How to Dress Well on a Budget

How to Dress Well on a Budget

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photo: Zsuzsanna Kilian

Nowadays we’re reading the words “stylish” and “thrifty” together in the same sentence on a fairly frequent basis. Recycling has found its way into the fashion world and more and more women are deciding to wear what others no longer have any use for. And not only are more women shopping at thrift stores and charity shops for their outfits, but some are going one step further and blowing the cobwebs off their mother’s, or grand-mother’s, sewing machines in order to create their own. You don’t need large sums of money in order to look good any more; all you need is a little imagination and creativity.

Shopping for Clothes at a Thrift Store
Shopping for clothes at a thrift store isn’t just about saving money, although it is a wonderful feeling when you know you’ve found a great item at a fraction of the price you would have had to pay for it in the High Street. But shopping in a thrift store is about a little more than saving money, and even recycling. One of the joys of shopping at a thrift store if that you’re unlikely to see the same clothes that you will see when you shop in the shopping mall. Admittedly, for some, that’s why they never set foot in a thrift store, but for others it’s what shopping at thrift stores is all about. Think of your local thrift store as your local treasure trove; you don’t know what delights you may find once you step through the door.

You need a little more time when shopping for clothes at a thrift store than you do when shopping at regular clothes stores. You can’t just pull an item off the rails expecting it to be perfect in the same way you can when you’re in your favorite shop in the shopping mall. Most items will have one or two minor imperfections and you need time in order to spot these and decide whether they’re acceptable. Always inspect a garment carefully before deciding whether it’s right for you. If you can sew, then not only will you be able to repair any small holes or broken zips, but you’ll also be able to alter an item if it’s not the right size or length.

When it comes to sizing, don’t assume that only those items on the “medium” rail are in fact sized “medium.” Look at all items just in case some have been put back on the wrong rails or incorrectly categorized when they were initially placed on the shop floor.

If you buy out of season you’ll be able to make even bigger savings. Look for a new winter coat or jacket in the summer months, as it will almost certainly be priced lower than it will at the start of the winter.

Making Your Own Clothes
Don’t despair if you can’t find anything suitable at your local thrift store. You can join the growing band of women who are going one step further in making an outfit truly individual and creating their own clothes. Again, this growing, or rather resurging trend, in dress-making could be the result of women wanting to cut back on their spending, or it could be due to the social issues surrounding mass production of clothing; but whatever the reasons, an increasing number of women are recalling all they learned in their home economics school classes and putting it to good use.

If you want to make your own clothes you’ll need a sewing machine. Hand-stitching is sufficient for sewing on buttons but it will take you a very long time to make even a simple skirt or tunic if you stitch it by hand. You don’t need an all-singing all-dancing sewing machine, just a basic model that has a few different stitch options. If you invest in a sewing machine that can handle heavy fabrics then you’ll also be able to use it to make curtains (and when they don’t work out as planned, you can transform them into a bag!).

Start off slowly and, as a way of practicing, customize items of clothing that you already own and feel are in need of a new look. Then try making a simple tote bag by stitching two pieces of material together along three sides and then attaching handles. You can decorate the bag with pretty buttons or ribbons.

When you’re ready to move on to use a sewing pattern, commercial patterns produced by companies such as Vogue and Simplicity are graded to show the level of difficulty so you can select one that’s appropriate for your sewing skills. (Simplicity has a range of patterns for the beginner called “It’s So Easy.”)

Don’t spend a lot of money on top quality fabric when you’re learning your craft. Shop for material at your local thrift store: look for curtains and tablecloths as well as remnants of fabric. Also look for attractive embellishments on garments: for example, it might be worth buying a cardigan for the buttons alone if they’re particularly striking or unique.

Shopping for clothes at a thrift store is one way to put together an individual outfit for very little money. And if you’re able to use a sewing machine to make your own clothes, then you can create a style that’s truly all yours. Either way, you’ll be able to dress well without causing too much damage to your bank balance – or the environment.
by: JD

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