I love to look fashionable but I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend or time for much effort. Fortunately it’s not that hard to work with what you have in order to get fashion and style on a budget.
Once upon a time, I was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Unfortunately my family simply could not afford for me to go to this college and I settled for junior college. It was a major let-down in my dream as a fashion designer but I eventually started designing, sewing and selling my boutique items on Ebay & Etsy.
Now, I’m not a fashionista by any means. But I do believe that I know what works for me. It’s up to you to find out what works best for you in creating your own style and flattering look. And it doesn’t have to be a pricey endeavor…it just takes a bit of organization, planning before purchasing and thoughtful accessorizing (did I sound a bit like Tim Gunn there?) In any case, read on!
Keep out only what’s in season and pack away the rest. I have a teeny-tiny closet and don’t have the space to keep sundresses and tank tops hanging up during the winter. I have two bins under my bed that I use for my seasonal wardrobe. When the weather starts to change, I hang up the sweaters and coats and put away the swimsuits and flip-flops. It’s also much easier to find an outfit when I’m not pushing aside summer clothes when it’s 40 degrees outside!
Organize like items together. Bathing suits and sunhats go into one box on the top shelf with scarves and winter hats in another. Take the time to arrange clothes, placing like items together. I have dresses on the far left, then jackets, pants, tank tops, short sleeved tops, long sleeved tops, then cardigans. Having my closet organized makes it so much easier to find what I’m looking for.
LAY IT OUT
Take everything out of your closets and drawers and assess what you have. Only in doing so can you really determine what you are lacking and what you’ll need to purchase. Weed through items that haven’t seen the light of day in 6 months or longer and determine if you want to keep or donate. If those pants make you look lumpy in places you’d rather they not, then why bother keeping them? Or that blouse that never quite fit properly across the bust? Put them in the donate pile! Sweaters with holes or blouses with missing buttons? Fix them within the week or put them in the donation box, do not put them back in your closet until they are repaired and in wearable condition again. Keep only clothes that make you happy and make you look fabulous. Better to have a minimal wardrobe that makes you feel good rather than an extensive collection that you either don’t wear, is uncomfortable or is unflattering.
Plan your outfits in advance. Figure out the night before what you planning on wearing to avoid a scramble in the morning (or the temptation to wear your sweatpants to work!) Set your outfit aside, including your jewelry so you can grab, dress and go!
DETERMINE YOUR TASTE
How do you want to look? What pieces catch your eye? What colors and styles are you drawn to? What outfit to you currently own that you love and feel is flattering to you? These are the pieces that you should be replicating in your closet.
Find a few images on Pinterest that you like or are inspiring to you. Choose one or two things new to try to see how they fit your personal style.
Layers add depth to your style. I personally love cardigan sweaters and own them in every color of the rainbow. Button just the two middle buttons and a cardigan hides any midsection bumpy bits, makes a flattering V-shape at the chest and nips in the waist. A brightly colored cardigan can jazz up even the most plain tee. Top it off with an eye-catching necklace as the final top layer. I like pairing my lightweight summer blouses with a long sleeved tee for winter.
Know how to layer your looks. If you are going with upper body layers (like a tunic with a loose cardigan) pair this with slender-legged pants. Likewise if you are wearing loose-legged pants, something with details like cargo pants or a long flowing skirt, pair it with a body skimming tee or a blouse that nips in at the waist to avoid looking baggy. Keep in mind this rule: Loose on top, go more form-fitting on the bottom. Form-fitting on top? Keep the bottom more loose.
EMBRACE COLOR AND PATTERN
Color & pattern make all the difference. What colors do you have in your closet? Consider adding in pops of brightness that you can pair with black, gray and navy. Strategic use of color in your wardrobe can be your best friend. Place color and pattern where you want eyes to go. I have a petite upper body and wider lower half. I like to wear a small scale patterned top in a neutral that I pair with a bright cardigan that draws the eyes up to my face. If you have slender legs and a larger top half, you could wear a small scale print pant or a trouser in a bright color with a neutral on top.
Little details from head to toe accentuate your style and add charm. The key to taking a drab wardrobe to something eye-catching and fun is definitely in the accessories. A bib necklace, colorful cardigan, dangling earrings or a bright scarf can turn an ordinary outfit into something special. Take a look at what you already own and set aside the pieces that you wear most often. These should be given a prominent place in your jewelry box/organizer. If you haven’t worn a piece in forever, donate it or sell online. Sentimental pieces or dressy items that you don’t wear often but want to keep should go in a place that is out of the way.
I’m a petite 5’2″ and feel overwhelmed when I’m wearing too much jewelry so I’ll choose one piece only, either a necklace, bracelet or earrings and not all three. Especially when wearing a large “statement” piece, it’s best to choose just one and let that piece speak for itself without too much else going on. I like to wear long necklaces to lengthen my figure when I wear colored pants. I wear shorter chokers or earrings for drawing the eye upward when wearing bright colors on top.
I also love to accessorize with Jamberry nail wraps. Whatever Jamberry wraps I’m wearing that week definitely sets the tone for what colors I wear. Having pretty nails definitely keeps my spirits up and I’m more excited to plan a cute wardrobe when my nails are done.
Bra and underpants are the first layer. Just because they hide under your clothes doesn’t mean they should become an afterthought. A well-fitting bra and panties that hold everything in place and look invisible & smooth under clothing are worth spending good money on. Request a fitting at a lingerie shop and start small with one bra and one pair of panties in your skin tone and add another set in black. I choose practical pieces that hold up to every day wear and disappear under clothes (no lumpy lace or sequins).
Changing our your handbag or purse can put a whole new spin on your style. My brother bought me a gorgeous charcoal Coach bag for my birthday. I’ve never had anything like it before & I was afraid to use it! After keeping it in the closet for a few months, I finally got over my fear of taking it out of the house and now it’s my regular bag. I certainly walk more confidently with that lovely bag on my shoulder! Like-new accessories are within your reach at ThredUp (affiliate link), where someone’s resell becomes your beautiful new designer (reasonably priced) handbag.
The same with shoes, as a pair can easily make or break your outfit. I have a confession to make: I don’t like buying new shoes! I find them awkward and uncomfortable to get used to and I very rarely find a pair that fits me well right from the start. I’m probably buying the wrong brand, because shoes really shouldn’t require “breaking in”. I prefer to purchase with comfort in mind. A friend discovered these wedge Crocs heels; they are comfortable and super cute! I like having pretty shoes without sacrificing my toes or developing blisters!
Share your fashion resolutions in the comments! What changes would you like to make in your style?