Monday, January 12, 2015

Fashion on a Budget

*I apologize for the lack of photos... will update when my camera is fixed :-)

Finding Cheap Clothes

When looking for inexpensive clothing options you basically have a few choices. They are ranked based on my preference.
  1. Used clothing stores (my favorite choice)
  2. Online used clothing sites
  3. End of season sales
  4. Discount stores where they resell older product a la TJ Maxx, Marshalls
  5. Choosing lower quality clothing
The first step towards saving in clothes is to look at different stores in your area.

Remember you need to research not buy! This is tough because what you want to do is actually just compare prices not quality or even if you like the item. I recommend looking for the general price of a shirt, skirt, and shoes and write it down for each store. 

A rule of thumb for end of season clothing sales is anywhere from 50% to 75% off.

Why Buy Used 

  • You can save an enormous amount. 
  • You will eventually find whatever you want or need at a fraction of the price. 
  • You can buy brand new designer clothing for next to nothing
  • You can have more fun and not worry about ruining your "brand new" clothes

Things to Remember When Buying Used

Goodwill/Salvation Army:

When you buy at Goodwill I recommend going through the racks looking for items on your list. I only buy very good brands. If I'm buying something that was originally $40 I feel great paying $1.50. If the original cost was $6, I just don't feel as good about my purchase and it tends not to last.

Put everything into your shopping cart. Then before you buy you NEED to inspect each item for rips, stains, tears, missing buttons and if you have time fit.

Normally, when I go shopping I have my baby in an ergo so I just grab what I think will fit. I do the same thing for our kids and have found that you only really need to try on for fit when you are changing sizes. Only one time have I ended up with a blouse that was not modest enough for my taste.

With Goodwill it tends to either be feast or famine. I've gone sometimes and found nothing. Other times I've found literally 5 tags on brand new sweaters for my son, 5 skirts that are designer labels in great condition for me, 6 sweaters for me that were brand new and never worn. I end up looking through hundreds of items and finding only a couple that are what I'm looking for. But those couple items can be a brand new sweater from Banana Republic for $3 and a suede skirt for $4. For me its worth the hour of my time.

When I am looking for a specific item I go about once a week. We always end up getting there in the afternoon but its especially helpful if you can go early in the morning.

Saturday tends to be the best day to shop. I've heard that is because the weekend is when most of their donations occur.

If you have the time and extra pair of hands I highly recommend trying things on first. Once you buy it they will NOT return items!

Consignment stores: 

The nice part about consignment stores is that you don't have to sort through a lot of heavily used clothes. The bad part is, they know it!

I don't shop at consignment stores. I have never needed to! They tend to have very high prices compared to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Even for emergencies.

For example, my daughter's zipper on her winter jacket broke. So I went to the local Goodwill. I had to visit it twice but the second time there was a really cute girls winter jacket in perfect condition! At first this philosophy really made me nervous. I wondered would I not find something that worked? What if I had to buy it for full price? But after enough experience I have found that eventually we can find everything we need at the Goodwill.

When would I shop consignment stores? For shoes if I could not find brand new ones at the Goodwill. So far this has never happened!

Needs vs Wants

I think when buying used its extremely important to define what you have to have versus what would be nice to have.

First and foremost I NEED that everything be machine washable. I'm not comfortable spending more to clean a skirt every week than I paid for it.

At Goodwill they have a half price sale on all items of a certain tag color. My rule is that if it is a need or a new pair of shoes I'll pay full price. If it is a want I will wait till the item is half priced. For example, going into winter in Iowa I had 2 long warm skirts. Since I had 2, every skirt I purchased from then on was a want so I only bought things if they were 50% off. This really brings down the budget.

I actually write this list down because I am shopping for 5 people with all different sizes, style preferences and needs vs wants.

Without this prior thought I would be lost wading through clothes for hours on end! Or worse would come home with an awesome collection of clothes I love and nothing that matches! 

In my list I have:
  • Wardrobe palate
  • Style preference 
  • Sizes
  • Number of items needed
  • Brand preference
  • Items to complete an outfit.
  • Wants

Building a Wardrobe

There are many times that I have had to build a wardrobe from scratch. You know how one day your kid wakes up from a nap and suddenly nothing fits? Or after the birth of a child your body shape has changed? This is almost the easiest place to start.

Choosing a Color Palette 

The first step when shopping at stores like goodwill, consignment stores or even TJ Maxx is that nothing is going to match! There aren't outfits pre-assembled. There isn't a line of items that are designed to co-ordinate. So you have to find one color palate! That way your wardrobe will co-ordinate and you can make more outfits with less clothes! 

When deciding on a color palate there are 2 things to keep in mind: 
  1. What colors do you love?
  2. What colors make you pop?
The hard part about this is that those two answers maybe very different! For example, I never  liked the color purple, until recently I tried it on to match a skirt with a purple and grey  paisley design. And now I feel so silly. Purple really highlights my eyes and makes my skin look lovely! 

There are a lot of great resources for picking out colors that look wonderful on you. I found them confusing and overwhelming. Because, honestly, I didn't know where I fit in anything. Some stuff said I was a spring, some a summer and some an autumn. So that's wasn't really helpful. 

Here is my formula.

  • Olive skin: Jewel tones- grey, cream, dark rich shades, sapphire blue, emerald green, amethyst purple, ruby red, pumpkin.
  • Fair skin: white, black, brown, teal, coral, pink, olive green, navy blue, lavender purple.
  • Ignore your hair color... I know did I just say that??
  • Pick a color that matches something in your eyes. For example, if you have blue eyes, try that shade of blue. If you have chocolate brown eyes have this color in your wardrobe's palate. This will bring out your eyes.
Now try things on. See what colors make you look really beautiful. The goal is to pick 5 colors aside from neutrals. This limitation will make it very easy to pick clothes out of the mass of items at discount stores. It simplifies your wardrobe and allows you to co-ordinate many of your outfits. If it won't make you look and feel amazing then it really doesn't need to be in your wardrobe. 

Skirts vs. Pants

For women and girls in our family we do exclusively wear skirts. This is for reasons I'll address in another post.

Here are a few money saving finds I've made since switching to skirts.

  • Skirts allow you to expand and shrink, as is normal for a woman's body. During pregnancy, breastfeeding and everything in between our bodies change and develop to accommodate the new stage in life. This has led me to really appreciate the beauty of skirts. I can fit into anywhere from a size 12 to a size 8.
  • When I wore pants I had to immediately be in maternity pants beginning at 7 weeks pregnant. And I had to go through 2 sizes of pants during the pregnancy. Then during the postpartum period I would have to buy 4 or 5 different sizes of pants. Doing this on a budget basically means you have one pair of pants per size and are firmly restricted to jeans. And quite frankly I felt like a stuffed sausage the whole time!
  • Additionally, women always look better in a dress or skirt. It compliments all figures so well. While honestly pants, draw attention to our problem areas. 

Finding a Brand

Things to look for in a brand is that they can be machine washed, are modest, come in your color pallet and are the style that suits your taste. You may find several brands you love. But I would recommend noticing the quality of the brands you are buying. This helps with the longevity of the item and it also makes you pretty thrilled when you know what the item would have cost new.

For example, the cheap brands of sweaters are all destroyed and will have to be tossed after this year. Now, I bought `these when going into this winter with literally no sweaters that fit. So they were more emergency buys. You will quickly notice what brands are durable and the ones that are not. 

One of the things that has shocked me about shopping at goodwill is that I have actually discovered my favorite brand of clothing. Literally I walk down the aisles and pull clothing from the racks and nearly every single item is the same few brands of skirt.

Their clothes look sophisticated and put together, are very modest, and come in colors that are part of my color pallet. But the best part for a person who stays home and routinely is covered in paint, puke, food, buggers etc, all the clothes I have bought from there are WASHABLE!


I never thought I would buy shoes at goodwill. Maybe for the kids since little ones don't have gross feet. But what I have found is that I can find literally brand new shoes for everyone in the family. 

First the germ phobic Biologist in me says NO! Never to used shoes. But I looked anyway. 

This was in part out of desperation because during my last pregnancy by hips increased from a size 6 to a size 12 and my feet grew from a 10 to an 11. 

So I kept looking every time I'd go to goodwill. I also looked on goodwill online. Because our budget was tight I waited to find shoes in the local store rather than online. 

I found 5 pairs of brand new shoes, in my size, at the goodwill for anywhere from $2 to $4. These had clearly never been worn with many still having tags. To find new shoes I look for the following things: 

  • Scuff marks or dirt on the body of the shoe
  • Any dirt on the inside of the shoe
  • The inserts of the shoe pulling away from the inside of the shoe
  • Any dirt, discoloration or scuffs on the bottom of the shoe. 
  • Obviously if it smells run!


First, I have seen brand new swimsuits at Goodwill. I have never found one in any of our sizes. I would not buy any undergarments, or swimsuits used. Even for children. 

But I would buy them if they still had the tags on and the plastic strip in the crotch. A lot of people buy things at the end of season sale for next year, put it in a storage bin and take it out the next year to find that the child has grown several sizes. I know this has happened to us and I highly recommend taking advantage of this circumstance. 


When you have brought home a new item or haul of items start making outfits, see how they look. 

Making an outfit: 
  1. Start with a statement piece. This is the piece of clothing or accessory that you will be highlighting.
  2. Find other pieces in your wardrobe that compliment this piece. These would be either of a color that matches or compliments the colors in the piece
  3. Find 3 accessories that highlight this piece
  4. Select shoes that will go with this.
  5. Check to make sure if you need anything to make the piece more modest, such as a cami to bring the neckline up or a skirt extender to bring the hemline down. Additionally, what I have found is that especially in winter when I go outside I'm wearing leggings under my skirts and sometimes if the skirt isn't lined I need a slip to prevent it from clinging and trust me on -29 degree windchill days that slip is a welcome addition.
Some things will go with everything you own. For example, a jean skirt, a camel or other neutral color sweater. These are awesome to have because they fill in your wardrobe and really extend it. 

There are several apps and websites that allow you to take pictures of items and lay them out. I would highly recommend doing this so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. Put the thought into what goes with each statement piece and then the next season by the time you've forgotten what to do you still have everything ready to go. Kind of like a recipe box but for your wardrobe


It pains me to say accessories are probably the last thing to buy. They may also be the most expensive things you buy. But at the same time they are what makes your outfit look complete and put together.

Accessories are like frosting on a cake. They are also where it really can help having a very specific color pallet. If you have 3 main colors then you only need 3 scarves, purses, jewelry pieces and shoes. If you have 15 colors: first most of them aren't going to do anything for you and you'll spend a fortune on accessories!

Some helpful hints:
  • Belt that matches your shoes
  • Necklace that matches skirt
  • Scarf that co-ordinates with skirt
  • Tights that match scarf or necklace
  • Add layers that match colors of the statement piece
  • Purses can make great accessories, especially when matching a belt or shoes! I know this is old fashioned but there is a reason it works.

Find Your Style!

  • Get on pinterest and search for modest fashion! 
  • Pin the outfits you love that are in your color palate
  • Review everything you have pinned
  • Note how similar the outfits you have pinned are? 
  • Now take notes of items that are the same through your pins.
  • That's your style!


A word about kids. Since I have really started to focus on ensuring that both the colors and fit are good for each child I have noticed big changes in their attitudes about dress. Both my son and daughter have started to really care that they look nice. They also are very pleased when they look nice. I want all of our kids to leave our home knowing how to make themselves look best. Quite frankly I recognize that they may not decide to dress modestly and attractively when they leave our house. Just like they may chose to not use manners, make good decisions, be Catholic or any other value we have tried to teach. And while I would feel sorry for them that they decided not to benefit from the wisdom we have tried to impart that is their decision. But at least I will have taught them both by example, in how they are dressed, and explicitly taught techniques for looking and feeling their best. All this while respecting themselves, others and God.

What I have noticed in our 5 year old daughter is how much she has started to want to dress modestly. This is not because we have some sort of strict dress code or talk to her about modesty. Our modesty discussions center around don't run around naked streaking everyone present after going potty. But we have had tantrums because she feels like a skirt is too short. And the outfits she picks out when shopping are very 1950s or Victorian looking. Its precious to see her developing a very modest sense of style.

I think so often girls and increasingly boys are not taught modest standards as young children. This leads to a very confusing situation when they become teenagers and cannot understand why a skirt is too short. Or why dressing provocatively is different than being beautiful. Also, I really think we do not do enough to teach our daughters how to protect themselves. 

I have heard from a lot of people that we should teach our sons to not harass women or worse assault them. That is so very true and  literally every single day we work on issues like saying no always means you stop immediately, being gentle, how to be loving, if you are angry step away and do not engage the person. We also teach our son that you are a gentleman and women are to be treated as ladies. That his father is a good man and one our son should try to emulate in his treatment of women. These are explicitly taught in our home.

That being said we also work every day with our daughter on how to protect herself. To never put herself in a vulnerable position. To be proactive about seeing positions in which she could be vulnerable. And for both our children we dress them both modestly and teach them that this is a way we respect our bodies. That by keeping our bodies covered we are saving their beauty for the one person God has made for us. There will always be evil people in the world and teaching our daughter to protect herself is a priority.

Part of the reason we do dress them well and modestly is so that neither child will be assaulted or harassed. There are so many women being raped on college campuses and quite frankly so many teenaged boys being raped by older women. I see no harm in teaching children of both genders to both protect themselves and to protect others. People do treat you differently when you are protecting your body. I have noticed this since I began intentionally dressing modestly. But again that is a post for another time.

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