October 17, 2017

Building a Core Wardrobe – Frugal Fashionista Style


If you haven’t read the first Frugal Fashionista post, click here to get the background!

One of the most difficult stumbling blocks in purchasing clothes at thrift stores is the huge amount of “junk” one has to go through in order to find the “jewel.”

Identifying essential pieces in a core wardrobe makes that process much easier because there is a starting place to the “search and score” process. The majority of larger thrift stores have clothing “organized” in some chaotic pattern – dresses, long sleeve tops, jeans, slacks etc. Often I don’t have time to meticulously look at every piece.
When I enter any thrift store, the first thing I look for (and actually feel for, yes, I run my hands down the rows feeling for great fabrics) are little black dresses, pants, and tops. Black wears unbelievably well on 90% of skin tones and looks classy on everyone, plus it can be accessorized in so many ways.
Our goal is to establish a quality core wardrobe that oozes class in its cut, color, fabric, and style.ย  I’m searching for essentials that will last for years to come. Building a core wardrobe is key whether women buy retail or second hand.
Magazines cover this topic, but their plans recommend investing thousands of dollars for these pieces. They assure you, it’s worth it in the long run!
With the Frugal Fashionista approach, we’ll save thousands. ๐Ÿ™‚
Identifying ten key pieces (and mine will probably vary as I do this series) will allow us to mix and match to make numerous complete outfits, and then we’ll add in the flashy fun. I have had a few questions about what to do for plus sizes.

The great thing about these core pieces is that it does not matter what size you are.

I have been 40lbs heavier in the past (no…not when I was pregnant…lol), and I do understand the challenges that come with larger sizes. I have shopped thrift stores spanning ten different sizes, so I will be sensitive to that.
Core wardrobe pieces are important, especially for larger sized women.

Don’t fall into the trap that says “clothes only look good on a size 2.” You can look classy and chic whether you’re size 2 or 22.

There are various opinions on what should compose those essential pieces.

I will briefly share what stylist Tim Gunn says, considering I have all those pieces in my wardrobe right now, but will be adding a few more of my own.
Each week, I will focus on one of those core pieces.
(Well, I’ll be honest. You’ll probably get what ever outfit I was wearing the day before I post, since that’s how this blogger works.
I have committed to shorter posts, so you don’t have to brew a pot of coffee each time you read me. ;))
Tim Gunn’s 10 Essential Items Every Woman “Needs” – (wants, in my opinion)
  • Basic black dress (ohhh-I won’t even share how many I own. I never said I was a minimalist. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Trench coat (Yes, I found three this year – all second hand)
  • Classic dress pants (start with black, you’ll find many at thrift stores)
  • Classic white (if you’re cool toned) or off-white (if you’re warm toned) shirt (There are lots of stylish ones…it doesn’t have to look like a man’s shirt.)โ€ข Skirt (A-line style looks great on everyone)
  • Blazer/Jacket
  • Day dress (come on – be fun and feminine or cute and sassy)
  • Cashmere sweater/any occasion Top
  • Jeans (some fabulous wearing ones)
  • A comfortable alternative to a sweatsuit

My additions are:ย  a great quality T-shirt – v-neck or crew, chic tank or camisole, fun accessory pieces such as a great shamina (pasmina), wraps or shawls, chunky necklace, one outrageously trendy piece, boots…

I’m getting ahead of myself. Can you tell I am excited to peak your curiosity level on whether you will take the Frugal Fashionista challenge? Stay tuned.
Here is the Frugal Fashionista outfit that I wore on Sunday.
We had the hardest time getting these pictures, and this is the only serious one my son took.
He realized that it was too sunny outside, so we decided to go in the shade a bit.

It was a really windy day here in NC, and my hair kept flying in my face.
I didn’t know that my son kept taking pics, but they are pretty funny, so I’ll share both the Beauty and the Bedlam.
Besides the windy hair, I have a Yellow Lab who just wants to retrieve.
So I would quick try and throw the ball…..giving us enough time to take a picture.
Then she brought me the kick ball and I thought that would give me a more time…
But that didn’t work either…
I was getting hot. I was thinking these black boots weren’t meant for kick ball.

So the bottom line is that this frugal fashionista will have to try some new modeling techniques.
But it’s all part of balancing beauty and bedlam, right? So what is the price point on these items?
Glad you asked. Really, they look a bit classier without the kick ball setting.

*Basic black skirt – A-Line style…looks good on everyone.
$2 yard sale
*Banana Republic basic black T-shirt.
$1 yard sale
*Green wrap
$2 Carolina Thrift Store – brand new with tags
*Aerosole Leather Boots
$5 thrift store
*Matching necklace and earrings
$2 brand new in package, yard sale
And if anything, it was less because I may have gotten the $2 yard sale items for $1, but I didn’t want to underexaggerate. ๐Ÿ™‚
And if you want to dress it down, you just switch out the shoes, but wait for the legs to get a bit tanner, and then enjoy the cozy T-shirt. Now that I brought attention to my calves, I almost didn’t post this for fear of acknowledging their far from perfect status….but I did – anyhow.

Just keeping it real.
Next Frugal Fashionista edition: Designer outfits on thrift store budget


  1. HouseMama says:

    Too cute! I hope you have a post sometime on where you find your cute jewelry. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. FishMama says:

    Great suggestions! I’m really looking forward to this series as I am in desperate need of a wardrobe overhaul.


  3. This was a great post! I am definitely in need of a wardrobe redo.


  4. Bama Girl in AZ says:

    I am loving these posts as I am an avid thrifter!!! Thanks for adding these segments!


  5. Very nice! I hit up a couple of thrift stores today, I was inspired by your last post. One was very expensive, pieces were only 25-50% cheaper than retail. I think I’ll have to venture out of my city to find the great prices that you list.


  6. I love that outfit!


  7. Very cute outfit! I am a avid yard sale and thrift store shopper. I hardly ever pay retail for anything. I really enjoy your blog ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. You’re right on with your list of basics. Even at my plus size I have most everything on the list. Not as easy to find at the yard sales in my size, though…but you can sometimes find things on ebay. You look great in your chic little $12 outfit! I love all the action shots! Now you’re a model, too! Are there no end to your talents! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. Serendipit-Us says:

    Bravo, Jen! The outfit is "tres chic" & fun…thrifty is the icing on the cake! LOVE the necklace ๐Ÿ™‚



  10. sunshine says:

    You look great! I’m looking forward to this series of tips from you. ๐Ÿ™‚


  11. So cute!


  12. I’m looking forward to this series. I have tried a couple of our goodwill stores around here but can’t seem to find anything worth purchasing. I’ll have to expand my search!


  13. Those pictures are funny. I love your outfit. I love your dog ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the encouragement you give us frugal wannabees ๐Ÿ˜‰


  14. Rona's Home Page says:

    I’m looking for a comfortable and stylish pair of boots.
    Congratulations on your great finds.


  15. FromThe Creek says:

    That is great and I am getting ready to purge my closet…so it will come in handy! Thanks!


  16. V and Co. says:

    oh my! we speak the same language! i Love that you found me and left me a comment AND follow me! because now i got to meet you and your wonderful blog! i’m bookmarking you so i can read you after the kids go to school! ;)-v


  17. Melanie says:

    Great jewelry! A fun post and I’m looking forward to more FF posts.



  18. ohio mom of 3 says:

    I am so enjoying your blog! I started visiting a few weeks ago (found you through a friend) and now becoming a regular:). I am determined to get into shopping the thrift/GW/yard sales…any helpful tips for those who are “tall”? I frequent a resale store and never see talls there! This would only affect me for pants, so I suppose if I could get everything else there, that would still make a huge difference!


  19. Shannon says:

    Love this post. That outfit is so cute!!


  20. this is great – can’t wait to keep reading!


  21. Mrs. Trixi says:

    First off, you did a great job on your Fox segment. You are the frugal diva!! Thanks for sharing your wardrobe tips. Oh, and the new look around here is great!!


  22. Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality says:

    Jen, I love your new blog look! Very nice & of course, I'm with you on the thrifty wardrobe. I just hit my consignment store neighbor's yardsale last night & bought about 8 nice things for $15, not a bad haul at all. Love adding to my wardrobe like that.

    I haven't looked at the Fox news thing, but will do that now. Congrats girlfriend!


  23. Eleanor Joyce says:

    Love this…and the rest of your blog too…I’ll be watching your series closely! I do try to do the basic, name brand wardrobe from thrift stores and clearance sales –then find cheap funky accessories from thrifts and yard sales to make it a bit more fun – sequinned colorful purses, bright sandals,etc – it works for me!


  24. Darlene says:

    I LOVE this. Cute, CUTE!!


  25. Tutta la Storia says:

    Really great post. I loved the humor, the real life interjections (of dog, and ball). And I am sure you MUST have noticed how beautifully the green in your blog accented the green in your jewelry, sweater and ribbon belt. LOVELY coinkydink!


  26. AnNicole @ OurSuburbanCottage says:

    Love.This! I actually loved that first photo where you’re trying to hold your hair back too. I think you’re a better model than you give yourself credit for :).

    I’m usually afraid of looking at clothes at thrift stores because of…well, the coodie factor (I’m wierd that way), but maybe I should give it a shot. I REALLY need to new pieces.

    thanks for the great post!


  27. Stacey @ The Blessed Nest says:

    Great post! I actually love that 1st pic!! I like the idea of having a “core wardrobe”. and I’m all about t-shirts and skirts for spring/summer!! It’s like my warm weather uniform! I’ll have to check out some consignment stores here. ๐Ÿ™‚


  28. Sarah Mae says:

    Lookin’ good! Amazing frugality!


  29. PrairieCottageRose says:

    You’re an inspiration and you lab is adorable!


  30. Pretty Organizer says:

    I’m sitting here in my mumu, moomoo??, night gown just pondering what I’m going to wear today. I’ve lived in paint clothes for the last 2 weeks and am not sure I remember what normal people wear. I don’t think they wear mumu’s or moomoo’s all day though so I ought to get hoppin! Nice to see NC warming up for you! Ahh Spring.


  31. An Accomplished Woman says:

    What a cute outfit. Love your ideas.



  32. Carolina Mama says:

    Awesome! Awesome! You look so great in those outfits. I have to tell you the thrift stores here have higher prices. However, it’s all relative to retail right!


  33. Very cute outfit- the thrift stores here aren’t priced that cheap. Also good luck finding plus sizes they rarely have. You look great!


  34. Do you try things on at the thrift store? If the store doesn’t allow that, do you just skip some types of clothes or purchase them anyway? (if so what do you do with the things that end up not working?)
    What about alterations? Any wisdom there?


  35. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl says:

    LOL I did a post on a Goodwill dress I found and I had my son take my pictures too. It wasn’t as windy when he did mine, though!


  36. New Every Morning says:

    You are a doll!
    How adorable you look in your little black and green ensemble!

    This is a great series! I am looking forward to all of them!


  37. Julia @ Hooked on Houses says:

    Hi, Jen! I love the new look of your blog! It looks so fresh and pretty. I added your new blog button to my blogroll!

    I just realized that there was a typo in the link you left on my site for the party today so people weren’t able to get here. Sorry! I fixed it now, but I wish I had caught it sooner.

    Hope you have a great weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚


  38. Michelle@Fromhousetohome says:

    You look great! Love the windy pics.


  39. Awesome outfit! I love the action shots!! The hair adjustment pose reminds me of the models in my knitting magazines. Keep the great ideas coming — thank you!!!


  40. One of my favorite black classic dresses I got at a yard sale for $1.

    I find yard-sale clothes shopping is far thriftier than thrift shops!

    Great post, and knowing you now in person made it even more fun! ๐Ÿ™‚


  41. I can’t say thank you enough for doing this series! I absolutely LOVE it!

    Many Blessings,


  42. Sandy Toes says:

    Very cute~
    sandy toe


  43. ImagineCozy says:

    You are so… fun! Love the info, and seeing your real life personality.


  44. Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates says:

    You are fabulous!! What a great deal! I need you to come out here and go shopping with me – LOL! Guess I will settle for reading these posts and trying to make it happen myself! You look great too – love your modeling technique! ๐Ÿ™‚


  45. Susie Q says:

    Any suggestion for those of us who look bad in black. And I’m talking BAD in black….can’t wear it to funerals as they are not quite sure who to bury bad…I did wear a deep green, but those don’t fit any longer and honestly, I’m not sure where they are and unfortunately would be out of style…but I loved them. Maybe chocolate brown?


  46. Tasha Via says:

    These are GREAT posts! We make a living up on stage in front of lots of people and are on a strict budget so I’m ALWAYS looking for GREAT ways to save on clothing=) We live in NC too and YES it was def. windy that day!=)


  47. Jennifer says:

    I need this series! I have spent the past few years ordering clothing online when I find a good clearance sale. i get it and it doesn’t fit right, but I never send it back. Can’t afford to pay full price, wear a petite size, garage sales are non-existent here and have no sense of style. BUT! There is a women’s consignment store here in town that I plan to check out this weekend, so maybe there is hope.


  48. donnalee@econome.info says:

    Hi! I just also wanted to add somethinf a lot of folks don’t realize, but I’m sure you do. I worked for the Rescue Workers and I know first hand, a lot of “junky clothes”, stained, ripped, outdated get “recycled” not put out on floors. The better made, better QUALITY, better NAME clothes are the ones that survive the cut! Again, I posted a link to THIS installment from my blog, http://www.econome.info! Thanks for this MINISTRY!


  49. Kimberlee says:

    Awesome outfits. The GW/thrift stores where I live much charge WAY more. I’ve never been able to find anything for under $5 for shirts/pants, etc. Unless, of course, it’s in not so great condition. I keep looking but sometimes the racks are intimidating. Our local Salvation Army TS is so kind – the arrange their shirts/pants by color. That helps a lot!


  50. HeathahLee says:

    I am loving these posts, Jen!


  51. Mrs. Querido says:

    WOW! You take frugality in clothes shopping to a whole new level! Very inspiring ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, and I love the candid, unposed shots your son took of you.

    And I love your outfit too ๐Ÿ™‚



  52. Julie Bagamary says:

    Thrift store shopping is a fun game for me with treasures for my limited wardrobe.


  53. mholgate says:

    So cute! I was hoping you were a northwest blogger, but that’s ok. I haven’t found anyone in my neighborhood (or city for that matter) that has as many kids as close together as mine. ๐Ÿ™‚



  54. momof3girls says:

    wow! What a great deal! that is inspiring Thanks!


  55. flowerpot says:

    Girl, I am right there with you. Goodwill is my favorite haunt. I bought a cashmere sweater for $5 on Saturday. The cool thing is that once it’s yours, does it really matter if you wore the item after 20 other people tried it on in the store, or after someone else owned it for 8 months? Love your necklace! Cute outfit.


  56. LOVIN IT!!!

    Great of you to share. I’m a thrifty mama too!
    One can always look good for less!

    I’d rather spend my money somewhere else. Like eating out or fun with my kids!


  57. Hi~~I just found your blog today through Life as Mom blog and am so happy I do so!

    Love this series and will be waiting with baited breath for more…more…we want more!! teehee!

    I grabbed your button, because I love putting them on my blog.

    Hope you have a happy weekend!โ˜ผ


  58. Kathy c says:

    I’m blessed our thrift store stuff is 50 cents a piece.I go once a week,I think that is the key,you can’t just try it once you have to go regularly.In a few weeks the churches will start having their yards sales here.I’m very careful to wash things right away.I’m like A 2x now ,its harder to find things.Also on Facebook in my area we have yard sale sites,plus size clothes sites where people sell their stuff.I’ve bought purses,boots from those sites.


    Jen Reply:

    I’ve heard the facebook groups are great. My friends are involved with one, but I haven’t done that yet. So fun! ๐Ÿ™‚


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