10 Steps to Update Your Look on a Budget

by Lela Davidson on 17 August 2011 (6 comments)

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Are you a mom with nothing to wear? Have you wasted precious early morning minutes trying on and then discarding clothes that aren’t working? Maybe you need a wardrobe update. Moms spend a lot of time and money on others, relegating their own appearance to the bottom of the list, but looking good is feeling good, and a happy momma is a good momma. Here is a systematic plan to give your wardrobe a makeover without breaking your budget.

Step 1: Clean and Organize

Taking inventory ensures you won’t unnecessarily spend on items you don’t need. Organize your existing wardrobe into pants, skirts, jackets, blouses, and dresses. Except for workout clothes and what I refer to as “extreme casual” wear, resist the urge to make distinctions between work and casual clothes. You’ll get more value from your wardrobe by opening up your options to dress up and dress down.

Step 2: Edit Ruthlessly

Anything that does not make you feel good about yourself has to go. Every time you try on something that doesn’t flatter, that is not only time wasted, it also chips away at your self-image. Not sure if something looks great? Enlist help. Some moms have friends who tell them whether or not something is better off retired. I have an 11-year-old daughter. Much as I hate to admit, her fashion choices are usually correct.

Step 3: Play Favorites

The standard rule is to toss, donate or sell anything you haven’t worn in a year, but there are exceptions to every rule! I keep certain favorites around, just in case. (Keep reading!) Send things you can’t part with to the back of the closet, or better yet, to another room entirely so they don’t take space in your now clean and organized closet.

Step 4: Identify Must-Haves

Make a list of key items depending on your work and lifestyle. I need a lot of jeans, colorful form-fitting tops for TV appearances, and just a few business/formal basics like black slacks, a white shirt, and a nice jacket. If any of your essentials need replacing, put these on your list first, and plan to spend the most on these (but only if you have to, more on that later.)

Step 5: Flip and Click

This is the fun part. Get your favorite beverage and head to a well-stocked magazine rack or public library. As you flip the pages pay attention to styles you already know will flatter you and fashions that show up over and over. Think about how things you already own can be incorporated into new outfits. Catalogs are another great source of what’s hot in a particular season. If you don’t get catalogs shipped to your home, go to the online stores to see what everyone is wearing. I also like to tape morning television shows, which have a fashion segment almost every day.

Step 6: Choose Your Trends

With the latest trends in mind, add to your list those fun seasonal pieces you’re going to incorporate into your wardrobe. Don’t forget to check the back of your closet for one of those favorites you’ve put away in seasons past. I recently pulled out a great vintage lace dress and a metallic knit cardigan. I haven’t worn either in years, but they both look like they’re ripped from a page of any recent fashion layout. 

Step 7: Swap and Shop Resale

Some moms save a lot of money by swapping clothes with friends. I like this idea for certain essentials—suits and little black dresses—but I prefer to get my gently used clothing from a consignment store. Armed with your list of essentials and trendy items, hit your best local resale shops. Remember to factor in the cost of any alterations.

Step 8: Hit the Web

Online shopping is great, especially if you know certain brands that fit your body well. Sites like eBay and Craigslist can be an inexpensive source for fun fashion items. You can also often snag great deals by signing up for new accounts or subscribing to alert or newsletter lists. Always search for promo codes before you checkout.

Step 9: Never Pay Retail!

Your next stop for wardrobe updates is traditional retail outlets. Start first at discount outlets like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, and then head to the department and specialty stores. Take advantage of coupons and rewards points if you have them, and use your smart phone to search for coupon codes before you get to the register. Always ask the cashier if there are any coupons he or she can scan for you. 

Step 10: Document Your Best Looks

Whether in a journal, on your phone, or file in your computer—make note about or take pictures of outfits you love. In a busy mom’s morning, it’s easy to forget a fabulous combination you put together on a particularly good day. Having a record of great looks ensures you’ll always feel great about yourself when you step outside your door!

What are your wardrobe updating secrets? 

Lela is the senior editor of our sister blog Parenting Squad and the author of Blacklisted from the PTA.

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Meg Favreau's picture

The suggestions about how to organize and get rid of clothing are especially timely for me -- I'm moving in a week and a half, and I'm definitely going to try to cull my wardrobe at the same time.

Guest's picture
Lela

The September issues hit shelves soon! I like In Style the best.

Guest's picture

yep, #8! i always shop online and use promo codes.

Guest's picture
Oopon

Thanks for posting these great tips. You have inspired me to edit my closet this weekend.
If you are going to be shopping online and using coupon codes, you can save some extra money if you buy during a holiday or sale event weekend. During these times stores will send out a coupon codes that last for a few days with a larger then normal discounts. So if you can be patient you can save a little extra.

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Guest

Why do you have to be a mom to have nothing to wear? Having children has nothing to do with the advice in this article. I stopped reading after the first paragraph. Yet another example of our ridiculously child-centric culture.

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Guest

PSSSSHH to that bottom comment. I am a Mom and me being a Mom is why I have a hard time dressing up. I used to have that free time to get up, do my hair, wait for my favorite figure hugging top be washed and dried before I went out with my day. Now its jeans EVERYDAY and whatever tshirt is in my closet. Sadly, my whole closet is pretty much black and gray. The colors I have in there are horrible on me. Its not easy keeping up with fashion. I don't try too hard, better time and money spent elsewhere but I do believe in keeping my looks up to par and romancing my husband! Of course! I liked this article... I am working my way into buying more dresses instead of tops. I think I spend more on just wearing tops and jeans than I would if I got more dresses... might just be me! I'm too young to look frumpy already ;)