We’ve all been there: pawing through a perfectly adequate wardrobe and still feeling like there’s nothing to wear. One day, you love your current collection of duds, and the next, you’re completely bored by every single option. Sure, a new wardrobe in this season’s “it” colors, fabrics, and styles would help inject some life into anyone’s closet, but it would also cost a small fortune. So, you have a choice – wear something old, or splurge on something new.
Refreshing your current wardrobe and adding accents doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, you can breathe new life into the stuff you own by spending a scant $50 on a few key pieces that make the old look new again. For the price of a dinner out with friends, you can easily add some color, texture, and pattern to a lackluster closet.
How to Refresh Your Wardrobe on a Budget
Instead of splurging on expensive garments that come and go with the seasons, put $50 toward updating your clothes and help them look “au courant” on the cheap.
1. Carry a Colorful Bag
A neutral wardrobe makes sense, especially if you’re stretching a tight clothing budget. With classic, neutral colors, all of your pieces play well and coordinate with each other – and neutrals always look more expensive than trendy colors. However, you might find yourself completely bored with a wardrobe of khaki, black, and gray. The solution? A colorful handbag that punches up all of your traditional looks.
Snag a colorful bag in a classic shape to bridge the gap between neutral and trendy. A top-handle satchel in red-orange, like this one at Target, or a simple cross-body bag in a bright teal (check out Macy’s for some trendy options) looks great with your neutral weekend-wear. It’s an easy way to brighten up those more classic pieces with a pop of color and a little extra personality.
2. Stock up on Statement Jewelry
Statement jewelry is exactly what it sounds like: Jewelry that makes a statement. We’re not talking about delicate, dainty chains or demure watches. Statement jewelry is big, bold, and often colorful. And, when you’re bored with your current closet, adding a few major jewelry pieces can make even the most basic outfits look more exciting. The best part is that statement jewelry is often made with alternative materials, like plastic, wood, and metal, so it’s less expensive than the genuine stuff.
It won’t last as long, but if you keep an eye on quality, your statement pieces should get you through a couple of seasons. When looking for some good stuff to spruce up your wardrobe, keep these general guidelines in mind:
- Get Well-Made Items. Make sure stones and other embellishments are securely in place. Cheaper jewelry is often constructed with glue, so there’s a chance of the jewels falling out.
- Make Sure Fasteners Don’t Wear or Break. I love necklaces that tie with ribbons and rings, especially when they incorporate elastic. These items require better metals, which are not common in low-cost statement pieces.
- Go for Color. Bright beads or a set of colorful bangles can make a huge impact on your overall look and they’re an inexpensive way to change things up with the seasons.
- Cover All Your Bases. Get yourself some earrings (Forever 21 has a great, low-cost selection), bib-style necklaces (check out Charming Charlie for picks under $30), cuffs and bangles (Charlotte Russe has tons under $10), and large cocktail rings (such as these from JCPenney). Shop around and you can easily get one of each for your $50 budget.
Statement jewelry is a fun, simple way to update your usual favorites. Try layering a bib-style necklace over a typical button-up, or wear an armful of colorful bangles with your basic t-shirt, and suddenly your old favorites look new again.
3. Splurge on Shoes
While $50 might seem like a pretty penny to spend on shoes, a great pair can stretch the outfits you already have. A fun pair of heels can completely transform your skirts, dresses, and pants.
Look for a bold color, like lipstick red or a rich plum. Then, wear your heels with a pair of skinny jeans, or mix it up and add them to your usual skirt-and-blouse combination.
Not a heels-wearer? Opt for a pair of knee-high boots with cool details, such as straps or buckles. You can still wear them with casual skirts and skinnies, all while elevating your look for relatively little money. To browse a selection of shoes under $50, check sites like 6pm.com or Nordstrom Rack, and discount stores such as Marshall’s and T.J.Maxx.
4. Add to Your Scarf Collection
When in doubt, spend your $50 on a few scarves to easily add color and texture to your current wardrobe. Scarves are extremely versatile. You can loop them around your neck, tie one on your purse for a pop of color, or wear them as shawls when you get cold. And, since it’s virtually impossible to discern between a clearance scarf and a designer scarf, you can really stretch your dollar.
I don’t like to pay more than $10 for a scarf, which makes it easy to stock up. In the winter, look for heavier weights and darker colors, then opt for lighter fabrics and bright patterns in the spring and summer months. My favorite place to buy cheap scarves is at a local boutique. You can also nab great deals at stores that specialize in affordable fashion accessories, such as Francesca’s.
5. Invest in a Jacket
Just one great jacket can act as a staple piece for your wardrobe, allowing you to layer and top your looks for added depth. The good news? You don’t have to spend a ton on one. From trenches to faux leather, a jacket helps tie your wardrobe together in new ways and it can become a veritable boredom buster.
When choosing a jacket to act as a layering piece, always go with a mid-weight fabric. Winter jackets need to be functional and spring jackets might be too light, but mid-weight helps you bridge the gap between seasons, giving you the most bang for your buck.
Here are some options for jackets under $50:
- Faux Leather. Perfect for evenings, wear your faux leather jacket with jeans and heels for date night or over a cocktail dress.
- Cargo/Military Style. Cargo jackets are pretty trendy, so don’t spend a ton on one. Still, the military look is easy to nail with jeans and flat riding boots. Or, wear your cargo jacket over the weekend – just pair it with some skinnies and patterned sneakers.
- Trench. A must-have for businesswear, trench coats are perfect as toppers for dresses, skirts, and tailored pants. Add a scarf under the collar for a pop of color and style.
- Pea Coat. If you need functional warmth, a wool pea coat is the way to go. Its classic feminine styling looks great on everyone – I like wearing mine with booties and jeans. Just be mindful of the length, since the most flattering pea coats stop just at the top of your thighs.
- Bomber. A fun, urban coat, this is great for going out. Wear a bomber or members only-style jacket for Friday night at the sports bar with jeans and a team t-shirt. Or, add it to something unexpected – it’s great for toughening up a button-up shirt.
- Denim. Every woman should have a fitted denim jacket in her closet. Throw it over everything from a casual skirt and top combo to your favorite colored skinnies. Add boots and a scarf and you’re ready to go.
Look for a jacket that fits well in the arms and shoulders, since a tight fit can be a dead giveaway of a less-than-quality piece. Throw your jacket over a dress for a date-night look, or layer it over a sweater and add a scarf for chillier weather. Just one jacket can create so many more options for your current closet.
6. Swap Out Buttons and Brooches
If you’re handy with a sewing needle, you could have a leg up on a new wardrobe for very little cash. By swapping out the current buttons and fasteners on your cardigans, sweaters, and jackets, you can update your look just for the cost of the sewing supplies.
Head to your local sewing notions store and pick out a few cards of buttons: I like rhinestone-adorned options that really add impact. Then, head home and drag out your staple cardigans and tops that have fasteners. Ensure your new buttons can slide through the existing buttonholes, and then go to work removing the boring, standard-issue buttons in favor of something brighter.
If you’re not big on sewing, use pins and brooches to update an old sweater. Sometimes I ignore the buttons altogether and fasten my favorite cardigan with a vintage brooch, or simply add a cluster of pins on the chest of my favorite blazer to update the look with added texture and shine.
7. Add a Print
If you find that you gravitate toward solids, you have the makings of a great foundation for your wardrobe. To be totally honest, though, an all-solid inventory can make for a pretty ho-hum closet. If you’ve got a spare $50 to spend and you have relatively plain tastes, try adding a print to the mix to shake things up.
An animal-print shoe, a brightly patterned cardigan, a swirly skirt – these are all great options. By spending your clothing budget on just a few print pieces, your staple solids get new dimension on a minimal budget. Any collection of solids looks more current when worn with just one standout patterned piece, so don’t feel like you need to delve into print-mixing – think of your prints as pops of interest to an otherwise neutral wardrobe. A little leopard peeking out from under a dark-wash pair of bootcut jeans or a black-and-white dotted skirt punches up that usual red blouse significantly.
8. Get a Haircut
If you’re not interested in buying more clothes, consider spending your $50 on a haircut. A new hairstyle has a way of making all of your current clothing and jewelry look completely different. Going for an A-line bob, for instance, reveals more of your decolletage and can show off interesting necklines and statement necklaces. Opting for a shaggy pixie suddenly transforms how you look in earrings. And, adding layers to a long cut offers a more polished appearance to your usual clothes.
You don’t need to do anything drastic, but a new hairstyle might be just the thing for you – and your closet – to feel refreshed for a new season, even if you’re on a tight budget.
If you’re feeling stressed because you have nothing to wear and you’re on a strict clothing budget, don’t worry. You can do a lot with just $50 to update your wardrobe by adding color, patterns, a few key layering pieces, or some trendy jewelry. A little retail therapy can go a long way toward making you feel current while also helping you think up new ways to wear some of your old favorites.
How would you spend $50 to get the most bang for your buck?