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How to Dress for Less for the Holidays and Every Day

Updated on December 1, 2019
Lisa Gil profile image

Lisa has been a thrifty shopper for 5 years since her husband became disabled and money became an issue.

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Can you shop at thrift stores and still look trendy? Yes, but How?

Know it is Possible to Dress Trendy and be Thrifty

First of all, you have to know that it is possible to buy something besides junk at thrift stores. Maybe years ago you couldn't find nice clothing (and household items) at second-hand stores, but you sure can today. I do it all the time. It's actually a bit addicting.

I love to go into my local stores and see what's available. New items are always going onto the racks and shelves. Sometimes I go in looking for a particular item. Sometimes I just go looking. I always keep an open mind to the possibilities. This is one key to great finds.

You Have Style-Dress it in the Thrift Aisle

Another key to great finds is having your own fashion-sense. Years ago when I was a student, and then later as a full-time, single teacher, I was able to buy most clothing I wanted, although this was when my mom told me I had champagne taste with a beer pocketbook. However, my sense of style was honed during these years. So, if you want to dress nice but you don't have the money, you probably have the style already in you. It could be that essence of style that drives the desire.

To further gain style knowledge, go window shopping on the internet and in high-end stores that sale your style of clothing. Look at the details of what you like. Are there ruffled sleeves, prints, bold patterns, muted colors, thin pant legs, cuffed pants or sparkly fronts? Are the dresses long or short? What kind of boots or shoes are they wearing? How about the accessories on the mannequins in the stores and the internet models? As you see things you like, keep them in mind or even jot down some notes, or take a photo. Use this info when you go the thrift store to piece together your holiday or everyday outfit.

Where is that Second-Hand Store?

Another Key is knowing where to look. Find where your local shops are, look in near-by towns, and on the internet. There are numerous Goodwill Stores around. Also look for church sponsored stores. About once a month I travel to my favorite store-St Vincent- approximately a 30 minute drive. (Proceeds go to local charities. Clothes are donated.) I go with apx. $20 cash and buy pants, shoes, skirts household items, kids clothing, etc. A couple of years ago I bought a beautiful red wool winter coat to wear with dresses. Cost- $4.50. Recently, I bought 2 pairs of short black leather boots; one for pants, one for dresses; $4.95 each!

Another store I like is only 15 minutes away and they raise money for the Lutheran school. (clothes are donated.) All pants and skirts are under $5.00 each. These church businesses are always clean and smell nice. They don't put out dirty or worn-out items. Look for similar stores in your area.

I like to go to Goodwill the first Saturday of the month for 50% off everything. But every day has a 50% off something. Even if an item that is not on sale catches your eye, it's probably still priced well-if you have an eye for quality.

See what people are wearing that you'd love to have but know you could not afford. Look for similar items when you are thrifting.

Winter is here and I wanted to dress fashionable like the teachers I work with, so I wanted a black quilted coat-great for recess duty. In Goodwill I found a high quality black coat, many pockets, quilted, warm as can be, the right length with hood for $10. At that I still debated for 15 minutes; going over the pros and cons with my husband, until he told me to just buy it! Being thrifty as I am, I still kept my receipt encase I found a better one the next day at ST. Vincent. Well, I still have that coat and feel wonderful wearing it!

Does One Store Have It All?

Sometimes, but not always, I can put together a complete outfit in one store. I start with an item that really catches my eye, then I look for coordinating pieces; choosing several because I never know what's going to work until I try it.

My latest purchase was a multi-colored skirt- great for Fall or Spring, full bodied. After finding it, I looked for a top. Found 3 to try on. Only one looked great. It was a taupe colored winter pullover sweater. Of course I chose this because it is now winter. (come spring I will find a pastel top). I realized my skin tone needed a bit of color around my neck so I checked out the scarves; picked two that pulled out the darker winter colors of the skirt. Chose the bulky scarf. Tried it all on with the thin-heeled boots I was buying that day and could not wait to wear this fabulous outfit. And I did get a nice comment in a restaurant from a lady who just loved the outfit! That entire outfit was less than $11.

Now prices will reflect your areas living expenses; ours are on the low end and so is our income, but the concept is the same every where. Pay low. Dress high.

What if My Thrifty Clothing is Not Quite Right?

As mentioned above, Know Your Skin Tone. Look in the mirror and see what looks good on you. If you can't wear a color around your face, but the top or dress is great otherwise, look for a way to change that upper color. I tried a scarf that can be tied close to my neck, it also covers other flaws. You might try a thin jacket or a top under the current one or a necklace made from big beads.

If the item is a bit big in the waste, you can always put a few stitches in to tighten it or roll a skirt waste band down once and cover it with your top. I wouldn't buy things that are too small unless you are a seamstress who wants to try your hand at fixing it.

If a sweater is too short, look for a ruffled top or a man's shirt and cut the bottom off to sew to your sweater.

So, know it is possible to show off your champagne taste with your beer pocketbook.


With a little effort and time, you will be dressed for any occasion and the holidays are upon us, so get shopping!



Take this quiz to see if you are ready to thrift.

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© 2019 Lisa Gilbert

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