A budget is subjective. One person’s “save” is another person’s “splurge,” but everyone works within some financial parameters. Today, I’m sharing some of my best tips to have great style on any budget.
Creating a classic wardrobe that feels sophisticated yet comfortable is a lesson in nuances and simplicity. It’s also ever-changing. You will forever be editing and updating your wardrobe.
Keeping your wardrobe modern is my goal.
Most of our readers aren’t looking for crazy trends or head-to-toe designer looks.
Instead, they want to keep it simple and classic with the occasional trend thrown in, and most of all, easy to pull together.
Looking fabulous while being smart with your money is more about exercising a deft hand in how you dress and what you buy rather than bringing more into your closet.
If we were chatting over a glass of wine, this is what I would tell you to do to look stylish on a budget.
How to Have Great Style on a Budget
Stop Wearing Old Crap
Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you so you can build a modern, chic style on a budget is to get rid of your old stuff.
Inevitably, every time I say this, I am flooded with emails telling me about this one fantastic garment that someone is still wearing after 20 or 30 years. So let me say this, yes, fair enough, there can be a handful of things with real staying power.
These are exceptions, not the norm.
And, of course, you will wear your Burberry trench or your grandmother’s Chanel jacket for a lifetime because you’re supposed to. You’re paying for their quality, craftsmanship, and enduring style upfront.
I spent ten years as a personal stylist for very normal people with very normal budgets. I have stood in thousands of closets, and the one common thread (pun intended) is that too many women are holding onto and wearing their old crap.
– An astonishing number of clients would try to keep stained and damaged pieces because they could “put something over it.”
– Even more, they would be physically uncomfortable in clothes too small because they refused to buy the next size up.
– But the most common offense, the real reason I was there, was that they didn’t see when items were becoming dated.
For Great Style on a Budget Remove Your Dated Pieces
Styles and fashions evolve. It’s why it is so easy to throw an 80s costume party. The older a piece is, the further we get away from a decade, the look becomes more specific.
So hop in your closet and give it a good edit.
Define Your Personal Style
If you want to have an enviable style on a budget, knowing what you like and what you don’t will save you so much time and money and help you make better choices when shopping.
Our preferences and needs change drastically over the years, yet we tend to stay stuck in a particular time when it comes to our clothing.
The best way to maximize your budget is to create a framework for your style.
I used to have new clients create style inspiration boards with pictures from magazines and categories and, as time went by, on Pinterest. (You can see my Pinterest boards here.)
Having a visual of what you like is the most efficient way to make the most of your budget because it gives you a structure through which to filter your choices.
When you get clear on what you like, you start to see those things in other places.
For example, I’ve always loved the look of Theory. I love monochromatic outfits, mixing neutrals and textures, and I love fitted blazers with jeans. But I can’t wear head-to-toe Theory because I have to put three kids through college.
Once I broke down the style elements, I started to see it in other places, and now I can easily recreate those looks with pieces from stores like H&M and Zara.
Here’s an example of a texture-rich, monochromatic outfit I recently wore with an inexpensive sweater from H&M and a clearance skirt from J.Crew Factory.
High Style, Low Cost
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🎉How many unknown outfits are hanging in your closet?? . 🥂For date night I gave myself 2 challenges: . 1. Find an outfit I didn’t know I had, . 2. No jeans! . 🤚🏼So many of us go to jeans all the time. . I know I do because my life is super casual and jeans just fit me better. . I’m THRILLED with this outfit. . I had both pieces in my closet and never thought to put them together – and this is what I do for a living! . It shows how important it is to have an organized closet (you have to see your stuff!) and you have to give yourself a minute to look through what you have. . I love a monochromatic moment that combines various textures like the knobbiness of the sweater and the shine of the silk skirt💕 . And, this outfit was so affordable. The sweater was under $30 and the skirt was on clearance for $20. . So carve out some time and see if you can find the hidden looks in your wardrobe! . Swipe to see tagged retailers in picture. . 👼Photo-bomber just turned 14 months and is fresh out of the bath💕
Figure out what you like and those items will start to jump off the rack at you!
Keep Your Nails Polished with this Hack
There’s no doubt that polished nails elevate your look in a big way, but weekly manicures add up and are total time killers. While I try to get a manicure every couple of weeks, I can’t always sneak out for one (especially these days).
When I am out of time, I do it myself using this quick hack, and my nails look like I just walked out of the salon. You can see my step-by-step guide here.
Match Your Hardware
“Hardware” is anything extra on an item like a belt or shoe buckle, buttons, zippers, chains on a bag; you get the idea. By coordinating your metal color, you create a cohesive look. It’s subtle but has a significant impact.
This means that if you are wearing a navy blazer with gold buttons, don’t wear a shoe with a silver buckle. Instead, wear one with gold, or skip altogether.
Along with keeping your hardware the same, be careful not to wear too much. Hardware will weigh down your look, and it doesn’t look sophisticated when there is too much.
For example, if you are wearing a zipper-heavy moto jacket, avoid pairing it with pieces that have additional hardware. Also, be careful of pairing heavy hardware with busy patterns.
Work with Neutrals, Texture, and Basics
For a hight style look within a budget, focus your resources on basics, neutrals and pieces with texture, (like the tweed jacket above paired with black basics).
You’ll get more use out of your pieces, but you’ll also look more pulled together. When neutrals are paired together, they create a richness to your look, regardless of how much you spent.
Neutrals are more than just white, tan, brown, and black. Navy, gray, and burgundy are also give the same effect.
Patterns can be neutral too. Animal prints, pinstripes, and even textures like tweed (like above) and croco count. Incorporating these and pairing them together will elevate your look in a big way.
If you want to include patterns in your wardrobe, look for more sophisticated prints that feel like a neutral and wear them with modern basics.
Making a Pattern Neutral
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🐆 You can wear leopard print as a neutral, especially when it’s done in tonal colors. . Today’s look is casual but feels polished. . I love these distressed jeans. They are high waisted, with just enough stretch to be comfortable. . They always make me feel fitter than I am.😉 . Of course, I’m wearing our favorite ankle boots in ”whiskey leather.” . Super easy to look put together when you have to right pieces. 👆🏼for outfit details follow the link in my profile and click ”Shop My Outfits” 💕 📸and forgive the terrible quality photo I’m working on a better set up for daily looks.
Don’t Mix Patterns
Contrary to what most fashion blogs will tell you, mixing pattern takes a great deal of technique and an understanding of color theory, balance, and composition. If you do it haphazardly, you will look like a hot mess.
There are so many patterns out there that lack sophistication and will ruin your outfit instantly.
Wonder what you should have in your closet? Download our FREE Wardrobe Checklist Here.
Avoid Super High Heels
Walking around like a newborn fawn isn’t a great look. Heels and platforms that are disproportionately high cheapen your look and throw off your balance, both literally and figuratively.
There are ways to give yourself some extra height other than wearing an extreme heel. Making sure your pants are hitting at your best length and wearing elongating necklaces and necklines can add the appearance of height.
You’ll also dumb down your look if your shoes are ill-fitting. If you can slide your finger between your heel and the back of your shoe, they don’t fit. If you keep stepping out of your shoe, it’s time to donate.
Our guide to the most comfortable heels is a helpful place to start to organize your shoe collection.
Creating the wardrobe you love takes a little bit of time upfront. What I know for sure, after years of helping others get dressed and feel great in their clothes is that you don’t need to spend a fortune. You just need discipline and an awareness of changing styles and trends to stay modern, current and classic.
Style on A Budget Recap
This is a lot of information! Let’s break it down:
- Purge your closet of old, dated, and damage items to make room for updated classic.
- Clearly define your personal style so it’s easier to shop and to create outfits that best reflect you.
- Grooming is high impact and can be low cost. Have your nails manicured with our simple hack is an easy way to look polished on a budget.
- Create a cohesive look by matching your hardwares. Keep gold with gold, silver with silver. It makes a huge difference.
- Work with neutrals, textures, and better basics. Divide your resources so you are investing in workhorse pieces. These allow you to then layer in less expensive and/or trend focused pieces.
- Avoid patterns. Most patterns lack sophistication and look cheap – even if they aren’t. Also, skip mixing and matching patterns unless you are really good at it.
- Skip super high heels. No matter the cost, if you can’t walk in them, or if the proportion is too high you’ll look sloppy. Instead, spend what you can on quality shoes that help elevate your outfit.
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Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail.
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