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How to Score High Fashion on a Low Budget


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As a fashion blogger, readers expect me to showcase new threads when I do outfit posts, and they’ve told me they love reading about my shopping adventures. However, due to some recent cutbacks at work due to the slumping economy, my fashion budget was trimmed significantly. What’s a girl to do when she suddenly can’t shop as much anymore?

Instead of whipping out my credit card and overspending, I decided to learn how to look the absolute best I could while spending the least amount possible. The shoes in the window at Nordstrom still totally tempt me, but now I save up if I want something special instead of splurging on a whim. The rest of my purchases help me keep my shopping budget low, my closet fresh, and my outfits on-trend.

Fashion on a Budget

I simply don’t accept that a tiny budget is an excuse for not feeling good about yourself. Whether you have a million dollars to shop with or $30, you can snag amazing deals that give you a high-fashion look.

1. Check Out Bridge Lines
If you’ve ever wished that you could wear a Missoni maxi dress or carry a Versace bag, you know how depressing surfing their sites can be. Spending $1,200 on a clutch is pretty much out of the question for me. That’s why I’ve been happy to see high-fashion brands team up with lower-priced retailers to create new fashion lines.

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The Versace line at H&M was snapped up in a hurry, and the release of the Missoni line at Target actually crashed their website! Discount brands – called “bridge lines” in the industry – mean you get the label from your favorite designer and the same high-brow design elements for a tinier price. Other designers who have jumped on the discount bandwagon include Jason Wu, Charlotte Ronson, Vera Wang, and Michael Kors.

2. Update Accessories Only
I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t have the money to do a complete wardrobe overhaul each season. Instead of spending a fortune on new pants, shirts, and jackets, I invest in good staples that can last several seasons. Then, when a new trend hits, I can buy cheaper accessories to keep my wardrobe updated without completely decimating my bank account.

For instance, I love the neon color-blocking trend right now. Luckily, I already had all of the neutral pieces in my closet – I just grabbed a bright scarf and a couple of chunky bracelets for cheap at the mall.

Shop Discount Stores

3. Shop Discount Stores
If you’re all about brands and flashy labels, it can be very tempting to overspend in a pricey department store. If you’re dying for the real deal, try a discount store like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Ross, or Burlington Coat Factory. These stores purchase end-of-season extras from other stores, which means you get deep discounts if you’re not picky about the season.

I always buy my sunglasses from Ross or TJ Maxx. I have the worst luck with breaking shades, so why would I pay $150 at the department store when I can get the same style and designer for $20 elsewhere?

4. Invest in a Tailor
Honestly, it’s never the brand of pants that matters – it’s the fit. That’s how your favorite stars always look perfect in their clothes. They’re tailored to fit their bodies perfectly. Then, when you dash out to buy the same trend, it falls flat on your body.

Instead of buying pricey denim and dresses, you can buy cheaper threads and then head to the tailor. Getting a pair of pants tailored costs about $15, but it can really make you look like a million bucks. Find a tailor in your area and make nice. You’ll have a way to make sure that even the cheapest clothes look amazing on your body. No one will even notice that you’ve spent less.

5. Go Thrift Store Shopping
I used to completely dismiss the idea of buying used clothes. But when shopping at thrift stores became en vogue in the last couple of years, I had to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised!

Thrift stores have come a long way in recent years, and with the availability of consignment stores, you can find a huge range of designer clothes on the cheap. Give it a try and find your comfort zone. I’ve since learned that I’m much more comfortable buying items like shoes, jackets, and bags secondhand, which is perfect because they’re some of the most expensive items. In fact, I snagged an authentic pair of Steve Madden heels for under $10.

Final Word

Your bank account balance shouldn’t ever make you feel bad about yourself. The truth is that some people have the money to spend on pricey designer goods, but the vast majority of us need to work with what we have. By scoring amazing retail deals and using a good foundation from your own closet, you don’t have to sacrifice high fashion because of a low budget. Get creative and you’ll be surprised at what you can pull off.

What’s your favorite way to save on fashionable clothes?


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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.