Dressing Well for Less

by Marcy on January 28, 2009 · 2 comments

frugal clothing tips dress well for less

Dressing Well for Less

I tend to talk a lot about saving money on groceries here at Stretching a Buck, mainly because that is an area of my life where I have the best luck finding deals. When it comes to clothing I tend to be a bit of a brand snob, and I would rather spend as much as I can afford on quality pieces than invest in something that won’t hold up for longer than a year or two. I guess you could say that I could use some Frugal Clothing Tips myself!

I am not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, although I would love to be! I decided to turn to one of my favorite bloggers Jo-Lynne to see if she could offer a few tips on how to dress well for less. I thought this would be a fun exercise because Jo-Lynne has the style thing going on, but she does not consider herself to be a frugal shopper. I figured if she could come up with tips to save money that there is hope for those of us who tend to struggle to find a balance between dressing well and saving money while doing it. She did not disappoint! Read on for a few tips on ways to stretch your clothing dollars.

Marcy has invited me to guest post about dressing well for less. She makes a good point that frugal doesn’t have to mean frumpy or poor quality. I will confess that frugality is not my strong suit. But dressing well is! (Well, I think so, anyway. Please don’t burst my bubble.) Here are my 10 simple tips and tricks for dressing well for less:

1) Invest in a few quality, classic items that will last. I know, this seems counter-intuitive to “dressing for less” but stick with me here. Let me tell you a little story. I have some cashmere sweaters in my closet that I have had for years. They still look new, and I always get compliments when I wear them. They each cost $100 or less on sale at Ann Taylor. (Their cashmere always goes on sale after Christmas! For several years I bought one sweater every year on their After-Christmas Sale, and now I have a nice collection.)

Conversely, I have a sweater I recently bought at Forever21 for $29. The poor quality was evident from the get-go, but I really liked the styling and I told myself I could wear it for a season and then give it to Goodwill and still get my money’s worth. I wore it several times, washed it once, and it is already pilling. Plus, it is 100% acrylic and it just looks cheap. Even though it cost only $29, it was a poor investment. I’d rather stock up on inexpensive T-shirts at Target and Old Navy for casual wear and invest in a few nice sweaters for dressing up.

There are a few things I will not chince on — one is obviously sweaters. The other is jeans. I live in jeans. And there is NOTHING like a pair of designer jeans to make the most of your figure. Buy the most expensive jeans you can afford (and make sure they fit you beautifully) and then wear them every day. If you read no further, I hope you take that piece of advice to heart. That’s my #1 piece of fashion advice.

2) Use inexpensive trendy accessories to jazz up a plain outfit. When I was going to a big event in NYC last summer, I enlisted the help of Teresa from Wardrobe911.com to help me decide what to wear. She advised me to go to Target and pick up some cheap accessories to liven up my black silk top and trouser jeans. When you mix and match quality items with less expensive pieces and walk with confidence, no one will be any the wiser.

3) Shop sales and use coupons. This is obvious, I suppose, but it bears mentioning. There are many special sales and offers available if you look around and sign up for mailing lists. Ann Taylor LOFT and Gymboree, for example, have certain times every year where you can spend $50 and get a $25 coupon to use on a future $50 purchase. If you shop wisely, buy sale merchandise, and keep your total close to a multiple of $50 with each purchase, you can really rack up the savings!

4) Buy off-season and shop ahead for next year. Knowing the best time of year to buy certain items helps you get the most for your money. I often buy things at the end of the season, both for myself and my children, that I know we will be able to use the following year. You can get bargain basement prices on name-brand merchandise by shopping ahead.

5) Keep one or two store credit cards that offer customer rewards points. I am not advising signing up for a store credit card with every purchase; that’s REALLY bad for your credit rating. But choose the one or two stores you frequent the most who offer rewards points to card members, and then be sure to pay them off every month so you don’t compromise your savings with interest and late fees. I keep a Gap card because my children dress almost exclusively from the Gap. By combining sale merchandise with the Gap rewards points that I earn by putting all Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy purchases on my Gap card, I get some remarkable bargains.

6) Frequent thrift stores. There are basically two types of people in this world — those who love thrift shops and those who hate them. I don’t care for them, personally. I’d rather comb the mall for the occasional elusive bargain (or pay full price) than spend hours rifling through a bargain bin for the buried treasure. HOWEVER. I have friends who excel at this. You really have to have an eye for quality and a confidence in your own sense of style to make the best use of thrift stores, but if that’s your thing, YOU GO, GIRL! And I envy you that talent. Also, speaking of designer jeans (well, we were a minute ago!) I have a friend who finds Seven for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity at a thrift store she frequents. Granted, she’s a size 00 (don’t you hate her already?) but my point is, if you can’t bring yourself to pay full price for designer denim, you can always try thrift stores. And I hear eBay has a ton of them as well. I would just advise you to go to the mall and figure out what size and style looks best on you so you don’t end up buying a pair you can’t wear.

7) Buy outfits. Only buy a single article of clothing if you know what you will wear with it. I’ve seen this advice on some of the style websites I follow, and it makes sense. If you buy single items that don’t go with anything in your closet, you will end up not wearing them and they will go to waste.

8) Mix and match. I’ve seen the What Not To Wear gurus make three outfits from one suit by taking the pants and blazer apart and putting them with other pieces. The blazer from a business suit can take a pair of casual jeans out for a night on the town.

9) Consign or eBay old clothes you don’t wear anymore. Instead of giving them away or letting them rot in your closet, go through at the change of every season and consign clothes you didn’t wear that season. I have made some substantial money this way, especially with my children’s dressier clothes.

10) Have a clothing exchange! I’ve heard of people doing this. Get together with a few friends and bring items that don’t fit well or you just don’t wear anymore, and see if someone else might want it. What’s that saying — one man’s junk is another man’s treasure? You never know — that pair of pants thrown in the back of your closet that shrunk too short when you washed them might be the perfect length for your petite friend.

Whether you consign them, throw them away, or have a clothing exchange, I highly recommend editing your wardrobe at least once a year. By getting rid of the stuff you no longer wear, you will have a better idea of what you have and what you need to spruce things up and keep your wardrobe fresh.

So now it’s your turn! What are YOUR best tips for dressing well for less?! We want to hear them!

When Jo-Lynne isn’t wandering the mall in search of the perfect outfit, she blogs at Musings of a Housewife.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lydia Lyn October 3, 2011 at 6:02 PM

There really aren’t very many blogs that talk about REALLY saving money on clothes. I was so excited to run across your post and I will be pointing my readers your way! Thanks!

2 Anna Kim July 12, 2015 at 12:16 AM

Wow, some good tips here!
This is mine: unless your someone with a wealthy group of friends, it’s not like anyone is going to check or probably even notice designer clothing. So why not just get comfy jeans from Walmart for like 7 bucks? ☺

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