November 17, 2017

5 Simple Ways to Dress Fabulously for Less



As we enter the new year, a list of creative ways to save money is probably one of your desires. You may have high hopes for reducing debt, creating new streams of income, cutting coupons, or even cooking more from scratch.

While I address all of those topics here on my blog, one of my favorite topics encourages women to embrace the Frugal Fashionistas mindset and “dress like a million bucks”, even if you only have a few dollars to spend. It’s much simpler than you might think.

The bottom line for each of us is that we all have to get dressed…every day…and then it starts all over again twenty four hours later. 😉 We tend to get stuck in a fashion rut, yet the prospect of digging ourselves out seems like it will be costly. Anyone can dress like a magazine ad for a hefty price, in fact, we’ve all seen the Frugal Fashion magazine articles that give “amazing deals” for $200 or less. That is NOT frugal to me. For $20, I can spend an hour at a thrift store, find you a fabulous outfit, and accent it with items you already have just by following five simple ways to dress fabulously for less.

Anyone who’s been at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam before knows that the majority of my designer Frugal Fashionista wardrobe has been found second hand, but for those of you who aren’t sold on that radical concept yet, these are tips that can help anyone save money on their wardrobe, no matter where you shop.

trench coat core wardrobe(Goodwill trench coat – $5)

1. Create a Core Wardrobe

My goal is to establish a quality core wardrobe that oozes class in its cut, color, fabric, and style.  I’m searching for ten essential pieces that will last for years to come. Building a core wardrobe is key whether women buy retail or second hand, and it’s really about simplifying your wardrobe. So often, we purchase something just because it’s a good deal, and we may not particularly love it. Nothing is a “good deal” if it’s not worn, so by establishing your ten essential core wardrobe pieces, you can then begin to mix and match with other items from your closet. For me, 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. So whether it’s finding a $360 Anne Klein suit for $7 to enjoying the versatility of a trench coat or a little black dress, managing my wardrobe by starting with these pieces has been key.

2. Buy Clothing Out of Season

One of the ways that I have managed to save thousands of dollars on clothing is by shopping out of season. Applying this basic shopping principle works so well that you can often find clothes at the end of the season for 50-75% off the original price. My Frugal Fashionista hint for thrifting today? Now is the perfect time to look for summer clothing. People’s New Year’s Resolutions are in full swing and closets are being attacked. Do you think they are donating their awesome winter Land’s End coats in January? No! The are purging adorable Ann Taylor summer sun dresses. You can be assured that when it’s 90 degrees here in NC, I will be looking at Goodwill for my “new to me” J Crew peacoats for $5.

IMG 1060 Buy Clothing Out of Season

3. Be Bold with Color and Style

Only over the last few years, have I allowed myself to have fun with fashion and dare to be a bit different. Last week my seven year old daughter said, “Mommy, you look like a cute, little teenager.” Yes, I succumbed and tucked my jeans into some look alike Uggs boots that I picked up this summer, but I considered that high praise from her. I had fun wearing it because it was so different for me. I was still dressing my age, but wasn’t afraid to wear something that was trendy for the year because I knew I hadn’t spent a fortune to create the look. One of my “must do’s” when browsing for clothes in a thrift store is to  look for creative details and interesting hemlines. This dress below is something I would have NEVER bought full price because it took me a long time to get up the nerve to wear it. I often hear, “well, it looks great on you, but I could never wear something like that.” Why not? Have fun with fashion. Once I started dressing outside my typical fashion personality, I realized, I don’t have a set style anymore. In fact, I don’t know if I ever did. I wear a variety of styles, and have never enjoyed it more.

(Yes, I left all mess just to make you feel better about your housekeeping. This is Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.)

Don’t forget that in the matter of frugal fashion, color is power! A shirt can go from blah to beautiful, just by changing your choice of color or accessorizing with pizazz. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to try new things. Determine your skin tone and the best colors for you. This is crucial. A shirt can be fabulous, but if it’s not your color, don’t wear it. So don’t be afraid to Take the Color Challenge and wear some new colors.

4. Know what NOT to wear…

Start purging your closet and eliminating outdated clothes. Remember, this is about simplifying. Donate items if you haven’t worn it in a year, but if it’s a classic or core wardrobe piece, rethink it first. I’ve been having fun with items that were lost in an overstuffed closet. Get rid of outdated patterns, please. Nothing screams frump more than florals from the 90’s. Also, clothes that are way too baggy or too tight need a new home. Somewhere in this generation, it’s become OK to wear clothes that are incredibly tight, skirts that are way too high and shirts that expose huge amounts of cleavage. It’s labeled “sexy”…I beg to differ. Let’s start a new trend and model for our children that fashion can be fabulous, while still leaving something to the imagination, but I think I may be on a tangent. 😉

dog kiss

5. Accessorize, Accessorize, accessorize!!!

I’ve left this one for last because it’s the single most important fashion skill to attempt when one wants to turn frump into fabulous fashion. Whether it’s accessorizing with necklaces, bracelets, handbags, hats, boots or scarves, start somewhere.

Buy a scarf! Learn how to tie it, and USE them. Shop your closet for a simple shirt, add a scarf and don a great pair of boots, and you’ve instantly turned into a Frugal Fashionista for pennies on the dollar. In my “One Dress with three looks” posts I show how a scarf and boots can make the simplest of outfits into instant glam.  As an experiment, I took five minutes and made ten looks just by accessorizing. Try it and have fun, but learn how to accessorize. You’ll never go back.

I hope these Five Simple Ways to Dress Fabulously for Less have sparked a few ideas.

Continue to follow my Frugal Fashionista series as I scour for the latest finds, and share my love of all things frugal and fabulous.

Enjoy our new series as the rest of my friends each share their “5 Simple Ways”…

5 Simple Ways to Organize Your Home by Laura from I’m an Organizing Junkie
5 Simple Ways to Make Money From Your Blog by Carrie from Springs Bargains:
5 Simple Ways to Live a Natural Lifestyle by Laura from Heavenly Homemakers
5 Simple Ways to Decorate on a Dime by Myra from The Casabella Project
5 Simple Ways to Take Better Photos by Melissa from A Familiar Path
5 Simple Ways to Start Using Coupons by Jenny from Southern Savers
5 Simple Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen by Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
5 Simple Ways to Have a Successful Homeschool Day by Connie from Smockity Frocks
5 Simple Ways to Save Money in 2011 by Toni from The Happy Housewife


  1. I like the idea of developing a list of core pieces the best. What is your list? I started with Tim Gunn’s but it didn’t really work for me (maybe I’m not that fabulous!)


  2. I just love these points. I shop thrift all the time both for myself and the kids. #3 is a point that really resonates with me. I have often found that I am willing to “take a chance” at the thrift store on a bold item-and it becomes a favorite. When I’m shopping full price (which rarely happens) I tend to go for a safe, basic, boring piece.

    Also, I love scarfs! I even did a video on 11 ways to wear a scarf. Nothing adds flare and Parisian flair like a cute scarf.


  3. Such a great post! One of my new years resolutions is to use more accessories to change up my wardrobe. Thanks for the tips on tying a scarf, definitely going to be using that!


  4. Thanks, you know I love your Frugal Fashionista posts!


  5. I need to accessorize! Every time I see you, I think… WOW!!!! And it is mostly the accessories… well and your great personality. 🙂
    Anyway, where are the best places to find cheap accessories? Goodwill? Yard Sales, Clearance Racks?



  6. I love this series! Because of your post I stared shopping at thrift stores for clothing. All of the time I have people tell me cute outfits and ask me where I got it! haha. I just have to laugh. I too find that I’m more willing to try out an outfit that I wouldn’t normall try when all I have to lose is less than $10! Keep up the great Frugal Fashion post!


  7. Thanks for this post – love the 5 simple ways breakdown. This post baby body is in need of some new (budget friendly) stylish clothes.

    Very helpful tips.


  8. thank you for this post. Like the first post, I would love a list of your wardrobe essentials. I am a stay at home mom but that doesn’t mean I need to look like one. Having said that, I am not a corporate woman either. I just want to look put together.

    Your ideas about looking out of season were great as well. I think I would be more willing to step out of my comfort zone if I was not paying retail (even sale retail).

    GREAT post!


  9. I always love these posts. You’re so good at fashion! 🙂


  10. “but I think I may be on a tangent.” LOL! You crack me up. But I say AMEN to that tangent. 🙂

    These are great tips, thanks!!


  11. LOVE this! And in response to HappyHousewife, I adore thrift&vintage shops for accessories! Love the chunky 50’s “MadMen” stuff, and I use the big clip earrings on plain necklaces, sweater necklines,as scarf clips, etc. My latest faves are $1clearance Goody headbands of goldlink laced w elastic velvet ribbon(worn as chokers,not tight at all,OldTime Pottery) and 2for$10 “fake” machine wash pashminas in great funky colors-at Walgreen’s! They’re huge! Overskirt wraps, shouder wraps, twistybelts,ohmy…and I’ve found all my Claiborne,Lauren,LondonFog,EddieBauer,etc at thrifts. I did find Harve Benard $270 coats for both mom&me a few yrs back-at the VA store while Daddy was inpatnt- for $39 each,brand new! I also love vintage to mix in (all that is old is new again) and am blessed to have some excellent vintage stores nearby. I just LOVE these posts and find new inspiration to jazz up closet”sleepers” and new ways to mix my “old closet/early thrift/clearance & buyout” wardrobe. My suits from a prior “life” were investment pcs,and I have some new ideas already for the jackets! Yay! THANK U!-s-


  12. Help! I know this is the wrong day, I will add to Tuesday, but momma’s from KY, her 89th bday is Sat, 1/8 (like Elvis she will remind me) and I have yet to fina jam cake recipe that makes her happy. Nothing is like Gramma’s,and 8mve done em all from scratch. So if anybody has an EZ CAKE MIX BASED recipe,please? Thanks :-[ -s-


  13. Sorry,tried&cudnt ask the Tuesday crowd. -s-


  14. I’ve never commented before, but I just have to tell you how inspired I am by your Frugal Fashionista posts. I can’t find anything else like it on the internet! I’m a SAHM, about the same age as you, and I find all of your fashion tips so relevent and helpful. Since reading your blog I’ve learned to incorporate some great Goodwill finds with some new retail items (bought on great sale of course!) and existing items in my closet. I agree that accessories make all the difference…and in the winter around the northeast a great coat and shoes are huge! often it’s the only thing that people see! i just want to say thanks, and please keep the great fashion posts coming…you look great!


  15. i just wanted to add that they other day i found a charcoal gray Brooks Brothers long wrap belted sweater at GW for $4.99…score!


    Jens Reply:

    Ok, now that is a TOTAL FIND! (And yes, I am coveting it, in a completely nice, “doing the happy thrifting dance” for you, of course. 😉 I have been looking, looking since summer for a long belted one, but to no avail. Glad it was you.


  16. So many good tips — thanks for sharing!

    I tend towards wearing plain jane type clothes and assesories (really everything). But I yearn to try something a little different now and then. For years I’ve wanted a red purse and have never bought one because plain black or brown looks more classic and goes with everything. Plus who *needs* two purses. But THIS year is the year of the red purse for me. I bought a really cute one on sale (also got a black one) and I just LOVE it. It felt so great to buy that one thing that has been out of my comfort zone for so long!



  1. […] Laura from Heavenly Homemakers: 5 Simple Ways to Live a Natural Lifestyle Carrie from Springs Bargains: Simple Ways to Make Money From Your Blog Myra from The Casabella Project: 5 Simple Ways to Decorate on a Dime Melissa from A Familiar Path: 5 Simple Ways to Take Better Photos Jenny from Southern Savers: 5 Simple Ways to Start Using Coupons Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures: 5 Simple Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen Connie from Smockity Frocks: 5 Simple Ways to Have a Successful Homeschool Day Toni from The Happy Housewife: 5 Simple Ways to Save Money in 2011 Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam: 5 Simple Ways to Dress Fabulously for Less […]

Share Your Thoughts