In a world where we’re bombarded by advertising, influencers, and new trends wherever we look, shopping can become overwhelming. Are you looking for information on how to build a wardrobe on a budget? I can help. It’s time to stop trying to live up to unrealistic standards and find the confidence to build a wardrobe that works within your budget.
I promise it’s possible to create looks you love and can repurpose without breaking the bank. Being intentional with your purchases will go a long way towards stretching your clothing budget.
Set a Clothing Budget
If you don’t know what you can spend on your wardrobe each quarter, it’s impossible to make strategic decisions and shop without guilt. It’s better to have a number to target than to go overboard when you see a great sale, or to fritter away a few dollars here and there on fast fashion when you really need a gorgeous, classic trench coat.
Declutter Your Closet
Go through all of your clothes and assess what’s working. Determine what you wear most, least and not at all. Edit your wardrobe down to the pieces you wear, love and look amazing in. If it doesn’t fit, donate it. Or if it’s too damaged to fix, toss it. Store items that are out of season and make sure you have room for the new pieces you’re looking to add. Your wardrobe needs to fit in your space.
Assess Your Lifestyle
Where are you at in life? Does your current wardrobe reflect your roles and responsibilities? As a frequent business traveler, I came to value boots without metal that I could wear through airport security checks and dresses + blazers that wouldn’t wrinkle easily. With young kids to chase, I need cute flats and sneakers more than heels on the weekend. Making room for these items meant clearing out much of the business casual wear that worked in my previous job. There was nothing wrong with those items, but they didn’t fit well with my current lifestyle. Being mindful of your present needs will help you avoid old shopping patterns that don’t match your new lifestyle as you work on building a quality wardrobe on a budget.
Gather Inspiration for Wardrobe Upgrades
Pinterest is your best friend when it comes to finding gaps in your closet. Save your favorite looks to a board and then look for patterns. Are you pinning a lot of suede boots, cozy sweaters? What themes stand out in the outfits you’re drawn to? You may discover a few key items you’re lacking that would allow you to update the items in your wardrobe and create fresh outfits.
Ask Yourself Questions
Before you make a purchase, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I wear it more than once?
- Does it go with several items in my wardrobe?
- Is this piece trendy or classic?
Figuring out a rough cost per wear will help you decide whether a purchase is right for you. These days Rent the Runway is an excellent solution when you need to look amazing, but don’t plan to wear an outfit again. You can rent something perfect for your special event or big job interview at a reasonable price, without needing to make space for the item in your wardrobe long term.
Make a Plan to Maximize Your Clothing Budget
Keeping a running list of the items you need will help you avoid impulse buys. Allocate the majority of your clothing budget to classic pieces and then leave yourself some fun money for the cheap and trendy if you desire. Having a plan, especially if you’re not under time pressure to purchase an item by a certain date, gives you freedom. You can wait for the perfect little black dress, or watch for a sale on the handbag you’re eyeing.
The Luxe Strategist has a great post on her $60 t-shirt purchase.
Consider Second Hand Clothes
Vintage and resale shops can be great sources of gently used, high quality clothing. Depending on the level of curation, you may need to do some digging, but the more work often the greater the savings. Before kids I had a lot more time for hitting up thrift stores, but I still squeeze in the occasional visit. And these days there are a ton of online options, like Etsy, Ebay and TheRealReal. Just make sure you know your measurements if you’re shopping online and have a basic understanding of what types of alterations can be done affordably if needed. My favorite recent score? $5.99 for an adorable Lilly Pulitzer pumpkin print dress our 22-month-old wore for Thanksgiving.
Build a Wardrobe on a Budget by Shopping Off Season
Once you have a plan for what you need, you have the luxury of shopping off season. You can watch for the best deal on a specific item you love. I often shop off season for children’s clothes. Dressing our little ones in matching t-shirts or pajamas for the holidays makes me happy, but not at the exorbitant prices charged in the weeks before. I scope out my favorites when the new collections are released and then wait to scoop up next year’s sizes after the holiday passes.
The January sales are a great time to find deals on leather boots and winter coats. And bathing suits and cover ups are typically deeply discounted by the end of summer. By shopping strategically you can save a great deal of money on wardrobe staples.
Stock Up on Gift Cards
Is there a classic piece you know will make your wardrobe, but you don’t have the funds? Request gift cards over the holidays, or cash in credit card points for gift certificates. There are lots of creative ways to temporarily boost your wardrobe budget.
Pay Attention to Fabrics
You’ll want to look for natural fibers like cotton, wool, linen and silk to build your wardrobe around. These fabrics are breathable, comfortable, and hold up better than synthetics. However, even with natural fabrics there’s a lot of variation in quality. Look for pieces that feel substantial, are soft, and are densely woven.
Accept That Building a Wardrobe on a Budget is a Process
Unless you have unlimited funds, building a quality wardrobe won’t happen overnight. It takes time to find the right pieces and you should expect editing and updating your closet to be an ongoing process. As items wear out or your need change, it’s normal to continue investing in your wardrobe.
Do you give yourself a clothing budget? What item are you on the hunt for now? I’m keeping an eye out for a comfortable pair of classic summer sandals.