9 Ways to Look Great and Save Money on Your Wardrobe this Fall

by Jamie Simmerman · 10 comments

Dressing for success is important, but it can wreak havoc on your budget of you’re not careful.  Knowing a few tips and tricks when it comes to updating your wardrobe can help you save some serious money every year. Here are the top nine tips for men and women:

  1. Find a reliable tailor. If you’re long in the torso, have short arms, or especially long legs, you probably already have a tailor, but the average consumer can benefit from a skilled tailor as well. You can find some great deals on the sales rack that are a size (or three) too big. You can also make good use of that gorgeous outfit hanging in the back of your closet that you’ve never worn by taking it to a tailor to have it adjusted for your frame. A well-fitting outfit can look like you paid a smell fortune for it, even if it came from a sales rack.
  2. Buy quality classics. It pays to spend more on a well-made, quality pair of dress pants, skirt, or jacket. Overall, the basic styles of these items do not change much from year to year, and these garments can be updated by adding a colorful scarf or tie, a sweater, bold jewelry, or by having the hemline of skirts or pants taken up or let out.
  3. Go for classic over trendy when buying shoes. A fun pair of shoes is fine for a little extra splurge, but keep classic footwear in a neutral color in your closet as a general standby for work. Investing in a leather shoe care kit can also help you make the most of your shoes from season to season.  Always keep your shoes clean and in good repair. BONUS TIP: Your shoes should always be the same color intensity or darker than your hemline (pants, shorts, skirt, dress) for a professional look.
  4. If you’re fashion-challenged, stick with neutral colors. You can always add bright accessories like a matching tie and handkerchief, a scarf, or bright jewelry in the same color to dress up your style without compromising taste.
  5. Purchase a full-length mirror and install decent lighting in your dressing area. We’ve all seen the woman at the office with too-bright make up or the man wearing one navy blue and one black sock. Checking your total appearance before you leave the house will help you catch unsightly mistakes before anyone else notices.
  6. Shop at the thrift store. Yes, most of the clothes are used, but every thrift store also has many items with the tags still on (a lot like that black jacket in the back of your closet that you loved in the store but never seems to look right at home, those unwanted items are perfect for someone).
  7. Never bring home a wardrobe item from the store unless you love it. If it looks ok, and you “might” wear it with jeans someday, leave it in the store (even if it’s a great price). Keep your wardrobe pared down to the items that fit well and look good.
  8. If you find a basic shirt, pants, or skirt that you love, purchase several in the same or different colors. This practice helps you build a good-looking wardrobe base that can be adapted for each season by changing out accessories, sweaters, or jackets.
  9. If you find a garment style that you love but aren’t crazy about the color, consider buying it if the price is right. You can also purchase navy blue or black fabric dye and turn it into a neutral item for your wardrobe.

BONUS TIP FOR WOMEN: Purchase shoulder pads to quickly adjust the sleeve length of any garment. This will also help adjust your dress hemlines to hang evenly. Modern shoulder pads are not like those from the ‘80s. They are thinner, made of quality materials, and designed to help even out rounded shoulder and adjust the overall fit of a garment. Place your shoulder pads underneath your bra straps to keep them secure all day.

What tips and trick do you have that help you look great on a budget?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Nancy says:

    I have found that once I defined my style and put in place buying guideline, I have saved lots of money. The guidelines work whether I’m shopping at a thrift store, department store, or on line. And they work for business and casual attire and even for choice of shoes. I now only buy clothes I love and wear. I’ve stopped buying things just because they are one sale. My personal guidelines include:
    Color: soft grayed tones (as opposed to hues, tints, and shades). Silver or pewter metals for jewelry and clothing details. Charcoal, gray, navy and milk chocolate brown are my neutrals. No black. Off-whites instead of bright whites.
    Fabric: soft fabrics only, no stiff, crisp, or scratchy ones
    Style: Elegant, flowing, soft lines. For example, rounded lapels instead of sharp ones on jackets. Gentle ruffles, lace details, gathers rather than sharp pleats. Rounded or softened V neck lines; cowl, shawl collars. Curved, asymmetric hemlines on sweaters and tops.
    Design: Muted, blended patterns with low contrast; S curves and ovals in prints.

  • Jean says:

    I am definitely fashion challenged. My fashion sense is like Al Borland from the 90s TV show ‘Home Improvement’ as I usually wear plain old blue jeans and flannel shirt, so I usually don’t end up spending too much on clothes anyway. I do agree about buying at the thrift shop as you can find some pretty decent quality stuff there sometimes at a great price.

    -Jean

  • Sam says:

    Jamie, good post. But might not work for me and some other users. Finding classics, then tailoring is like too much time for me. With the schedule, I dont have enough time to do this. All I do is go to Sears or Kohls, go to clearance section and pick the best one for me.

  • Marbella says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I had three boutiques for many years and sometime the magazines ask us the same and I always said – accessories, belt, shawl, ect. It is the cheapest way to have a fashion wardrobe.

  • Jamie Simmerman says:

    MoneyPig,

    It depends on your tailor. I found a very skilled elderly tailor who works from her home to stay busy in her retirement. I can ask her to take something in and pick it that same afternoon many times, and when I ask her how much, she might say, “Oh, give me five bucks and we’ll call it even.” 🙂

    • MoneyPig says:

      Yeah, if the tailoring was only $5 or so, I could see how you could definitely save a lot of money getting things tailored. Next time there is a sale and the only size is XL I won’t hesitate to get it. 🙂

  • MoneyPig says:

    I like your first tip. I never thought about buying used or on sale clothing that didn’t fit and then getting them tailored. I might start doing that, but how much does it cost to get something tailored?

    Say you bought a dress shirt that was a little too wide, how much would that be?

    A tip I would add would be to wait until right after a season ends for special seasonal sales.

    Thanks,
    MP

    • Sam says:

      MP – If you have enough time to spend on this, you can save a lot. And remember to do this in bulk. Say every 6 months, you will have to prepare like 10 dresses in one shot. Hope this helps!

  • Jules says:

    Not machine-drying your clothes can also help them last longer. I’m still wearing shirts that are six years old–and they still look quite nice, with minimal pilling.

    My other favorite tip: buy 3/4-length sleeved shirts. They keep you covered enough, but because the cuffs don’t drag on stuff, they won’t wear out, and even the most casual shirt can be tricked up with the right bracelet.

  • guest in ca says:

    The ‘bonus tip’ really works, and also helps the neckline of a blouse or dress drape better if it seems too big. You can buy ones with a little strap or fastener that attaches to the bra strap. Several years ago, I had ordered a 2-piece outfit for a fancy dress occasion, & the top seemed way too big all over. When I went to the tailor, all she did was take the shoulder seams in less than an inch – could probably have accomplished the same thing with shoulder pads.

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