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Style Strategy for the Recessionista Fashionista

Updated on July 23, 2012

The Ultimate Guide for Budget-Conscious Fashionistas

Nina Garcia provides fabulous tips in her juicy new book The Style Strategy, filled with witty quotes, historical fashion anecdotes, and detailed informative how-tos and tips for a less-is-more approach to staying chick and shopping smart. I found her delicious book to also contain artistic fashion illustrations that inspire.

Here are just a few interesting and savvy things I have learned from this director at Marie Claire Magazine and the formidable fashion judge on Project Runway.

Live it. Love it.


No amount of planning prepares us for the inevitable speed bumps we encounter in life. Knowing that you have built a strong fashion foundation to fall back on enables you to navigate speed bumps with more assurance, confidence, and less doubt. These tips help you achieve that addition self assurance and confidence while economizing.

As women, our essence includes being able to take care of everyone around us, as well as ourselves. It is our nature to reach for perfection. Some women get closer to perfection day after day. This perfection can be witnessed in pristine garments, tailoring, impeccable styling, and other craftsmanship. Perfection may also be witnessed in fierce, stylish, and creative women who inspire us.

However, getting to perfection is a process, and its strategies include taking command of your individual style, staying chic, and most importantly shopping smart and saving our hard-earned money--which can also make for a damn good time.

During all the great wars, the depression, recession, and other difficult times, us women have always been resourceful with seemingly effortless strategies to make ends meet. Wrangler Co. even devised custom jeans marketed for women working in factories during WWII.

Nylon was also in short supply during this period, so women drew lines down the backs of their legs to simulate stockings. Some used shoe polish as mascara. They were saving the world and were in a mission to do so looking good.

Before we start to strategize your shopping excursions, we need to start by asking yourself the right kind of questions which are:

  • What do I have
  • What do I need
  • What do I want

The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia

The Style Strategy: A Less-Is-More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart
The Style Strategy: A Less-Is-More Approach to Staying Chic and Shopping Smart

From much-loved fashion maven and New York Times bestselling author Nina Garcia comes her most indispensable style primer yet--this one focused on looking timelessly chic, all while saving money!


What Do I Have?

Strategize what you can and can't live without.

This is the hard part. This doesn't mean throwing away everything in your closet for an entirely new wardrobe. This simple means streamlining your closet for a better you by taking stock and rethinking your look.


It helps if you have a soundtrack to lessen the sting of having to let go of cherished memories with your outfit and to make it a little bit better. Nina Garcia, the formidable fashion judge on the hit Project runway recommends these songs for setting the mood and for achieving your style goal.

  • Depeche Mode, "Clean"
  • Outkast, " So Fresh, So Clean"
  • Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful"
  • Michael Jackson, "P.Y.T"
  • No Doubt, "Just a Girl"
  • Black Eyed Peas, "Boom Boom Pow"
  • Blondie, "The Tide is High"
  • Maroon 5, "She Will Be Loved"
  • Prince, "Rasberry Beret"
  • Abba, "Dancing Queen"
  • Dee-lite, "Groove is in the Heart"
  • Jill Scott, " A Long Walk"
  • Destiny's Child, " Survivor'
  • Hellen Reddy, "I am a Woman"
  • Spice Girls, "Spice up your Life"
  • Madonna, "Vogue"


Reacquaint with your wardrobe. See what you're working with by taking stock of your inventory and by deciding what to do with each item: Keep it, get rid of it, alter it, or mend it.

Check for stains and holes. Start thinking of different ways pieces would look good together. Give your old clothes new life by having it altered into a dress or skirt, by adding pockets, changing hemlines, and more. Your tailor should be one of your best friends.

If you want to know how to make your clothes and shoes last, read:


Set aside everything that you wear regularly,

  • that is in good shape,
  • that is well constructed and made with great fabrics (wool, cotton, and silk can last a lifetime)
  • and that makes you feel fabulous, like your favorite jeans or that vintage pencil skirt. You can't put a price tag on self-confidence.

Build your wardrobe around these basics, which are your staples.

Keep the timeless classic pieces, including the little black dress, a crisp white shirt, or others. They will never go out of style.

"I want to be all that I am capable of becoming"- Kathering Mansfield

Have fun rediscovering your wardrobe, and you will realize that it is much more versatile than you thought. It will feel like shopping, without the guilt!


With your well-acquainted wardrobe now a solid foundation, comes the glitter.

You need to figure out what essential pieces are missing from your closet. Here's a list of must-haves:

  • Classic high-heeled pump
  • Ballet flats
  • Trench coat
  • Classic White Shirt
  • The Little Black Dress (LBD)
  • Cashmere cardigan or turtleneck
  • A great bag
  • Denim
  • Tights
  • Skirt
  • Tops/Camisoles
  • Blazer

You can build your look upon that list.

"Design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable", Donna Karan

What Do I Need

The Fashion Foundation

Make a written list of clothes that have survived your purge. Although it may sound tedious, this list shows what you have and what is missing in your closet for your next shopping trip.

Making Investments

In this chapter, Nina Garcia discusses the quality materials and craftsmanship that help you look out for a quality garment. These investments that you make with confidence can last you for years and can be something cherished that you could pass on to your children or loved ones.

She discusses what differentiates cheap, from inexpensive and bargain clothing because even expensive clothing can look cheap. Inexpensive means well-made but low-cost clothing in wearable fabrics, while bargain clothing is well-made expensive clothing that with her guidance, you'll be able to find at a fantastic discount.

In her book, she lists her top sources where you will be able to find these designer labels at bargain pricing!

If you could choose one thing to spend money on, it should be shoes. It's the golden rule that most fashionistas know. A great shoe can make a 20$ outfit look like couture, while a poorly constructed shoe can almost definitely make couture look like a knockoff. Shoes project an attitude. They make you feel sexy. You just have to know what to look for, what looks, good on you, and to be prepare to spend a little cash.

If you wonder how to tell if a shoe is worth the investment and what exactly you should look for in choosing a style, check the toe, heel, material, and construction. Nina discusses each feature in her book in great detail.

Shoes: The Above and Beyond List

  • Knee-high, high-heeled boots
  • Riding boots
  • Classic High-heeled pump
  • Ballet Flats
  • Stilletos

Exceptions to the Rule

Some shoes don't need to be an investment, such as:

  • Sandals
  • espadrilles
  • Sneakers

What Do I Want

The key to pampering yourself on a budget is setting priorities. It's all about balance.

Figure out what you don't really need, what has an inexpensive substitute, and what is absolutely necessary. Instead of splurging, why not try designer rentals? This is perfect for formal occasion where you only need to use a cocktail dress once.

There is also this craze called swapping parties where you invite your girlfriends over and exchange well-maintained garments that have been making the rounds in your closet.

One of my favorite chapters in the book, here Nina discusses where you indulge yourself with luxury designer labels and makeup at bargain prices, whether online, or at your city. She has a list of her favorite stores that provide amazing discounts in every city, including Miami, New York, Dallas, LA, and more.

She lists online stores, vintage and consignment shops, sample sales, outlet malls, and other stores for your designer fix, high-end bargains, indie labels, inexpensive trends, cheap thrills, and more, as well as hair and make-up.

The mantra here worth repeating is shop smart, stay chic, and make it last.

An elite authority in the industry, Nina Garcia has worked for Marc Jacobs, Elle, Marie Claire, and other fashion houses.
An elite authority in the industry, Nina Garcia has worked for Marc Jacobs, Elle, Marie Claire, and other fashion houses.


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    • Natsky13 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      She's tough, but she always makes a point. I don't think I've ever disagreed with any of her opinions on the show.

      I'd love to share more tips, and I'll definitely be writing more blogs on this. I have all her books, and there are so many good ones that I can't manage to put it all in one post.

      I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for being my first comment!

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I could use a wardrobe makeover -- on a tight budget. And I'd play "Boom Boom Pow" as my theme song. Nina Garcia is pretty tough as a judge on "Project Runway" and I respect her opinion. Thumbs up for the great tips.


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