11 ways to save money on what you wear.
Italian fashion designer and business women Miuccia Prada once said, "What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language." This is more and more true in as we push into an increasingly visual chapter of the digital age, where selfies flood social media feeds and profile pictures become a public badge of identification. In one study of 2,000 women, participants indicated that they wore an item of clothing only seven times on average before ditching it. If "clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them" as Marc Jacobs says, this pattern of buy-and-discard sucks the meaning out of our wardrobes while simultaneously draining our bank accounts.
Below are eleven ways that you can build a sustaining wardrobe that reflects who you are, reduces the amount of time you spend shopping, and leaves you extra money to save or spend in ways that bring you joy.
Spanish Basque fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga said that "Elegance is elimination." You can put this quote into practice by streamlining your clothing into a Capsule Wardrobe. Capsule Wardrobes are created of roughly 24-36 pieces, easily mixed and matched to form a wide variety of outfits. My closet contents don't add up to anything as beautifully organized as a Capsule Wardrobe, but I borrow some ideas from the concept when I shop: 1. I buy classics that will remain in style for longer than the next few weeks, and; 2. Before each clothing purchase, I ask myself how the item will fit in with what I already have at home. Adding pieces that work interchangeably with my existing wardrobe has increased the number of outfits I can put together while limiting my spending.
- Take good care.
Iron, mend, remove stains, and wear it again. Make the things you already love last a little bit longer. If you're not handy, that's okay. Mending can be beautiful and add character to your clothes, but not all of it has to be done by you. For example, a good shoe repair person can save you a bundle. I never seem to get around to my mending, so I made plans to have a "Stitch and Brunch" with a few friends over the weekend. I fixed up 5 things that needed a few stitches during our visit!
- Socialize and swap.
Host a clothing exchange and give your wardrobe an instant refresh at no cost at all.
- The replacement rule.
You've got everything you could possible need, but you are still tempted by a new winter ankle boots in cognac leather (drool) or a sharp spring jacket. Curb your tendency toward excess with my friend Rachael's simple rule: Nothing new for the closet unless an item needs to be replaced. (Rachael is also supplementing her income with an amazing side hustle business she recently launched with her husband.)
- Name brand bargains.
My husband's natural preferences have led to him having something darn close to a Capsule Wardrobe. He also resoles his boots and wears each piece until it's just about threadbare. His high-priced preference: name brand jeans. Last time he was shopping to replace some lovingly worn out denim, he found a pair of jeans that fit perfectly... except he really couldn't justify the price. The solution: we found them on eBay for less than half of the store cost, NWT (New with tags in eBay speak). I like how easy it is to search for a specific item on eBay, but lots of websites are popping up that sell gently used name brand clothes at lower prices.
- Borrow it.
Got a special event coming up? Why buy something you'll only wear once? We may not all have Cinderella's little mice friends to stitch us up something pretty, but most of us live close enough to friends we could ask when we need to be outfitted for a ball. If you're nomadic or don't share your friends' taste in finery, rental is also an option. Websites like Rent the Runway have made renting increasingly convenient.
- Consignment for the win.
If you have been holding on to nice things that just don't fit your body or your current tastes, it's time to clean out your closet and make room for pieces that do. Bring the things you aren't wearing to a consignment shop, and then use the in-store credit you earn to replace your old duds with something more fitting. Pro tip: Take time to find a consignment store that matches up to your style if you're in a city big enough to have options. Their clients will pay more for the clothes you bring in, and you'll have selection that better suits your style when you go to use your in-store credit.
- Do not shop sales.
Sales are the perfect environment for impulse buys. After a handful of weeks of spending my money more mindfully, I saw the "70% off women's shoes" sign hanging temptingly over a variety of very stylish ankle boots (Yes, just like the ones I mentioned in #4... more drool). My inner voice murmured, 'well maybe they will have something very inexpensive that would...' And before I knew it I was sucked in. The sign over those boots might as well have read "TEMPTATION" After trying on several pairs, I snapped back to reason and made my way out of the shoe section without making an unnecessary purchase. It was a close call. There is one exception to this rule, and that is when you are following the advice contained in #9...
- Make a list.
Just like the grocery store, having a list of what you truly need when you shop for clothing items can keep you on track. Even better than groceries, you won't starve to death if you don't get what's on your list right away. Challenge yourself to leave what seem like wardrobe essentials on your list for a couple weeks. When you revisit them, you might find that some items feel less necessary once a little while later. When you do decide that a purchase should be made, you can take your time and shop for a decent deal on an item that fits well and coordinates with the other pieces in your wardrobe.
- Don't dress for others.
Make decisions based your values and not social pressures. I have career goals and some professional clothes that go right along with them. I also have a soft and faded, twenty year-old running jacket that used to belong to my best friend's dad. I have friends with more eclectic interests and they have clothes that fit with those beliefs. If you're going to make a purchase, be sure it's based on your values. Don't make purchases to fulfill other's expectations of what your wardrobe should look like.
- Don't substitute clothes for self esteem.
A nice jacket or new shoes won't fill a hole in the soul. You are the same beautiful and valuable human being no matter what you are wearing. I promise. It will be better in the long run to find people who see that in you and take good care of yourself instead of continuing to spend money on dressing up the outside.
You can see more examples of minimalist/capsule wardrobes, the art of mending, and other style-related tips on our Pinterest board "An enviable wardrobe."
If you'd like more motivation to curb your shopping habits, I highly recommend "17 Staggering Statistics About Our Shopping Habits" on Becoming Minimalist.
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Post image cropped from a beautiful photo by Scott Haydon Photography.