Savvy Style: How To Save Money on Clothes (and Look Great Doing It!)

Savvy Style: How To Save Money on Clothes (and Look Great Doing It!)

Christine Lu
Jun 11, 2014
(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

We all know how easy it can be to find ourselves spending way too much money on clothes. But buying clothes for your wardrobe can be similar to buying items for your home – quality over quantity, taking time to determine your own style, and being resourceful are all factors to be considered! Here are some tips on how to save money on clothes that I'm learning to put into practice more and more each year.

1. Know what works for you. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know yourself and be aware of what works for you when it comes to shopping for clothes. I reached my (fashion) happy place when I finally realized that I should shop for what looks good on me, not what looks good on anyone else. I keep my eye on the trends, but I also know what things work for me and what don't. Focusing on the elements of utility, versatility, comfort and self-expression eliminates much of the stress, and makes shopping more fun. Over time I am getting better at narrowing down my wish list to things that are both lovely according to my taste and flattering to my body. This also means that there is less chance of me spending money on what is trendy and unflattering, and more of a chance that I will get things that I will reach for over and over again.

2. Simplify. The older that I get, the more I find myself seeking quality over quantity. I can see the value of spending a little more on an article of clothing that 1) looks good on me, 2) is versatile, and 3) will last many many washes, rather than buying several things that are cheaper in price and quality. Over time, I have seen that it is actually more cost effective to buy that one nice t-shirt that feels good and lasts many washes, over 2 or 3 cheaper t-shirts that fall apart. Plus, having nicer and fewer items also lead me to take care of my clothes more. I am working to getting my wardrobe down to a few pieces that I really love and fit all the above categories. I make sure to simplify every few months by going through my closet to weed out items that I don't wear and reassessing what my most go-to items are. This informs the list that I make for my basic necessities and gives me a better understanding of what I value. There are always exceptions, but for the most part I think it is cost effective to spend money on quality clothes that are versatile and that you can update around. If you do want to try a trend, try it! Just make sure to buy it on sale or shop the discount stores.

3. Take care of your clothes. So many of us would rather go out and buy a new article of clothing rather than spend the time to sort through our current wardrobe. Nicole Chavez, stylist to celebrities like as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rachel Bilson, says the key to spending less money on clothes is to spend more time on wardrobe upkeep. Chavez says that we should devote just as much time tending to our current wardrobe as we do to shopping for new clothes. Take the time to assess what you have, make necessary alteration, hand wash the items that tell you to hand wash, address stains, and fold and hang clothes properly. Your perspective about your clothes will feel refreshed and you will realize that you don't need as much as you think you do.

4. Get familiar with when stores have their sales. Many stores have a pattern of sales that cycle from month to month and if you get familiar with the pattern, you can wait until something goes on sale rather than paying for it full price. If you aren't already, sign up for your favorite stores to receive emails and you will get notifications about any sales that are going on. I also always google to see if there is an online coupon code that will help me cut down on the cost of my purchase. But here's the other thing: don't buy something just because it's on sale! Keep a list of things that you actually need, and stick to it. You can also try to shop out of season. Keep your eye on fashion week previews and trends that seem to be sticking around and shop for your necessities and from your wish list at the end of the season.

5. Get familiar with consignment stores and thrift stores. More and more consignment stores are popping up these days and some of them are really great. Same rules apply though, don't buy things you don't need and focus on getting quality over quantity. You can also sell items out of your closet that you don't wear anymore after you have simplified it, which means extra cash for you! Thrift stores can be hit or misses but it seems like my friends who have the greatest successes with thrift stores are the ones who consistently stick with it. My sister is one of these people, she has found the most amazing things that are of great quality and design at thrift stores for a really reduced price.

6. Organize clothing swaps. Having one of these events is a great motivator to go through that process of sorting, organizing, and purging your closet. You take those items that you never wear anymore to a clothing swap with your friends and exchange those articles of clothing for some of your friend's wardrobeitems. I have come away with a couple of great pieces from these events; it makes you feel like you had a successful shopping trip, but without having spent any of the money!

7. Learn how to sew. This is one that I'm still working on. I can do things like sew on a button, but not much else. Using a sewing machine is not something that comes naturally to me, but I am going to try to stick with it because learning how to alter clothing is a valuable skill that can truly save you money. Even knowing how to hem a pair of pants or a skirt can be a way to update your wardrobe and keep you feeling fresh and well dressed without making extra purchases. Recently, one of my favorite chambray shirts fell apart at the arm and instead of throwing it out, I searched online and found this tutorial to salvage it by making it into a new shirt. I love the update and wear it often. I also love seeing how friends who are expert thrift store shoppers are able to get really great pieces and make alterations to fit their size.

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