The Frugal Fashionista
For the fashion-conscious, it can be hard not to want to update your whole wardrobe every season. While dull, cold Winter gives way to Spring, the pull to ditch heavy, darker Winter clothes in favor of light, warmer-weather confections can be irresistible. However, if you’re like me, the pull to be able to afford your phone bill, rent, credit card bill, and groceries is probably a little stronger. A little. It used to be cheaper to sew your own clothes, and, depending on your skill level and what you’re looking for, it still can be.
But … what do you do if you’re DIY-challenged?
Invest in good-quality basics. Basic doesn’t have to be boring. Alternative Apparel has some wardrobe staples in updated designs (I bought one of their A-line v-neck tees. I liked it so much, I bought three more in different colors) and even a collection of pieces in organic cotton. Best of all, it’s not hard to find their items discounted Amazon.com. Other places to check include thrift stores, Bluefly.com, or the clearance areas in mall boutiques. I once found an $86 raw-silk camisole for $2 at a Goodwill, Bluefly always has incredible sales, and since mall boutiques’ stock is often determined by a central corporate office, you can find some really great discounts on their overstock as they’re forced to make room for the newer items.
Invest in a lobster pot and take a trip to your local craft store. Have you ever had a piece of clothing that you loved, that was still serviceable, but had faded until it was just too worn looking to wear? The solution used to be to donate the item to charity and go shopping, but now, with Dylon’s dissolving dye packets, giving your favorite fade piece is no longer a messy, tortuous affair. You open the box, follow the instructions for your specific fabric, toss the entire dye packet into the pot (the “bag” is made of some type of soluble polymer that disintegrates on contact with water) and stir away. They even have formulas for linen, wool, and silk!
Once you’ve colored your fabric, you can also get ambitious with some fabric paint, screen printing supplies, or even some bleach in an old spray bottle.
While you’re there, take a trip through the button aisle. The same blouse that looked so killer last Autumn can do double-duty in Spring with the aid of a recolor and some different buttonage. One of my favorite jackets was an upcycled denim I’d embellished by sewing a collection of awesome vintage buttons to the collar of. Larger, more ornate buttons can also make incredible brooches. Which brings me to my next point…
Etsy, Etsy, Etsy. There is absolutely no overestimating the value of this place. You want something unique? Check. Inexpensive? Check. That supports smaller-time artisans? Very check. Etsy.com is where I get my gloves, scarves, some jewelry, and even a pair of lovely vintage round-toe kitten heels in a fabulous, satiny shade of black that quickly became my favorite shoes. It’s pretty much my best resource for inexpensive, one-of-a-kind accessories.
Pick out a handful of statement items. Expressing the trends in a given season, whether lace, flowers, feathers, or what have you, is a lot easier, more cost-effective, and body friendly when you do it in the form of a few small statement pieces. If everyone’s wearing lace, a dainty, feminine crochet necklace or pair of wristlets is a hell of a lot easier to pull off than a stretch-lace top. Added bonus, you won’t end up with a closet full of “What-in-God’s-name-was-I-thinking?” outfits.
Tights are your friend. The right pairs of tights can take a dress from the office to a party, and from Autumn to Spring. Look for snuggly sweater-knits for the cold months, patterned nylons for Spring, and sheer, shimmery nudes for whenever.
And, last but not least, read the labels. Following the right care instructions for your clothes will help keep your favorite pieces in circulation longer. Granted, manufacturers do try to cover their collective butt a bit, so not every “Dry Clean Only” article is really dry clean only, but (for washable items) natural coconut- or soy-based laundry soaps contain less chemicals that can harm delicate fabrics, cold water is easier on fabric, line or flat drying is much gentler than machine drying, and all have the added advantage of being eco-friendly. Sweet!