Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stretching your wardrobe dollars in a recession

Just a few notes on style and the recession - with my focus on book deadlines, my blog is getting the leftovers. Sorry about that. I felt this topic was too important to ignore right now...

Since the downturn in the economy, we’ve learned a new term: “recessionista.”

While being a recessionista is all about learning how to be fashionable on a budget, to me, it’s not so much about scaling back what you buy and how you shop, but being smarter and more conscious about where your wardrobe dollars are going. It’s a great skill to have to protect your own wallet - regardless of what’s happening with the economy.

Investment Dressing

The first question to ask yourself – before you spend a cent is “Do I have the basics?” What constitutes the basics is pretty much based on your industry. Do you need suits or jackets, pants and skirts – or maybe even a few pairs of good jeans? These are your investment pieces. Everything else (including shirts and blouses) are your accessories.

Make sure that your basics are timeless – nothing that is too hip or trendy – and in basic colors like black, navy, brown, tan or gray.

One of my favorite tips is to only purchase something new if it goes with 3 other pieces in my wardrobe.

Buy fabrics that are year-round. Cotton pants and shirts and tropical-weight wool will stretch your wardrobe further.


We’ve been told for years that when it comes to our wardrobe, less is more. Now it’s time to put that concept to work.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but cut out frivolous purchases. I see so many closets – both men’s and women’s – that have multiple items with the tags still on them. It’s sad because those were clothing dollars that could have been spent more wisely.

Never pay full price. Before you buy, do your research. Scope out where the sales are on what you need. Some men’s stores have two-for-one deals, and every weekend department stores have big sales. There really isn’t a need to pay retail for anything these days.

Change your stores

Do you tend to shop in stores within a certain price range? You do not generally lose quality in taking a step down to the next level of store. But you may save a decent amount of money.

In the Cleveland area, we are lucky enough to have Filene’s Basement and Nordstrom Rack, which are the discount versions of department stores. (Filene’s Basement is related to Macy’s.) You can find many of the same goods, but at a much lower price point by shopping at these locations.

Recession style isn’t about designer labels. A lot of people are still caught up in the idea that because there is a designer logo on an item, that means it’s better. In some instances, designer clothing is higher quality, but these days, many designer pieces are manufactured right along with non-designer brands.

If you still love and need your designer brands, try outlet shopping or buying them on ebay.

Spend more on items that last longer

Suits and shoes are two of the top items that I recommend investing in. Suits last much longer if you dry clean them every 3-4 wearings.

And be sure to care for those shoes! A $10-15 investment in cedar shoe trees prevent the leather from wrinkling and can help you get twice the wear out of your shoes. When your shoes wear out, take them to a shoe repair expert, and they will be almost as good as new.

Seek Professional Help

Are there items in your closet that don’t quite fit properly, but you think they can still be saved? Take them to a tailor! A good tailor can tell you if the piece can be salvaged, or if it’s something that should be replaced.

A professional wardrobe expert can also help you see your closet through a different set of eyes. Many men and women are surprised that they have exponentially more clothes than they think they do. We tend to get into a rut of putting the same items together over and over again to create outfits. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking apart suits and using them as separate pieces, combining different items, and accessorizing. You can have a whole new wardrobe just by shopping in your own closet!


What the current economy is teaching everyone is what many of us have been doing all along – making our wardrobes go further with the inclusion of a variety of interesting accessories.

Women can quickly update an older outfit with accessories. I like shopping at discount stores for fun and trendy accessories – earrings, necklaces, scarves, even bags. You can pretty much change your accessories at whim and it doesn’t cost much.

Maintain what you have

If you’re used to spending every month to have your dress shirts laundered, an excellent investment is a professional steamer. In a short amount of time, you will have saved enough to pay for it, and will never have to pay for shirt laundering again.

You can even freshen up suits this way, between dry cleanings.


Allison M. said...

my rule now is everything must be on sale. Why on earth would I pay full price for anything these days?

Anonymous said...

Love this post. I wish I could be considered a "recessionista" but not really since I've put a complete deadstop on all shopping what so ever