Budget Stretcher - Wardrobe Essentials

Kelly Jo is a relatively new 'friend' online and she asked me a question that I felt was a great idea for a budget stretcher item: a working wardrobe.

Although I've been 'at home' now for a number of years, I have experience building a working wardrobe and still require a few good pieces to dress for certain occasions.  I'm not much of the jammy pants and tank sort of gal for going to the grocery.  I might wear jeans these days, since I've acquired a pair in the past year but I like to look well put together when I walk out of the door. I think it's a reflection of myself as well as John and I try to look as put together as I can.

Kelly Jo wrote: My current struggle is maintaining a professional wardrobe. Our office is "professional dress" - and clothes are so expensive. Thoughts?


Quite a few, actually! lol

Clothing is indeed expensive.  In my working days (as well as in my current wardrobe) I lean hard on classic with a few trendy pieces pulled in to add oomph.  I don't think a large wardrobe is necessary but I do rely on the multiple use of pieces in my own closet.



Purchasing clothes, especially those for a plus sized woman, is not always possible in a thrift store but I've seen some absolutely gorgeous dresses and clothing pieces that friends have purchased in thrift or Goodwill stores.  Some people are iffy about purchasing used clothing and I understand that, but for the money, you can't really beat these stores.  Mind you, not every item there has been worn by someone.  Some are end of season donations from major retailers, some might be gifts or simply were never worn after purchase and will sport  the tags to prove it.  The major thing with shopping thrift or Goodwill is that it takes time to sort through racks upon racks of clothing that are categorized by color and not size.  If you've got the time and desire this might be a place to consider looking.

Consignment stores also come to mind.  Again, I've never shopped in one personally but that is due to the lack of them in my immediate range of usual shopping.  I understand the standards for consignment are higher than Goodwill or Thrift.  The prices may be higher than Goodwill, but still less than retail unless they are retro/vintage pieces.  Most consignment stores look for pieces that are in no need of repair, are in excellent condition, clean and current or classic in styling, so you can rest assured the standard is high for those stores.  I have noticed in the past year that more of these sorts of stores are popping up in areas where I occasionally shop.

For myself I lean hard upon the clearance racks of small clothing chains with a few purchases from the main racks now and then when I've waited long and patiently and fruitlessly for some basic item in my size (black pants, jeans, etc.).  In my state, most clothing is wearable almost year round unless it's woolens.   I do live in a mild climate with little variation between very warm, hot, hotter, and doggone it's hot, in most seasons!

One other source for inexpensive clothing comes to mind: swaps.  Family members or friends who wear a similar size may welcome the skirt that doesn't quite work for you while you benefit from having a jacket that never fit her shoulders quite right.  We all make fashion mistakes at times and we all have those mistakes hanging in the closet.  Why not give a friend or family member the opportunity to benefit and incidentally boost your own wardrobe at the same time?

And finally a last option is sewing or using a tailor to make pieces just for you.  I had a friend who never bought anything except her underthings from a store.  Every piece of outerwear she had was made just for her.  She found a woman in our community who sewed very well and knew the art of tailoring patterns to fit.  The benefits of this is that your clothing will fit beautifully and be uniquely yours. A pattern may be reused many many times over so if you find one that suits you and fits well, you'll never again have to look for that perfect dress (or slacks or jacket or blouse). The downside: having to choose the fabric (so hard to choose when so many options are so beautiful!) and the patterns, and waiting for the pieces to be made.  It would mean planning ahead if you needed items for special events. It's not necessarily the least expensive option, as it once was, but it does mean that higher end looking pieces might be acquired for less than retail simply by choosing a pattern and good quality fabric.  I'm always amused by Project Runway (yes, I am a fan) when they buy $90 worth of material and finishing pieces (buttons, thread, zippers, etc) and then say the dress would easily retail for $650.  My mother was an excellent seamstress and for amusement often spent a Saturday looking through retail stores, then trekking over to the fabric store to purchase similar looking fabrics and patterns and making a dress or coat or pantsuit for half the cost.

Now, for a short check list of other savings:

Buy classic colors and classic styles.  If you want to be trendy, do so with accessories which often remain a trend far longer than trendy clothing.

ANY color can be a neutral.  In the 1950's  neutrals were brown, black, navy and gray.  But a deep emerald green or royal blue or red or khaki can be your neutral. 

Use the Fashion Math option of buying a few pieces and mixing and matching to create several outfits.  One of the women's magazines offered such a feature recently based upon a Little Black Dress.  The dress was a sleeveless sheath type.  A blouse under it created a jumper.  A cardigan or jacket over the dress changed the look entirely, as did a loosely draped scarf.  If you purchase a suit look at it with an eye to using the pieces separately with other pieces already in your wardrobe.

Let trends be accessories while keeping the classics as the base pieces.  Much better to have a handbag to donate at the end of a year than a wardrobe.

So there are the options I know best of how to dress professionally on less.

1 comment:

rebecca said...

What a helpful post with plenty of great suggestions! The Little Black Dress is one of MY favorite "go to" options. Though I don't work outside the home, I DO like to be presentable and neat in appearance for the unexpected that inevitably seems to happen :)

Personally, I have a couple of favorite thrift stores whose clothes are extremely reasonable! I shop for basic pieces that can be interchanged - as you suggested.

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