This is a guest post written by my friend, Tessa Hughes. I asked her to write some tips for all of us who aspire to build a great wardrobe on a tight budget. She and her husband became debt-free last year, and she managed to keep up her fashion while paying off $19,000 in debt (and raising 2 kids)!
Tessa runs a styling company out of Vancouver where she helps people build great wardrobes on any budget. Check out her business and photo blog at www.tessahughes.com.
Building a wardrobe on a budget is not as hard as you might think– and it doesn’t have to involve wearing boring or ugly clothes, either. I’ve put together some basic do’s and don’t’s in order to keep it really simple.
I often find myself repeating the same basic “rules” to my clients when doing a wardrobe makeover, so they know how to shop when I’m not there to help them. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but more just helpful guidelines to keep you on the “straight and narrow” of good fashion on a budget:
1. Shop “fast fashion” for basics
Stores like H&M, Joe Fresh, Forever 21 and Zara often have fabulous basics in neutral colours for very affordable prices. Avoid super trendy items, and look for basic tees, tanks and jeans. You’ll find them at decent prices and you’ll avoid falling into any major fashion pitfalls.
2. Thrift leather
I’m a huge advocate of real leather (SORRY PETA!) but if you buy it thrifted, it’s more ethical, environmentally friendly, it will last longer, AND it’s light on your wallet! To me, that’s a win-win-win-WIN. Keep your eyes out for clean and simple leather pieces that are in good shape. Think wallets, handbags. If you’re willing to buy used shoes (some people aren’t), look for basic black, and check where they’re made. Any shoes made in Spain or Italy will be higher quality.
This one you really need to be careful with. Stick to really simple designs that are clean and timeless. The sale rack tends to be full of overly trendy items that can be a big mistake.
Again, basic colours are better (black, white, khaki, grey), and since sales are usually at the end of the season, it’s good to try and think ahead and buy items that will hopefully still be in style next year. Keep in mind if a certain item has been “hot” for a few seasons, it’s probably on it’s way out.
Hint for parents:
If you’re a little bit savvy, you can shop the sale rack at more expensive kid’s clothing stores like Gap and J.Crew one year in advance. For example, if you have a one year old, and it’s August so summer clothes are on sale, buy 2/3T from the sale rack for next summer.
Kids clothes are less trend-based and it’s great if you can get your hands on some higher quality goods because kids tend to really rip into their clothes (literally). This is a little bit risky because you never know if your kid is going to have a crazy growth spurt but this works well for kids ages 3-5, as kids’ growth slows down a little bit as they get older.
1. Buy something that doesn’t fit you perfectly because it’s on sale (or at the thrift store) thinking you’ll grow into it, lose weight, or get it altered.
That’s just a waste of money and it will probably end up collecting dust.
2. Get sucked into crazy trend items that are really cheap.
(Hellooooo Forever 21!). This is probably the most tempting thing, because when you’re in those types of stores, these are the pieces that seem so appealing: “Ohhh I’ll look so cool in that!” but you’ll probably get sick of it after a week. Stick to pieces that have longevity. Your wallet (and personal sense of style) will thank you for it.
3. Make a habit of buying ONLY fast-fashion.
This is the danger when you’re trying to live on a budget, but as a long-term plan it really doesn’t work. Always remember to try and save up for those bigger wardrobe basic items (like a great, black leather purse).
If you buy everything super cheap all the time, it doesn’t last and you end up spending three times as much over a few years because none of it lasted. Remember that quality, even if it costs more up front, will pay for itself in the end, by lasting much, much longer.
Last Tips & Resources
For those pieces you’d like to save up for, I’m including some resources of where to find what I call “affordable luxury.” These are stores that aren’t as expensive as high-end designer, but carry higher quality pieces that are worth saving up for:
For some specific ideas, here are some of my favourite wardrobe basics that I’ve collected on a Pinterest board.
Also feel free to check out my personal style blog, tessahughes.com, for more inspiration!
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