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Design & Style

How to Dress Well on a Budget: 4 Tips for Budget Shopping

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 21, 2020 • 4 min read

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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

You don't have to spend a lot of money to buy great clothes. Learn how to save money on clothes shopping while still looking fabulous.

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Tan France Teaches Style for EveryoneTan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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4 Places to Shop on a Budget

If you’re on a budget when shopping for clothes, you still have plenty of options.

  1. Discount stores: Just because they’re not clothing stores per se doesn’t mean you can’t find great clothes at big box discount stores—especially when it comes to basics like T-shirts, hoodies, and sweats.
  2. Secondhand stores: From consignment shops filled with designer fashion brands to discount thrift store chains, secondhand stores are a great resource for unique pieces. Don’t expect to find specific pieces when thrift shopping. Instead, bring a mood board, wish list, and an open mind. Thrift shops are great for finding high-quality products, like denim jeans and cashmere sweaters, as well as accessories, like costume jewelry, scarves, and belts.
  3. Fast-fashion chains: Fast-fashion stores sell trendy clothes at low price points, including workwear staples like blazers and trendier items like cropped T-shirts and going-out dresses. Since they cater to up-to-the-minute fashions, fast-fashion stores generally sell clothing that isn’t designed to last long. Balance your fast-fashion purchases with high-quality basics that will last for years.
  4. Department stores: Offering a wide selection from many different brands, department stores are a great resource when you’re looking for a specific item (like the perfect-fitting dress shirt) since you’ll be able to try on a variety of options.

4 Tips for Shopping on a Budget

Bring home clothing you’ll actually wear with these budget shopping tips.

  1. Check the return policy. This is especially important when shopping online. If you're on a tight budget, the extra money spent on shipping returns can make a difference. Some stores don’t allow returns for certain types of clothes, so always double-check; if you order a clothing item that doesn’t fit, you want to be able to return it easily.
  2. Set a clothing budget. When you have a number to work with, it’s easier to plan your shopping trips and avoid overspending. One way to make a budget is to list all the clothing you think you’ll need to buy in one year, then estimate how much you’d like to spend on each item. Once you have a total, hold yourself to it, and don’t spend more.
  3. Beware of sales. Sales can be a boon to budget shoppers, but they can also be a trap. It’s easy to buy something you don't want just because it's on sale. Instead, buy clothing because you love it, it looks great on you, and it works well with your wardrobe.
  4. Trade clothing with friends. So you no longer like a piece of clothing. Now what? Don’t throw it in the trash. Resell it or participate in a clothing swap. Trading clothes with friends is a great way to refresh your closet for zero dollars.
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How to Dress Well on a Budget

Dressing well on a budget involves both smart shopping and smart styling. Here’s how to get the most out of your clothes.

  1. Develop a capsule wardrobe. If you spend most of your clothing budget on a few wardrobe essentials that will last for years, you can save money in the long run. These essentials should be quality items that you can style in simple ways. When you learn how to style your capsule pieces, you can wear the same clothes over and over while still looking fresh.
  2. Learn how to accessorize. There are two routes you can go when accessorizing on a budget. The first option is to splurge on a few beautiful accessories that you can wear with everything. A classic statement belt, for example, can elevate almost any look. The other option is to buy fun, cheap, on-trend accessories that you can swap out every few months. These less expensive pieces keep your capsule wardrobe looking fresh without breaking the bank. Learn which method works best for you—it’s likely a combination of both.
  3. Pay attention to fit. Ill-fitting clothing will bring down your look, and you might end up spending more on new clothes if the clothes you already own don’t quite fit. You can avoid this problem by shopping smart and getting your clothes tailored. Tailoring doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive—get a quote from your local dry cleaner. Don’t waste money buying pieces that don’t fit and then forgetting to have them tailored. Avoid this by bringing anything that needs to be altered to the tailor immediately after purchasing it.
  4. Take care of your clothes. One of the best ways to avoid overspending on new clothes is to take care of the pieces you already own. To make clothes last longer, wash them sparingly. When you do wash, select the gentle cycle and cold water when possible, then let clothes hang dry. Treat stains right away and learn how to perform simple mending jobs. When it comes to footwear, shine and condition your shoes at home. When your nice shoes wear out, go to a shoe repair shop. Getting your shoes resoled is almost always cheaper than buying a new pair.
  5. Go window shopping for inspiration. Visit boutiques and designer shops for outfit ideas. Make a list of pieces you like and how they're styled, then look for similar clothing items elsewhere. Inspiration is free, and window shopping is a way to develop your personal style without spending any money.

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Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass All-Access Pass and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

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