How to Look Great on Any Budget

Trends come and go, but a good sense of style never goes out of fashion. Luckily, style has nothing to do with the name on a label or the price on a tag. I’m of the opinion that you should wear whatever you like, everyone else be damned. Whatever makes you feel comfortable, confident and like the best version of yourself is the right choice. Style is such a personal form of self-expression that depends entirely on you and your lifestyle. I won’t tell you what to wear, but I will share some tips I’ve learned over the years from my own experience. You can look great and build a wardrobe you truly love without spending a lot of money.


Your career and hobbies have a big impact on the items in your wardrobe. Someone who works in a corporate office will require suits and blazers, whereas someone who works outdoors will have an entirely different set of clothing needs. Keep that in mind as you read this article.

Regardless of individual preferences and needs, many people struggle with the same issues when it comes to what’s in their closets. Stop me if this sounds familiar… You invest in new clothes seasonally or perhaps annually—in fact, you’re constantly buying items it seems—but when you look into your closet, you feel you have nothing to wear. How does this happen? You end up reaching for your few favorite items again and again, while the other 80% of your wardrobe goes untouched and unworn.

What’s happening here is that you’re shopping for individual items rather than thinking about your wardrobe as a cohesive whole. When you buy a shirt, for example, do you actually stop to think about whether it matches existing bottoms you have? How many bottoms does it match? For each additional item of clothing the new one matches, that is one more outfit you create by making the purchase. There is an interesting principle discussed in The Millionaire Next Door that addresses this. Essentially it states that for each item you buy, there is a ripple effect which leads to more purchases. Buying a new pair of shoes, for example, that are of finer quality or a different color than the rest of your wardrobe, will lead you to purchase new pants, perhaps a new shirt to match the pants, and a belt to go with those shoes, too. Buying begets more buying as you have to acquire other items of similar quality to match, which brings us to step one.

  1. Think before you buy. Does that new purchase make sense for your wardrobe? Does it match the rest of your clothing? It helps if you stick to a general color palette, because then you know for sure whether an item will work with your existing clothes. I also like to take note of what styles of neckline I find flattering and other little details that make shopping easier. The older I get, the more I stick to tried and true classics.
  2. Quality over quantity.  A mistake I admit to making for years is that I would try to buy an entire wardrobe over the course of a single year. Instead, I recommend investing in a few quality items each year to build your wardrobe slowly over time. Yes,  it will take longer and the individual items may cost more, but 1. The total amount spent per year on clothes will remain the same (provided you don’t go overboard and buy everything at once) and 2. The items will last longer, thus reducing the cost per wear. This works best with staple pieces that form the basis of a wardrobe and which you will wear every day. One example is jeans. Rather than buying six pairs at $30 a pop in a variety of washes and cuts, just buy two pairs in a cut that flatters you, one light and one dark, and you will be able to spend $90 per pair knowing they’ll last for years if properly cared for. We all know you’ll only end up wearing the same two or three pairs that fit you perfectly anyway 😉
  3. Size doesn’t matter, but fit does. Sizes run different at every store. You might be a size ten at one store, a six at another, and an eight at yet a third. This is a problem that plagues mainly women, since men’s sizes tend to be measurement based rather than arbitrary numbers. Whether this discrepancy in clothing is due to a lack of size standardization or to the proliferation of vanity sizing, the fact remains: You need to try on clothes to ensure a proper fit. When ordering online, learn how to accurately take your measurements and compare to the size charts to determine a best fit. You should also learn what a proper fit looks and feels like. Clothes should be comfortable and lay well on the body with no stretching or pulling. Sleeves should come to the wrists, and pant legs should fall to the floor without too much excess. Whether you prefer a break or not is up to you. This brings us to my next point…
  4. Find a good tailor or seamstress. (Unless you are one. I was not gifted with a talent for sewing, myself.) Another thing about clothing is that no two people are alike, so sizes fit each person differently. This means that, while you can find sizes that are a close fit for your body, it is rare to get a perfect fit “off the rack.” A tailor does wonders. It may seem silly and outdated, but a good tailor is well worth the cost. Even the most expensive piece of clothing looks cheap if it is ill-fitting on you. Plus, it is cost effective (not to mention environmentally friendly!) to mend old clothes rather than discard and buy new ones. A tailor ensures your clothes are mended properly to last for years to come.

These are just a few things I’ve found to work for me. Try them out and let me know how it goes!

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