Five Ways to Dress Well for Less

In these financially challenged times, it can be hard to justify spending money on seemingly non-essential items such as clothing. However, how we look can have a real and significant impact on how we feel and therefore how perform, how we relate to other people and so on. For those of us who work from home or are looking after young children (or both), what we wear can be a really important way of maintaining our identity and not simply staying in our pyjamas all day long! Yet if we still can’t afford to dress the way in which we’d like, we can end up feeling as though we’re caught in a trap.

As someone who works from home, looks after two small children AND has to keep to a tight budget, I thought it might be useful to share some ideas on how we can dress well for less, so here goes!

Charity shops, vintage shops and eBay

Vintage shop

They can be wonderful (and obviously supporting a good cause is great), but shopping in charity shops definitely requires some time and some patience as the stock they will receive is so unpredictable. If you’re prepared to invest this time, however, you can unearth some gorgeous and stylish items that will cost you a fraction of the price that they would sell for as new. It helps if you are able to visit charity shops in areas where people dress in a style that you like, as clearly you are then more likely to come across some hidden treasure. I’ve heard quite a number of stories of celebrities dropping off many binbags worth of stuff at their local charity shops, to the surprise and delight of the unsuspecting customers.

Vintage shops (and vintage is basically just a much more delicate way of saying ‘second hand’) basically offer a curated selection of what’s on offer in charity shops - in other words, you’ll probably pay a bit more for the benefit of having someone trawl through a huge amount of clothing to select a smaller number of items that they think you’ll be likely to appreciate, but it is still likely to save you money overall. You’ll always need to try things on, as ‘average’ sizes do change over time, so today’s size ten might be somewhat different from what it was a generation ago.

eBay is yet another way to get hold of pre-loved clothing for a reduced price. I’ve found many a bargain on this site and I always search on here when I’m on the hunt for new clothes. Search for whatever it is you’d like using many different phrases and spellings, as the listings rely solely on the person selling the item. Therefore, if they’ve made a spelling mistake or missed out some key information when listing their item, not many people will have come across it and you may well be able to get a low bid accepted without much competition. Always contact the seller prior to bidding if you have any questions about their items, as most are happy to give you a very detailed description to help you decide if it’s for you.

Accessorise with confidence


Personally, I love scarves. I have a lot of white and cream tops and I will often wear these with jeans, leggings, skirts, smart trousers or whatever the occasion calls for, and then finish off my outfit with a scarf. I also love chunky bangles and cocktail rings.

Your accessories of choice may be completely different, but it’s worth spending some time building up a bank of accessories as they can completely transform an outfit and are usually much cheaper to buy than clothes.

Focus on key items

My granny (who was never particularly well off) always used to tell us that we should buy the best of what we could afford. This doesn’t mean that you should stretch your budget to its maximum every time you go out shopping. In this case, it means that it’s worth investing in a few key pieces each season and prioritising more of your available budget for these items. A winter coat, a suit and actually pairs of jeans would fall into this category as these are things that will be worn so many times that when you calculate their cost-per-wear it ends up being mere pence. Buy the best of what you can afford when choosing these things and spend less when it comes to vest tops, t-shirts, leggings, etc., which you will replace quickly anyway.

Know what suits your body shape

I know that Gok Wan, Trinny and Susannah and many a television stylist mention this fact time and time again, but it really does pay to know your body and what makes you look your best. I have spent many years trying to convince myself that certain types of apparel really did suit me (they didn’t) and have consequently wasted money buying things that I haven’t worn very much.

This tip takes on even greater importance when shopping in the less expensive high street stores where the cut of clothes is likely to be more generic (and therefore potentially less flattering) anyway. Once you know that you suit skinny jeans and long-line tips (I speak from my own experience here!), you can shop more easily in any store, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be selecting items that you’ll wear regularly and that will therefore represent the best value for money.

Stay in touch with your favourite stores

Sign up for newsletters from your favourite stores, as these are an excellent way to find out about upcoming sales and promotions. Keep your eyes peeled for special events that are only available online, or in-store events where particular discounts are offered to those in the know.

Engage with these places via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook as well, as some offers might be specific to followers on these sites. Make sure that you sign up for loyalty schemes, which will also save you money as you accumulate points. It’s also possible to use the internet to find out about sample sales and pop-up discount shops in the area where you live - you might be amazed at what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ just around the corner from you!