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How to Define Your Fashion Style and Save Money


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Just turning the pages of a fashion magazine can inspire you to blow your entire budget on the latest must-haves, trends, and accessories. That’s because magazines, commercials, and even posters are intelligently designed to make you crave the next big thing, whether it’s a new style of shoe or the latest in handbag chic.

On the other hand, you don’t want to look like you haven’t been shopping since 1987. But striking a balance between chasing every trend and being hopelessly out of fashion can be like walking a fine line. Walking it successfully, however, has more to do with your personal tastes than what’s hot in the latest fashion mag or on the runway. Most trends are fleeting, while your own personal style is timeless.

Find Your Fashion Personality

Many people think they simply can’t budget for fashion. But the truth is that you can keep your look up-to-date without draining your bank account or driving yourself into credit card debt. By defining your personal style, you’ll no longer be tempted to splurge on items you’ll tire of in months, and will instead curate a wardrobe you can love for years.

1. Flip Through a Magazine

One of the best ways to define your personal style is to grab a couple of magazines; fashion tomes are best. If you don’t have subscriptions, see what your friends have, or head to the library, as most carry the latest issues of popular magazines.

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As you flip through the pages of pictures, make a note of what catches your eye and what you’re naturally drawn to. Do you love the sporty looks on the fitness pages, or are you totally enamored with the flirty cocktail dresses in the feature? Do you love prim, preppy looks, or are you more laid-back? Seeing different styles displayed in front of you will help narrow down your tastes, so you know what you like.

2. Check Your Closet

Not everyone’s closet is red carpet-ready, but going through yours can help determine your signature look. For instance, if your closet is lined with tweed skirts and silk blouses, you’re drawn to a more buttoned-up, classic look. If your closet is filled with skinny jeans and peasant tops, you may be into a boho aesthetic. Being able to categorize what you like enables you to make intelligent buying decisions on quality clothes you’ll wear year in and year out.

3. Build a Foundation

Once you’ve figured out the type of style you like best, invest in a solid foundation. Keeping up with trends and seasons is much easier if you already have well-made clothes that match your personal style and can transition with you regardless of what the industry magazines say.

Suppose you’ve decided that you have a classic style. Your fashion foundation should then be made up of at least 10 classic pieces that won’t go out of style, like bootcut jeans, a pencil skirt, or a really great trench. Or, if you’re into trendier garb, grab some pieces that look current, but have been around forever, such as a wide belt, a leather skirt, or a well-cut jacket.

Yes, well-made staples cost more than bargain basement duds, but they look, feel, and fit better and last much longer. This, in turn, saves you money since you won’t have the desire or need to replace wardrobe items as often.

Build Own Foundation

4. Add Accessories

With a foundation already in place, you only have to add accessories to look easily up-to-date, on-trend, and weather-appropriate. Let’s say you love a preppy style, and have filled your closet with quality A-line skirts and cardigans. When summer comes, swap heels for flip-flops, and sweaters for tees to hit the boardwalk. When winter hits, add opaque tights, a jacket, and scarf to look cold-weather chic. If neon is the hot thing for the season, grab a neon skinny belt to wear with your preppy skirts or pants and you’ll look on-trend while still looking like yourself.

5. Try Something New

While I keep my same defined style season after season (I’m a business casual kinda gal), adding something out of your comfort zone is a great way to spruce up pieces you already have and test-drive trends. I always tell my friends and family that if you want to try something new – say, colored skinny jeans – then purchase them on the cheap first. That way, you can see if you really like the new look before you invest in a pricier pair. The same goes for just about anything fashion-related: expensive shoes, new necklaces, cool jackets, you name it.

Once you decide what you like, make an effort to purchase one new item for your closet each season, and make it really count. That way, you’re not spending a ton on fashion, but you’re still getting the most mileage and current looks from the defined pieces that you already own.

Final Word

You don’t have to be a hardcore fashionista to know what you love. Choose quality items that make you feel comfortable and confident, and get the bones of a good wardrobe in place. To stay current, add accessories and change out your shoes with the seasons and trends. As long as you’ve chosen well, your core style will blend seamlessly with whatever is hot on store shelves or fashion runways – and you won’t have to spend a fortune to do it.

Do you have a specific style, or do you let the fashion industry dictate how you dress?


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Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.