I admit that I'm not a very fashionable person. I'm not going to suggest that you take specific fashion advice from me. Instead, I'm going to give a few tips that I use to keep myself looking decent without spending much money at all. And no, they don't include buying a capsule wardrobe. Who has time for that?
1. Clothing Exchange!
When I first moved to Raleigh, a new friend hosted a clothing exchange. For those who are unfamiliar, a clothing exchange is when a large group of people clean out their closets and offer first dibs to their friends. I will say, this is best done with good friends because you end up getting down to bra/panties pretty quickly. It's also nice if people bring snacks.
At the end of the exchange, the host "keeps" the unchosen items. The friend who hosted listed some of the items on resale sites and donated the rest to Salvation Army.
I brought a few maternity items, and a few wintery items that I didn't expect to need anymore. Before moving, I eliminated more than half my wardrobe (since I didn't want to pack items I would never wear again). I didn't have much to contribute, but that didn't matter. We had PILES of unclaimed clothes at the end. Everyone wanted to give more than receive.
I didn't get a lot from the exchange, but I did get my "official" wedding (attending) dress, a set of black pumps, and a "camping skirt" that I wore until I became pregnant with Shirley.
Clothing exchanges are free, a lot of fun, and they allow you to get a nice little wardrobe refresh.
2. Only wear clothes that fit
I'm probably not going to share this post on Facebook, or my mom will see it. Then she will get on my case for always wearing jeans that are too big.
Of course, my mom is partially right. I have a problem buying jeans that are too big in the waist, but that is because I want the pants to fit correctly over my thighs and I have big thighs relative to my waist.
Jeans aside, I'm very good at buying clothes that fit me. My wedding dress cost just $120, but I spent $270 having it tailored. It was money well spent. My dress easily looked like a multi-thousand dollar dress. The same thing applies to shorts, shirts, blouses and more. If something fits you well, you'll look great in it!
BTW- Other moms are probably screaming at me right now. "Easy for you to say, your body didn't change after having kids." Not true. I weigh about the same, but my body is differently proportioned than it was. That's why I wear a lot of dresses and skirts and not as many pants as I used to. The dresses and skirts fit me right and the pants... don't.
3. Buy Quality
If you regularly shop at Target, Old Navy, Ross, TJ Maxx, H&M, Dots, or other similar stores, you know that you can get lots of clothes for very little money. And if you're particularly savvy, you can catch amazing clearance deals where you take home a whole new wardrobe for about $50.
My friend and roommate Jessie was the queen of getting amazing deals at Ross.
But one thing differed between her shopping and mine. She always bought quality clothes. I would be willing to bet a large sum of money, that she still has clothes from high school in her closet. Jessie- if you're reading this, can you please confirm?
I don't think you have to choose between price and quality if you're a savvy shopper. My kids are outfitted in name brand clothes that will last them the rest of the year. My total outlay for the year? $300 (remember that's 5 sizes for Shirley and two for Kenny plus shoes). I got most of their clothes from Craigslist or from friends.
For myself, I recently switched from Thrift Store shopping to using ThredUp. The link will give you and me both $10, but I recommend searching for the 40% off your first purchase promo code instead (THRIFTY40 was the code a few days ago). This allows me to search for brands that consistently produce high quality clothing without digging through racks at thrift stores.
The prices are decent. Certainly cheap relative to buying clothes new, but about 5-6 times the price of a regular thrift store (For example, I just paid $23 for a pair of pants after a 20% discount was applied).
Personally, I've found that "Fast Fashion" brands have clothes that tend to disintegrate. I would rather buy brands that I know offer good quality.
4. Stop shopping
Most women I know (including myself) have this idea of a "complete wardrobe." If only I had two more pairs of shoes and a plain white shirt, my wardrobe would be complete. Wardrobes are never complete. They just aren't. Stuff wears out, fashions change. You get fat, you get skinny. You lose stuff. Whatever.
Instead of scouting out deals all the time, I've saved a ton of money by not shopping or buying clothes most of the time. I'm not a nudist, and I've always had something to wear. Now, I recently got to the point where I owned zero pairs of jeans and zero blouses without rips. At that point, I bought some new clothes, but I gave myself one month to shop. Then I cut myself off again.
I probably won't buy clothes again for at least six months. Except running shoes. I meant to go to a store to buy some, but I got too lazy.
5. Wear your husband's clothes
Some people have "regular" clothes and "lounge" clothes. I have "regular" clothes and "ugly" clothes. I've never owned cute clothes for lounging. I don't know how people pull off the cute but sloppy look. Some people can, but I can't. So I stopped trying after I got married. Instead of attempting to buy cute "lounge" clothes, I wear my regular clothes most of the time (or my athletic clothes while working out), and then I steal my husband's clothes for sleeping.
This used to make him angry, but I reasoned with him. "You can buy me whatever clothes you want me to sleep in, but I'm not going out to spend our money when you have perfectly excellent clothes for me to wear."
He tried to get me back by wearing one of my sweaters, but I just had a good laugh at him squeezing into my clothes. It works a lot better for the smaller person to wear the larger person's clothes.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.