Elegance and style on a budget – a stylist’s top tips

We love making and mending but not everyone can, or necessarily wants, to make their own clothes. But this doesn’t mean the only way to stay fashionable means spending a fortune and hitting the high street with a vengeance. If you plan your shopping sensibly and think about what you buy, you can create a fantastic, stylish wardrobe that will last you for years on a budget.
Rachelle Bliss, a stylist from Surrey, shares  her top shopping tips with us for style on a budget.

1. Invest

Yes – if you can – invest in the best quality garments that you can afford. It’s seldom possible to recognise a bargain at the time you buy it, because the true cost of the garment isn’t necessarily the sum marked on the price tag. Take the price the garment cost you and divide it by the number of times you wear it. If you buy a dress in a sale for half price and only wear it once, it’s expensive. Whereas something you pay full price for and wear day in, day out for a few years is a true bargain.

2. Go Neutral

Neutral fashion

Go for basic neutral tones, black, white, taupe and greys. These colours are the basis for your wardrobe. Colour of the season can then be added by cheaper items such as T-shirts, bold necklaces and scarves – even a bright coloured lipstick.

3. Go for quality

Go for high quality natural fabrics that hang well, don’t crease and, most of all, make sure the garment is well cut. In the UK we have so much cheap passing fashion that’s only good for one season. Whereas true style and fashion will last five or even more years.
Think of someone like Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn as your style Icon. I went to V&A exhibition last year which had many of Grace Kelly’s outfits on display. Most could still be worn today and wouldn’t look out of place. To me that’s a test of true style. If you do tire of your outfits, pack them away in tissue, and get them out a year or so later – you may be surprised. My daughters call it my fashion archives and are constantly going them for inspiration.

4. Mix and Match

coloured tshirtsFor your quick fix fashion moment, buy from Primark, New Look, Gap, Zara and Top Shop. All these stores have very up to date trends which you can then mix with your investment wardrobe. These stores are also extremely good for your basic T-shirts, white shirts, camisoles etc. Don’t spend much money on these items as you won’t  be wearing them next year –  I can almost guarantee that.
Make your investment in a garment that you’ll wear a lot. Jeans are an obvious piece. You’ll be happier in a good fitting pair of jeans that you can dress up or down. Go for one good pair, rather than loads of cheap badly cut ones. You’ll then know you always look (and feel) good. A great self confidence boost.
On jeans I’d spend at least half a day to try on all the brands. You’ll then find a brand that will fit and flatter your figure. Also, whilst on jeans I never throw any of mine away. If I lose weight I put the bigger sizes away, then if I put weight on I still have a pair to fit me.

5. Make and Mend

zipMake it and Mend it have lots of interesting articles about updating your clothes, so don’t forget this advice. If hems have got to long, take them up. Or change buttons on coats and jackets to completely change an outfit. Think outside the box for updating your wardrobe. For example put a T-shirt under a summer dress or even evening dress.

5. Savvy Storing

storage box
Never get rid of belts, scarves, sunglasses or necklaces. Store them in wicker boxes from DIY shops etc that have lids, and stack on top of each other. This makes them easy to get to when I am in a rush to put an outfit together. Most ironmongers often have extremely good storage ideas such as baskets and trunks to store your woollens in.

6. Look After Your Clothes

Remember to look after your clothes. I know this is an obvious statement, but if you follow the manufactures’ washing/dry cleaning instructions your clothes will always look good and last much longer. After aall – isn’t that what we’re all now trying to do: stop the clothes mountain?
If you’ve got some lovely cashmere sweaters, store them in fine plastic bags so those naughty moths can’t eat them. Keep dry cleaning plastic bags for storing your dresses in.

7.  Care for you Hair

Always have a good hair cut, and make sure you find the right hairdresser for this. Some very local ones aren’t always the best. I’d recommend having your hair cut less frequently and spending more on the right stylist. Most hairdressers will trim fringes free of charge in between cuts. This means you could go three months between cuts rather than 6 weeks. Really watch when your hair is being blow dried after your cut, so you can re create the look at home.
If you have your hair dyed at the salon, many places let you dry your own hair after saving money on the blow dry. Also, when you’re at the salon read all the magazines, like Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and The Tatler for all the latest style tips. Think about your wardrobe and what you could adapt to the current trend. And that saves buying magazines for home – and less recycling!

8. Don’t Spend More Than You Can Afford

xcredit card

Only buy your investment pieces with cash or debit card, NO CREDIT CARDS.

9. Charity Begins At Home

Don’t forget the charity shops. If you’re London-based there are great Oxfam Shops in Westbourne Grove and Knightsbridge. You’ll be amazed at what you can pick up in these stores. But don’t worry if you’re not in London – most UK towns have great charity shops – you never know what you’ll find. A top tip is to go the charity shops in affluent areas: you’ll be amazed at what people throw away.

There are 2 Comments

  • Hermina

    I am an inveterate ‘op’ shopper (op=opportunity =charity) and love the thrill of the chase! Too many triumphs to mention but some highlights…a cacharel little black dress with a teeny tear in the chiffon which I’ve repaired, and taken up from below the knee to just above knee length, bruno magli black suede court shoes, marni peasant style skirt (all about picnicking in summer meadows – which never goes out of style!), a black silk vintage opera cloak…

    • Clare Flynn

      Wow – that’s a fantastic haul Hermina! You can certainly sniff out the designer labels!