Saturday, 2 May 2009

10 ways to update your wardrobe without spending a fortune

It’s spring and the temptation to go out and buy a new wardrobe is huge; but in the current economic crisis few of us can afford to go on a shopping spree. Frugality is important, but one of the most important things in a recession is YOU: you are your most valuable asset and how you package yourself is vital to your success. So what can you do to ensure that you look your best, without spending a fortune?

Here are 10 tips for looking good on a budget.

1) Sort out your wardrobe – most of us have wardrobes that are overflowing with long forgotten items of clothing that should be either worn or passed on to a new home.

Firstly, put aside the ‘no brainers’; the clothes that you truly love and make you feel great and you know you will wear again.
Next go through what is left with a really discerning eye. Ask yourself a few simple questions.
Does it fit?
Do you truly like it?
Does the colour flatter you?
Does it make you feel really good?

Anything that doesn’t tick any of the boxes should be put aside into a separate pile that you can then go through and decide if items can be altered to fit or give a new lease of life, or whether it is past redemption and should go to the charity shop.

After eliminating the dead weight, what remains should be old favourites that are ready to be rediscovered and added to your daily wardrobe. It's time to organize and put everything back into your wardrobe and organise them in the following way.
• By type of clothes: shirts together, trousers together, skirts together, dresses together
• Shortest to longest: short sleeves to long sleeves, shorts to trousers,
• By colour--light to dark: beige short sleeves, beige long sleeves, brown shorts, brown trousers
Now you are ready to explore your wardrobe properly.

2) Learn to Sew
Buying a sewing machine and learning to sew is one of the best investments you can make. Even if you just know the basics, being able to sew can save you a lot of money and waste. With even the most basic sewing skills you’ll be able to fix rips and tears, replace buttons and alter the sizing to fit.
And if you keep practising you could eventually be making your own clothes from scratch. Making your own clothes doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you are canny and adopt the true Make it and Mend it style, you could find fabric all over the place: such as old curtains, sheets, tablecloths and fancy scarves and even vintage items and fabrics.

3) Clothing Repair
Just because your clothes might have holes or rips, be missing buttons and not fit properly, does not mean that you have to throw them away.
With some very basic sewing skills clothes can be given a new lease of life.
• Trousers and skirts that are too long can be hemmed
• Rips and tears can be mended
• Replace missing buttons
• Replace or repair zips
• Soak whites in pre-wash whiteners to give them a fresh, new, brilliant whiteness
• Polish and re-heel your shoes - getting rid of scuffs will lift everything you wear and radically improve your appearance
• Shine and mend your jewellery - you can rediscover old favourites. (For silver jewellery try this great "free" polishing trick)

4) Adapt - Making Old Things New Before you throw something away think about if there’s any way you can do it up, modernise it or otherwise revamp it. Clothes that no longer fit too well or that have some tears or holes in them can be made into a brand new outfit. Trousers can be shortened to form Capri pants or shorts. Dresses can become skirts. A jacket that is too tight to fasten at the waist can either have the buttons moved to allow more space or be shortened into a cropped jacket that buttons at the bust line. Add a couple of button accents on the sleeve near the wrist and a patch pocket from the leftover material and no one will recognize it as the same old jacket. New buttons can breathe new life into a coat.
Sprucing up your wardrobe can be fun and creative. With a little time and effort you can have something new to wear that is stylish and individual. Go out there and visit those arts and crafts stores, keep those extra buttons from clothes that you are getting rid of, and fabric scraps, because you never know what new article of clothing they can help you create.

5) Think like a fashion stylist
Now comes the fun part – creating a new look. Mix and match your pieces and see how they can be worn in new ways. Try layering, clashing colours and combining smart with casual clothes. Get creative or use magazines for inspiration, you'll be amazed at how many new outfits you can create with the pieces you already own.

6) Have a clothes swap party
Gather your friends and swap clothes, footwear and accessories for free. Clothes swapping or Swishing is a great way of recycling your unwanted clothes and, at the same time, the chance of bagging yourself a real bargain. One woman's cast offs are another girl's steal. Get some tips on how to do this.

7) Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise
Invest in accessories. If you know how to match accessories with your outfit, you will look stylish. Buying accessories would actually cost less and will update your wardrobe immediately. Scarves, belts, bangles, bags and shoes are great for re-energising a tired outfit or creating a completely new look for a well used dress.

Accessories needn’t cost the earth. Make friends with your local charity and vintage shops and keep your eyes out for those fabulous pieces that will revolutionise your wardrobe.

8) Shop for what you need, not what you want
Having sorted out your wardrobe you now know what is missing and what you can’t live without. If you do have to buy something new, think carefully about what you buy. Don't obsess over the latest must-have: focus on what you need to round out your wardrobe instead. Do you really need a 10th pair of flip flops or another little black dress? No, but perhaps that fabulous statement necklace is just the thing to make your little black dress or classic white shirt pop.

Remember the key to savvy dressing is ‘quality over quantity’. Fashion editors follow the 70/30 rule which means that 70% of your closet space should hold the classic pieces, while the remaining 30% should be reserved for the seasonal pieces. It is never easy to shop on a tight budget, but you can do it if you stick to the basics. Classic pieces never go out of style and can be wearable in whatever season you are in. Invest in quality. Make sure that anything you buy makes you feel fabulous and always go for flattering cuts and simple, yet stylish, silhouettes that will last for years.

8). Invest in quality pieces that are flexible and are capable of multitasking.
Only invest in pieces that can be worn to a variety of different events - day or night, casual or dressy affairs. Also try to focus on pieces that can cross the seasons, with clever layering, clothes can be worn all year round

9) Highlight your wardrobe with cheap chic trendy pieces
Only when you have gone through the other stages are you ready to go out and buy the fun fashion pieces. Whilst the majority of your wardrobe should consist of quality pieces that will last, a few well places fashion items will lift your wardrobe and bring it slap up to date without costing a fortune. And don't forget, vintage can be a great way to add fabulous pieces at reasonable prices. Have a look at Catwalk Creative for some eco friendly fashion pieces

10) Take care of your clothes
Finally the most important bit of advice - Take good care of your clothes and you'll wear them for years. Clothes care tips.

STOP PRESS! Take the Pledge
If you want support and an incentive to remake your wardrobe check out Wardrobe Refashion.
This has been going for a few years and particpants pledge to abstain from the purchase of new manufactured clothing for the period of 2, 4, 6 months or LIFE. They pledge to refashion, renovate, and recycle preloved items with their own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium or make their own from scratch. Anyone falling off the wagon has to confess by displaying a "Get out of Reafshionista Jail Free" card. Check it out - there's loads of examplesto give you support and inspiration.


  1. Not sure if you were aware, but The Make Lounge ( in London offers workshops in Survival Sewing and Creative Alterations - teaching exactly the sorts of things you've posted about here!

  2. Thanks Jennifer - didn't know the Make Lounge did that - sounds brilliant. Would love to hear any feedback from anyone who has done one of their workshops.