winter, layered with tights, a sweater and a jacket?

A stack of scarves - lots of options
A stack of scarves - lots of options | Source

Swap with friends


Before you buy, see if you can organize a swap meet. The more people the better, and all items have to be something you’re willing to part with. Jewelry you don’t wear? Fuzzy scarf that makes you sneeze? Lacey blouse that doesn’t fit the life of mother of toddlers?


Invite your friends to your house, put on some music, serve coffee or wine depending on the time of day, and trade away. No one is under any obligation, but one person’s cast off is another person’s new favorite.


A classic wardrobe staple.
A classic wardrobe staple. | Source

Never underestimate the power of a great pair of blue jeans

Blue jeans are one of the best basics out there, and an excellent wardrobe building block. They can dress up or down, go to many work places and recreation hang-outs, are easy to care for, and can look terrific.

The key to jeans is fit. Jeans are more form fitting than most types of clothing, but a good fit will be perfectly comfortable and very flattering. Every fashion magazine runs an article on ‘which jeans are best for your body type’ about 5 or 6 times a year, so I will give you my version here.

Step 1 Put the jeans on

Step 2 Stand in front of the mirror

Question 1 How do you look?

Question 2 How do you feel?

If you look and feel good, the jeans are right for you.

In my opinion one of the best places to get jeans is Goodwill. Jeans are more unforgiving than other types of clothing, and end up discarded more often. Even when a woman arrives at her prepregnancy weight, the distribution often isn’t quite the same, and a pair of jeans with plenty of life left is given to charity. Goodwill usually has racks of jeans, in a variety of styles, cuts, brand names and shades of blue. All women’s jeans at my local Goodwill cost $7.50, and I have found Gap and Lands End in abundance, along with the occasional Abercrombie & Fitch.

Detail of a lace scarf I am making. I'm not good at crafts - if I can do it, you can do it!
Detail of a lace scarf I am making. I'm not good at crafts - if I can do it, you can do it!

Learn to make things yourself


Handmade items express personal style. You chose the components and color scheme, and you do it with existing pieces in mind, so the new creation fits seamlessly into your wardrobe.


There’s knitting, crochet, sewing, jewelry making and embellishing with beads. Handmade things are expensive in stores, but carries stylish handmade accessories, clothes and jewelry for very reasonable prices.

Resale shops


We’ve gotten this far without spending much money, and you may have some store credit at local resalers. First, decide what you need most. But realize that resale boutiques are not department stores; they may have the items on your list or not. There will only be one of each item, in one size, so if you discover something fabulous at a good price get it now or come back tomorrow at the latest. But new things come in every week, unlike Macys or your favorite catalog.


Frugality is in style!


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    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      @JLClose - Yes, and I am about due to take my own advice!

    • JLClose profile image

      JLClose 7 years ago from OreGONE

      I LOVE the idea of reorganizing the closet. What a great idea!

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      Monkey Glitch: go shopping with your sister - maybe the thrift store angel will be with you too :)

      Thank you so much to everyone for reading and for voting! I'm on a Hubnugget high!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      I like the idea of thrift shop, but unlike my sister I can never find a great deal. :( I think I must visit on the wrong days or something. Congrats and good luck on the HubNugget nomination this week. :)

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      Thanks for visiting, Pamula & golfgal!

    • Golfgal profile image

      Golfgal 7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thrift shops are great ways to find little treasures and a great way to earn a little money back from those dreadful impulse pruchases. Thanks. Congrats on the Hubnugget nomination. Best Wishes.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Ccongrats on your nomination. You have some great ideas and I enjoyed your hub.c

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Yes you can look good and fashionable without having to spend so much! :) great hub!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! This link will take you to the Hubnuggets in Hawaii Read and vote and promote!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I like the title, and thanks for sharing this information. Congratulations on your win in the financial contest!

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      But you can get far with a great pair of jeans, just like the ladies :)

    • Johnny Parker profile image

      Johnny Parker 7 years ago from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England

      Good tip about the jeans. Thats about as far as fashion goes for most blokes!

      Congrats on the win.

    • afriqnet profile image

      Joe Njenga 7 years ago from Nairobi Kenya

      Congrats for your win

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      Thnak you everyone!

    • Michael Jay profile image

      Michael Jay 7 years ago

      Congrats on the win, graceomalley! :)

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 7 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Useful tips. Congrats!

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      Thanks akirchner!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      Cool ideas! Congrats on your win!!

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      Thanks for reading Simone!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      These are really lovely tips! Thrift stores RULE! Thanks so much for writing the Hub :D

    • graceomalley profile image

      graceomalley 7 years ago

      So do I! As you can tell!

    • suzetteboston profile image

      suzetteboston 7 years ago

      Wonderful Ideas, I love thrift stores.