11 Tips for Building a Fabulous Wardrobe on a Tight Budget

by Alexa Mason · 2 comments

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with clothing for most of my life. In my younger years, I used to love clothes. I’d buy whatever struck my fancy, regardless of the cost.

As I got older, I started wearing jeans, t-shirts, and boots. I never shopped for new clothes and had no desire to. The thought of spending my hard-earned money on new clothes was repulsive. Then I got a job as an insurance agent and had to start dressing more professionally. At first, leaving my comfy jeans and t-shirts was awkward. But after a while, I began to gain a sense of confidence from wearing nicer clothes.

From that moment on, I realized something: wearing the right type of clothing can positively impact your life. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, it shows. Your confidence increases, and other people start to look at you in a different light.

Even though I’ve now realized how impactful the right type of clothing can be to your confidence and career, I still avoid spending a lot of money on it.

Instead, I’ve found several ways to have an amazing wardrobe without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips for you to save too.

1. Start with what you have.

When your closet is jam-packed full of junk you haven’t worn in months or years, it’s hard to find the good stuff. Start by going through your closet and getting rid of the clothes you haven’t worn in a while.

After that, you’ll be left with the clothes you actually wear and enjoy. You can use these as the “bones” of your new wardrobe.

2. Sell your old clothes.

While you’re cleaning out your closet, make a pile of all the clothes you no longer want. If they’re in good condition, you can sell them online, using the proceeds to fund your new wardrobe.

3. Find mix-and-match pieces.

Since you’ve now got several good pieces with which to build your wardrobe, sit down and figure out what pieces you need to complete your outfits. For instance, maybe you’re left with several pairs of pants and a plethora of shirts. Is there a vest you could layer over top of your basics to complete your look?

For a mix-and-match wardrobe, choose tops and bottoms in neutral colors, then use pieces like sweaters, shoes, scarves, and vests to make your outfit more fun or sophisticated.

4. Shop on online consignment sites.

Thrift stores have long gotten attention from the frugal crowd, but now online consignment shops are popping up. Sites like ThredUp carry nice, high-quality used clothing for a fraction of the price of buying new. Instead of weeding through a bunch of junk at thrift shops, you can search with confidence on these sites.

ThredUp has actually become my go-to source for nice clothing. I’ve slowly been building my wardrobe by spending $10-$20 at a time.

5. Find a reliable tailor.

You probably already have a tailor if you’re long in the torso, have short arms, or especially long legs, 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 small fortune for it, even if it came from a sales rack.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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 makeup 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.

9. 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.

10. 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 jacket.

11. Choose quality classics.

As a frugal-minded person, it’s tempting to cut corners and go for the cheapest item available. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a smart move.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to find quality clothing; buying secondhand will allow you to go for quality on a budget. Pick quality clothing, even if it costs you a couple of extra dollars. These clothes will hold up much longer and wear much better.

Creating a wardrobe full of clothes that make you feel good should be looked at as an investment in yourself. Luckily, with some smart shopping and careful planning, this investment doesn’t need to cost you a fortune.

Where do you shop for clothes? Have you tried online consignment stores?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Lisa says:

    Using proceeds from when you sell off your old clothes as a way to fund your new wardrobe is a great idea! I really need to implement this soon!

  • Charlotte Fleet says:

    My sister-in-law wants to re-do her entire wardrobe and purchase new outfits for the spring and summer. I love how you said that it is important to buy clothing of quality so that it will last longer. I will have to help my sister-in-law find a reputable, quality boutique to buy all of her new clothes from.

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