Fall–it’s my (and a lot of other people’s) favorite time of the year. There’s a feeling of possibility during this season that’s so electric: the crisp, clean air, vibrant colors on trees, and nostalgia about school days past–learning new things, making friends, and (of course) back-to-school shopping. The thrill of that consumerist tradition still lingers when I think about flipping through teen mags before school started and drooling over the latest have-to-have-it trends. Those pieces of clothing held the promise of transformation into someone shiny, new, and adored by all (big dreams to attach to sewn-together fabric, I know).
Even though I’m older and out of school, I still get excited when I see autumn fashion–I’m just more mindful about what I like and ultimately decide to buy. Each time something catches my eye online or on the rare occasion, when I go to the mall, I try to keep in mind my mental checklist:
Does this fit my personal style? [trends rarely make the cut anymore]
How well will the garment fit? [being petite and cruelty-free has its challenges!]
How will my purchase impact different stakeholders? [animals, people who sew the garments, and the environment]
If you’re looking for a starting point on how to build a thoughtful wardrobe, I highly recommend checking out Project 333. The site and pinterest board are full of tips and tricks for creating a capsule wardrobe that makes getting dressed stress-free and fun as opposed to yet another decision you have to make in the morning. Another helpful resource on cultivating a capsule style is this post by PD Beauty Editor Mary who shares her process of paring down to keep only the clothing and accessories she loves in her life.
Once you’ve figured out what you want/need, it’s time to check out your options.
5 Cheap Ways to Refresh Your Wardrobe
1. Borrow from a friend
If you have a friend who’s close to your size, into similar styles, and takes care of their clothes, why not ask if you can borrow? Just make sure to be respectful by agreeing on a “rental” time frame, taking care of what you borrow, and returning it clean.
2. Clothing Swap
A clothing swap is a fun way to get together with friends/acquantainces/etc. and swap one person’s “trash” for another person’s treasure. Some helpful resources for throwing a successful swap can be found here (incorporates how to be inclusive for all sizes), here (includes swap tips for non-clothing items), and here (touches on why swaps can be better than thrift stores). If you can’t find enough people to do a swap with, you can also check out the following two posts here (“4 Great Sites to Swap Your Clothing Online”) and here (swapping kids clothes is covered here, too) on additional ways to trade or give away your clothes online.
3. Vintage/thrift stores
This is pretty much a no-brainer. Thrift and vintage stores can be your best friend whether you’re looking for gently used on-trend clothing or some vintage pieces for decent prices. Some shops not only save you money but also leave a positive impact: some create jobs for the developmentally disabled (The Arc) while some even give customers the option to vote which cause the store should donate to (Buffalo Exchange).
4. Garage/Yard/Estate Sales
The summer before 10th grade, I went to an insane amount of garage sales and didn’t wear the same shirt to school for two months (and spent less than $100 doing it!). While the thrill of the full-day(s) hunt is over for me, this is a solid choice if you do your homework when you’re checking out Craigslist, the newspaper classifieds, or a website that lists estate sales (EstateSales.net is one option)
5. Dumpster Diving
Full disclosure: I’ve never tried this option before but it sounds like it could be fruitful for the more adventurous soul 😉 Just make sure to check out the following links here (info for the stylish looking to find designer goods), here (for the DIYer and info on college scavenging), and here (includes info on what the term is usually associated with–food) for ideas on where to look and safety tips.
-Walking (bring along a bag for your finds), biking (with a cute basket, panniers, or a trailer), or car-pooling with a friend is a bonus way to reduce your environmental impact.
-Unless you know the person that you’re borrowing/buying from and are sure they don’t have bedbugs, ALWAYS wash the clothing that you get before you wear it (or before someone brings it over for a swap) and put it in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes. (For more info on what to do if you have bed bugs, see this article.)
Something to consider: if you find yourself buying clothes to feel better, maybe you’re really craving something else.
A helpful question to ask yourself might be…
What part of my life am I not addressing and trying to fill with material goods?
Sometimes when we impulse buy the non-essential, we might be pushing away dealing with issues (like relationship difficulties) or emotions (like anger, sadness, anxiety, or fear) that need attention. If you take time to find out what in your life needs care–whether through self-talk, journaling, sharing with a friend or counselor–you’ll feel more confident knowing that you’re taking action to find the root cause of the issue(s). Once you’ve figured that out, you can brainstorm healthy ways to address the situation(s). A gentle, empowering book that I come back to again and again is Feel the Fear…And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. The majority of the book outlines concrete steps to be more in control of your life and how fear is usually at the root of our problems. If you’re short on funds, or just love being surrounded by books without having to pay for them like me, you can check it out from your local library to see if it’s a good fit.
Need a quick dose of the positive? Check out the feel-good tips and tricks site Happier or the Happify app, which uses mini-games, short writing prompts, and meditations to train your brain to become more positive, all with science-based research to back it up.
After you’ve done some emotional sifting, give yourself the gift of self-care, a great way to relax that can be done with little or no money.
Remember: Clothes are a fun form of expression, but it’s how you take care of yourself and treat others that really transforms you and leaves an impression.
Also by Kim: Interview – Melanie Linehan of Animal Behavior
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