Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Have Great Style on a Budget

I often get complimented on my outfits and my style. I take great pride in the fact that I am able to look stylish and put together for next to nothing.

You don't have to spend tons of money to have great style - no matter what your style is. I work in theatre and despite the fact that I have a very enviable wardrobe, in reality I have a very limited budget for clothes. About 85% of my wardrobe is bought second hand, either from a thrift store, Etsy or a local vintage shop. 75-80% of what I buy second hand is cheaper than you would pay for a similar item at the mall.  The other 15% of what I buy is new and about 5% of that is expensive investment pieces or something special I can't live without.

Looking great on a budget is about having an intimate knowledge about your personal style. This is key to finding killer second hand pieces that fit seamlessly into your wardrobe. . It's taken a lot of trial and error, but I now know what I like and over the years have come to know what will be worth spending money on for my wardrobe- whether it's $5 or $500.

If you're still figuring out what your personal style is start a Pintrest board with looks that inspire you  (or go old school and rip out pages from a magazine and tape them to your wall) . What do they have in common? Go shopping and find similar pieces (Check out this post for tips on turning those inspiration photos into outfits from your closet).
Now is the time to experiment and thrift shopping for your wardrobe is a great way to test out a look with little investment. Make mistakes and take risks in your wardrobe. It's just fashion, not brain surgery. But no matter what, wear what makes you feel amazing. No matter how much you paid for what you have on your body that feeling will shine through and make you look incredible. Confidence is the best accessory (did I just write that?! how But seriously. It's true.

I'm a huge advocate for second hand shopping, but the key to having style is to mix it up and pair thrifted items with new ones. Retailers like Joe Fresh, Forever 21, Zara, Winners and Marshals all offer great clothes at incredible prices.

Accessories. Invest in them. The right accessories - new or second hand - can elevate an outfit instantaneously.

If you are going to spend money on anything in your closet, make it a great, functional purse you can use every day of the year that matches most of your wardrobe. I bought mine at Winners for $150 a year and a half ago. It's Italian leather, I still love it and use it almost every day. And it still looks like new. Worth every penny. Here it is:

Please don't forget about hair and makeup. This is the icing on the cake of your look. Learn how to do your hair and apply makeup in a way that makes you look and feel amazing. I am a firm believer that great hair and makeup and some eye-catching accessories can elevate jeans and a t-shirt into something you could wear anywhere these days.

Here are a couple of outfits from past posts with a mix of thrifted and new items. I've broken down what I paid for each item and where I got them.

This is a great fall look. I wore it out to run errands, but it could easily translate to an office setting, or a date. The sweater is cashmere from Club Monaco, but I found it at a thrift store. The skirt is vintage. It's is wool and is lined. I always look for luxe fabrics in good shape when shopping second hand.

Sweater: $7 @ thrift store
Flower Brooch: $1 @ Ricki's sample sale
Belt: $10 @ retailer
Skirt: $5 @ thrift store
Shoes: $20 @ retailer

Here is a summer look that I love. The dress is vintage. I bought it on a sale rack at a vintage shop because there were a few popped seams here and there. Nothing my sewing machine couldn't fix. The bag was a bargain at a thrift shop on a sale day. It was also in need of some love. I had to stitch one side of it back together with some twine. Good as new. I'm pretty handy with a needle and thread, so I'm never afraid to take home something which needs a bit of work. Experience has taught me what I can fix and what I can't.

Vintage Dress: $15 @ vintage shop
Flower Brooch: $1 @ thrift store
Belt: came with another dress
Bag: 50 cents @ thrift store
Shoes: $9 @ thrift store

And a winter look. The coat was a thrift store purchase. The leopard print skinnies were from a retailer. I watched them diligently until they went on sale and snapped them up from their online store. 

Beret: $4 @ thrift store
Scarf: $10 @ retailer
Coat: $17 @ thrift store
Leather Gloves: free - a gift
Pants: $20 @ online retailer
Boots: $20 @ retailer
Purse: $7 @ thrift store

For more thrift shopping advice check out these thrifting tips I posted earlier this year.

AND Here are two articles I love with some great advice on style:



  1. Fantastic post, you know I love your style and have many of your outfits posts saved! I have pretty much thrifted 90% of my wardrobe and the past 2 years I have gone even more hard core and plan on doing the same in the upcoming year. Loved that you included you hair and make-up I find adding a special lipstick to complete and outfit makes all the difference when you are just wearing jeans and a blouse as well.

  2. Great advice from someone who knows how to look good. Thanks. My wardrobe is better than I deserve due to thrift-store purchases. For what some people spend on coffee, I add new items regularly. One thing I need to learn -- which you have mastered and mention -- is how to sew. That would expand the possibilities dramatically.

  3. Really stellar post, sweet dear! I would say that my pie chart of where I spend my clothing dollars (thrift, new, etc) would be strikingly similar to your own. I live on an uber tight budget (and *sigh* my personal "allowance" is being slashed in half in 2015 to try and help our budget out even more) and don't have much to spend on my clothes (or makeup, etc), which can be vexing when one madly adores fashion, but thankfully, as you discuss here, thrift stores and other second hand means of acquiring vintage can help out on that front immensely. Indeed, if you stripped away all the items I'd bought second hand, I think you'd be left with a few repro garments, the odd top and pair of shoes, and my skivvies! :)

    ♥ Jessica

  4. That pink dress with the floral accent!! Looks like a million bucks:) So well put together. I'm a big fan of floral accents. I think it is great that you can find a very quality vintage outfit for less than some cheaply made counterpart. I tend to sigh when I walk through a mall and see how cheaply made the material is. Quite sad actually.

  5. Great post and I definitely agree about the jeans a t-shirt! I probably spend most of my money on new vintage appropriate items then thrifted as the thrift stores in our town are usually mostly 80s and 90s stuff anyways. You've inspired me to start trawling them again though, occaisionally you can find some nice treasure there :)


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