How to "Master" Dressing Well on a Budget: Part 2

Even more tips and tricks to help you look great, while remaining on budget.

Nanda Dyssou

October 10, 2016

How to "Master" Dressing Well on a Budget: Part 2

The first part of this article series advised you to dress professionally and gave you some tips for doing it on a graduate student’s budget.

Below are some more tips for getting clothes on the cheap and to help you stretch your wardrobe further:

Ask for clothes as gifts
Remember when your grandma used to give you a twenty on your birthday to buy yourself something you’d like? Before the next holiday comes around, show her a picture of an item missing from your wardrobe and hint at what stores carry it. Your parents will probably also be happy to give you something practical.

Take on a part-time retail job
If you need to pick up some extra cash and there is a mall near you, stop by and fill out an application at a retail store. It is an easy job to make a little extra money with a perk: employee discount on their merchandise. (Note: never tell them a discount is the reason you’re looking to work there – most retailers will not hire you as a result.)

Dye your old clothes
This is not as difficult as you might think. Do you have a bunch of faded black items that you are thinking about retiring? For a few dollars you can pick up some black clothing dye and give them a whole new life. The pile of stained white clothes that bleach couldn’t fix doesn’t have to be thrown out either. How about dying them apple green, baby pink, or turquoise? Rit dye offers a rainbow of choices for your old cast-offs. Give it a try; the worse that can happen is that the clothes you were going to throw out will need to be… Thrown out.

Preserve your clothes
You might be tempted to just toss your clothes in the laundry basket at the end of the day, but not everything needs to be washed after each wear.

For instance, jeans can go four or five wears if they did not get visibly dirty. Storing them in the freezer, if you have the space, will extend their life span.

Suits, blazers and slacks also do not need to be cleaned after each use, just hung up and aired out to make sure that they stay fresh.

Coats can be dry-cleaned at the beginning of each season and then spot cleaned as needed. If an outerwear item looks and smells clean, save yourself the time and money and wear it again before cleaning it.

Show your personality through color
Conventional advice tells you to get your wardrobe basics in neutral colors: black, navy blue, gray and brown. Some consider olive green, beige, tan, white, silver, and gold to be a neutral, too.

However, if you are building a small wardrobe where matching dozens of tops with dozens of bottoms isn’t a concern, you have more flexibility. Also, if you enjoy standing out from the crowd, the sky is the limit when it comes to your colors.

Why not buy your basics in burgundy, purple, magenta – any color that is usually thought of as an accent color more fit for accessories and fast fashion pieces? Often, these items tend to be cheaper than their so-called neutrual versions – or go on sale more often – because most people are afraid to buy them. Another win!

Don’t throw away – just demote
If you have clothes from your undergrad days that are still in good condition but do not fit the criteria of professional and modest, perhaps you can find them another purpose. Logo t-shirts and shorts can become your workout wear. Your jeans collection may need to be demoted to loungewear for home use. Deep V-neck camisoles can serve as your party tops. Or you can always sell, swap, and donate them, as discussed in the first part of this article series.

Wear your special occasion clothes, too
If you have clothes that you only wear once a year because you think they are too nice for everyday, consider using them more often. They will add variety to your wardrobe and each wear brings the overall cost per use of that item down. Why couldn’t your best suit’s coat be worn with a more casual outfit too? Who says a cocktail dress is too dressy if worn with a cardigan and flats?

You might think that outfits made up of your best items will make you look overdressed, but why is that a problem? You should never feel bad about being the best-dressed person in the room. You don’t have to wear a suit every day but getting putting on a nice dress and cardigan or a neat pair of slacks and shirt will lift your look above the average and leave everyone with a better impression of you.

Who knows? You might even inspire others to dress up in their best.

Don’t feel like you need dozens of outfits
You might feel self-conscious about having a smaller wardrobe or think that people will notice you wearing the same thing over and over. Those working in a corporate environment or in fashion need to be weary of repeating the same outfits too often, but as a grad student you don’t need to worry about that.

Aim to have about twice the number of outfits as the number of days a week you have university-related obligations and you will be fine. For instance, if you have two classes a week, having four school outfits will ensure that you look great for the semester – especially if you utilize items that can be mixed and matched to create new looks. If you have classes four days a week and a study session or social event once a week, you might need ten outfits: eight for class attendance and two more casual sets.

Pairing accessories with an outfit can also change the look without the full cost of an entire outfit. Think: scarves, statement necklaces, ties, etc.

If you are willing to do laundry more often or repeat the same outfit more, you could reduce this number even further. You could also start with a smaller wardrobe and fill the gaps as the semester progresses.

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