While it may not always be apparent, one of my perennial goals is to be as frugal as possible, whilst still enjoying some of the finer things in life (within reason, of course). The older I get, the more susceptible I am to the appeal of minimalism – perhaps because life just keeps getting more and more complicated. Frugality and minimalism are not one and the same, of course, but they are related concepts insofar as one can inspire the other, and the latter help with the former. Were you able to follow that?
Anyway, I have learned by experience – and have tried passing on the lesson – that being frugal and stylish are not incompatible goals. It really bothers me when I see people equating being interested in fashion and style as being not only frivolous – which is an opinion to which they are entitled, I suppose – but also fiscally irresponsible. Not every person who loves clothes is a Confessions of a Shopaholic disaster come to life; nor is every money savvy gal a dowdy, no-fun nellie.
Without turning this blog into a personal finance lecture series, I have decided to tackle the financial side of looking stylish over the course of the next few months, in the hopes that I will be able to not only convince you that being a frugal fashionista is not an oxymoron, but also share a few tips and ideas to bring more style into your life without blowing your budget.
I thought I would start things off with an exercise I like to call “deconstructing the outfit”. That means not only giving a breakdown of the cost, but also some of the rationale for pieces worth a bigger investment, and those that are not. For the present exercise, and future ones, I will try to keep these outfits at under $150 or so (not including accessories) … mostly to show that it is possible to look put together at a reasonable price point.
Outfit #1: Total $132
The bulk of the cost here is represented by the shoes (Style & Co., $80). I bought them on sale – not the greatest sale, obviously – and while it’s not the worst-spent money ever, they are not a particularly frugal choice. The reason? While I recommend everyone have a pair of red shoes in their wardrobe, this one is not the most practical one I could have bought. They are made out of a suede-like material (nubuck?), which is always harder to maintain; additionally, though it is a fairly classic style, the horizontal strap is not necessarily the most flattering. [Visually, it cuts the line of the leg, shortening it.]
Moving on, the next most expensive item was my skirt (BCBG, $40). You might think that $40 is still a bit high to pay for a skirt, but the cost per wear on this piece is already negligible. I bought it about 3 years ago at Winners, and if you follow this blog, you have seen it on countless occasions. I have worn it before I was pregnant, during the first 6 months of my pregnancy, and many times since giving birth. It is endless accommodating, comfortable, and versatile. If you find a piece that is all 3 of these things, it’s worth a little investment.
Next, we have the flower print blouse (Marc Jacobs, $12). If you are wondering where I scored that kind of deal on a high end designer item, the answer is – consignment. I have no idea how much this blouse would have cost at retail, but I would hazard to guess that it would have been at least $80-100, if not more. To be honest, I would not have spent that kind of money on it; it’s a fairly basic item, the likes of which you can easily find for $20 or less in plenty of stores. The difference in quality would be marginal, and certainly not enough to justify the price discrepancy.
Finally, the Costa Blanca jacket was the best deal of all – it was free! If you haven’t joined a clothing swap before, you should reconsider. It’s not only budget-friendly, but eco-friendly too. It is a great way to recover, in an indirect way, some of the sunken costs of your wardrobe. [Consignment is another option, which I will address at another time.]
My best guesstimate (because I am too lazy to spend my afternoon googling) is that the original retail price of this outfit would have been somewhere north of $350. Getting it for a third of that cost is, in my books, a good return on my time investment in hunting around for bargains.
Outfit #2: Total $36
You read that correctly. Actually, the cost here includes the necklace (J Crew outlet, $15); without it, the total would be $21. I’m not sure it gets better (or more frugal) than that. The Banana Republic cardigan you might remember from my most recent clothing swap haul; yep, it was free. The rest of the cost is split almost evenly between the shoes and the dress.
You may also recall this Tocca dress from a previous post; it was one of my Value Village finds ($11). I wore it while I was pregnant, and it still fits now. It is made of silk, it’s lined, and it is a classic style. Add in the brand name factor, and it’s an amazing deal. Tocca dresses sell from $200 and up. I know the “thrift store” label can put off some people, for a variety of reasons, but my advice has always been to reconsider. I am debating doing a post on tips for surviving (and successfully bargain-hunting in) the free-for-all retail environment of thrift stores, since it’s one of the (more rational) reasons for which people avoid them.
The flats are not particularly fancy (Old Navy, $10), but again the style is a classic. Similar looking flats can cost upwards of $300, depending on the designer, but wouldn’t necessarily offer a significant additional boost of style. Unlike heels, where a higher cost might buy you some additional comfort – though, it’s debatable whether hundreds of dollars’ worth of comfort – flats are an item not worth the splurge, in my opinion.
Look for more deconstructed outfits, shopping tips, and frugal ideas coming soon!