A variety of handbags in many different colors on display at a store.

Fashion on a Budget: Tips For Looking Good Without Breaking the Bank

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Restyling what you have and upgrading your accessories can completely transform your wardrobe, without having to drain your bank account. Whether you want to change your look entirely or simply refresh your closet, there are several ways that you can shop successfully on a budget. 

Shop For Vintage or Thrift Fashion

Thrifting has become more popular in recent years, as consumers move away from fast fashion, and it can be a great way to buy new-to-you clothes on a budget. On the other hand, thrifting can take more effort than shopping retail, as you may have to spend more time looking for pieces that work for you.

Before you make a thrift purchase, you’ll want to check for the following:

  • Stains and discoloration;
  • Major rips;
  • Broken clasps or closures; 
  • Care instructions or material it’s made out of.

Checking for these will help you determine whether the item is worth your money, as well as how to care for it to keep it in good condition. Some materials, like wool and cashmere, have specific care needs. If you’re not willing to put in this effort, and in some cases extra money, then the item likely isn’t worth your investment, even at a thrift store price. 

Don’t Forget About Alteration 

Alterations can be a great way to make inexpensive clothes or hand-me-downs look brand new. It can be a great service to pair with thrifting, particularly when shopping vintage. Alteration can be on the expensive side, depending on what you’re getting done, so make sure to shop around to get the best price. Many dry cleaners offer basic alteration services, such as hemming garments. You can also find independent seamstresses who may be more expensive but can carry out more advanced requests.

For basic services, you can expect prices between:

  • Hem: $10 - $35
  • Shorten sleeves or pant legs: $12 - $40
  • Add or move zipper: $15 - $50
  • Take waist in or out: $25 - $45

The material of your garment will also influence the price of alterations. Leather is harder to alter than cotton, and therefore will be more expensive. When deciding whether or not it would be worth it to alter a thrift item, you can add the price of alteration to the retail price, and compare it to buying the same item off the rack in your exact size. 

Look For Online Sales and Coupons

As online shopping continues to skyrocket in popularity, retailers are offering online-only deals. For example, many stores are offering up to 20% off for signing up for their online newsletter. Around holidays, stores may be offering online-only discount codes, making when you shop just as important as where you shop.

Many sites are directories of discount codes or claim to save you money if you install their plugin. These sites can be of use, but you shouldn’t rely on them if you’re shopping above your budget. Also, you should never input your credit card information for sites that claim to buy you discounts. You should only ever give your card details to retailers you trust. 

Accessorize Strategically 

Accessories can add a whole new feel to a well-worn outfit. They can make a great statement piece, as they tend to be less expensive than clothing items, and can be more versatile. When accessorizing on a budget, it’s important to remember practicality. If you work with your hands a lot, buying a host of rings that will either always be dirty, or that you’re always having to take off may not be a smart investment. Your clothes should work with your lifestyle, not the other way around.

Some great accessories to start with include:

  • Handbags: Your handbag can change the tone of your outfit. A personalized clutch can add sophistication to your look, while a rucksack can keep the same outfit casual. Handbags can be a great item to invest a little more money into, as excess use doesn’t equate to more wear and tear, like it does with say a pair of shoes. 
  • Jewelry: Jewelry is a highly versatile option that adds all-new dimensions to your wardrobe. Necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings can be customized to your style. Chunky, colorful necklaces can add whimsy to a monochrome outfit, while a simple pair of gold hoops can bring a touch of chic. 
  • Phone cases:  We use our phones every day, and they are likely often seen by our friends and colleagues. Getting a phone case that compliments your style can help you seem intentional and fashionable without even trying. Considering your phone case part of your outfit can add a polished element to your look. 
  • Watches: Watches are a timeless and practical accessory. Even smartwatches can be customized to fit your style goals. Watches are an accessory that you can buy without having to sacrifice utility or style. 

  • Layering Is Key

    Layering is a no-cost way that you can create new outfits from clothes you already own. You can layer sweaters, button-ups, and t-shirts over or under dresses, jumpsuits, or overalls, creating new and unique looks. You can even layer accessories to create new combinations and textures. This process is sometimes referred to as “shopping your closet” and can be a great way to get some new outfits without spending a single cent. 

    Invest in a Few Luxury Items 

    Smart investments in timeless luxury items can be a budget-friendly strategy. For example, investing in real leather accessories may be initially more expensive, but they are more likely to last longer. When looking at luxury items, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before buying:

    • Is this item good quality? 
    • How often will I wear this item? 
    • Do I already have clothes I can wear this item with? 
    • Will my style be able to grow around this item? 

    Aspirational buying can be a trap when investing in luxury items. This is when you buy a statement piece that doesn’t fit with anything in your current wardrobe. This causes problems because it either reduces the item’s utility or drives you to buy more items that fit this style, which can both end up wasting your money. 

    You can determine timeless pieces from current style trends by thinking about items that have been in style for longer than 20 years. Some examples of this are pea coats, white button-ups, leather jackets, and black slacks. These are typically good luxury investments not only because they are timeless, but because they are incredibly versatile with any wardrobe.

    Having a wardrobe that makes you look and feel good doesn’t have to cost a lot of money — it’s all about knowing what to look for. When creating or investing in your style, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want in mind. This way, you can shop smart, avoid over-buying, and finish the process with a cohesive style.

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