Style is Not About Money

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Let me start this post with a caveat – I’m assuming that you’re not on the poverty line, but that you most likely have a clothes budget that isn’t extravagant by any means.

I often hear from people that they don’t have the kind of money you need (in their minds) to spend on clothes to be stylish.  Yet they still manage to buy clothes that covers their body.

We live in societies that require us to wear clothes, and given that, we make choices about which clothes we buy and wear.

Given that, if you want to look stylish why wouldn’t you choose those clothes that don’t represent your style recipe?

Too poor to be stylish?  I think that if you’re reading this and making choices about the clothes you buy, you can make considered purchases whatever your budget and be super stylish!

Whenever I visit America I’m always stunned at how cheaply you can buy completely fabulous clothes there for next to nothing!  It always makes me ponder on why you see so many poorly dressed when choices are so fabulous and vast (seriously they are, coming from a country with a relatively small population that is isolated means that in Australia goods are more expensive – it’s the old “economy of scale”).

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Take Action

Go through your wardrobe and rid it of clothes that don’t make you feel great or stylish (except for a few to do the dirty chores in).  If you’ve got clothes that are good quality but you just don’t wear them, why not consider selling them and then reinvesting the money in something you do love?

Make sure you have an up-to-date style recipe to rely on when shopping.  Even just asking yourself “Is this stylish” or “Is this luxurious” or whatever words that float your boat, before you buy, will have you assessing the item more closely!

Discover what suits you body shape – if you don’ t know what that is – check out my body shape calculator quiz here.

Start by shopping your wardrobe.  You may discover all sorts of great outfits you’d never considered if you take a look at your wardrobe with fresh eyes and your style recipe.

Do research before you shop.  Go online, go to thrift stores, buy from ebay, find items you love and then save them so you can buy on sale (everything goes on sales these days), go to outlets instead of the high street stores if budget is a big issue.

There are some amazing online consignment stores too – such as The Real Real if you are in a more remote location and want a designer wardrobe at a fraction of the price, and need to purchase online.  You can favourite items then watch to see when they come on sale!

There are so many places you can find great clothes at great prices.  Remember your cost-per-wear rule – the more you wear it the less it costs per wear.  So invest more in a staple that you will wear frequently as it will pay for itself.  Spend less on fancy occasion clothes or fads as they won’t get the same wear.

Good quality shoes will last longer and look better than cheap shoes.  Shoes you can improve (polish) are a better investment than a pair that you can’t, and then when they get scuffed you have to throw them away (this ends up being much more costly).

Learn about your style.  The more knowledge you have the better your purchasing decisions and the less money you waste.  An investment in a program such as 7 Steps to Style (or a consultation with an image consultant like me) will save you thousands and thousands over the course of your life.  You may think it’s expensive, but it’s actually way less expensive than buying “cheap” clothes that you don’t wear, that you don’t love, that don’t make you feel good.   Those “cheap” clothes add up quickly to much more than the investment in the knowledge that you will keep for the rest of your life!

Pink dress and shoes

This dress was thrifted ($7), I made the bracelets myself, and the necklace was a gift. Shoes are $129 from Scarlettos which is more expensive, but good shoes will get good cost per wear and the classic ballet flat style will last forever and be in my wardrobe til they wear out (probably a decade!).

Further Reading

Tips for successful resale shopping (that’s thrift store or consignment stores)

Thrifting for trends

Tips on thrift shopping

What to buy in the sales

10 Costly Shopping Mistakes to Avoid

How to stop buying junk clothes

Tips on shopping your wardrobe from the master of shopping your wardrobe Jill Chivers

6 Brilliant strategies for creating your perfect wardrobe

7 steps to style solve the style puzzle


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • I agree on some level with this statement, however, as someone who has been completely broke many times in the past, I wish this reasoning wasn’t so absolute.

    Sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of choice. An example: say you only have one pair of jeans because you can’t afford buying another (true story, I’ve been there), and two pair of shoes, both practical because you don’t have a car. At the same time you only have 5 T-shirts and it’s summer time. Now, imagine your jeans get more and more worn out, and so do the T-shirts. You reach a point where you have to buy replacements. Now, imagine you can only give 10 dollars for clothes, because other needs come first, and that expense WILL hurt your budget. You go to the shop, you grab the cheepest thing you can get, if you’re lucky you get it in your colour. The probability is higher that the fabric will be cheap. You wear the hell out of it, at the same time your other 4 T-shirts get older and so do your jeans. All your clothes were the cheapest choices to begin with. Do take into consideration that thrift stores are not easy to reach for everyone (due to geography, local economy, etc.)

    Now, if you sum it up, it’s not hard to understand why someone is dressed in an ugly and/or shabby and/or tasteless way. I know many will think it’s an extreme example, but it’s not.

    At the same time, yes, money doesn’t buy taste, we see that all around us. Someone may buy a famous label T-shirt for 200 dolars and it will look like a big polyester ugly mess.

    BUT, money is a very big factor for being stylish, for more people than the average consumer may think. Add to that, pride: many poor people who dress ugly are too proud to admit this is because they can’t afford better, and they save face buy pretending they like their clothes.

    In my opinion the best solution would be for more people to sew their own clothes, like they did in the past. Because even the cheapest fabric will look better when properly adjusted to someone’s body and taste. It’s too bad sewing has gone from a necessity to a hobby.

    • Sewing is a great way of getting clothes that really work. But even with $10 if you do a little research you can find better quality jeans on sale and purchase them -they will last longer. It’s about taking some time to find better quality than just buying in a hurry without thought.

  • Imogen, this is why I love your advice so much because it helps stretch my clothing budget, which is deliberately minuscule. I’m a minimalist and, as I’ve commented before, I keep my wardrobe deliberately simple. Years ago it was because I was a poor student, then a struggling single mother, and finally when I was a successful career woman I just couldn’t stomach the waste of paying for “fashion”. Instead, I opted for the style that suited me. Thrift stores, yard sales, and sewing were my best friends.

    Here’s a recent example. For my 60th birthday party two days ago I wore clothes that were basically FREE but looked absolutely stylish and a bit “biker chic”. From my $6 Good Will black ankle boots with metallic details (new when bought), to the items I picked up at a local department store in the US that gives monthly $10 coupons, the most expensive article of clothing I wore was a very good bra, also bought on sale. I just hoard my coupons and only “buy” when the price is free or a few dollars. Jennifer Lopez skinny jeans were on sale for $8, and the $10 coupon made them free. A black long sleeve tee with cutout details around the neckline and metallic details was on sale for $4, and a white and black graphic tee with silver splotches was on sale for $7.50. A couple of different purchases, adding sale jewelry, scarves, or socks using the $10 coupons and voila–more free articles of clothing. Nothing was purchased for the sake of it, but to add to a minimalist wardrobe as needed. Anytime I couldn’t find something I needed I bought something for family or a friend.

    Being able to sew, make and alter jewelry, clothes, scarves, and accessories has also been helpful in keeping my wardrobe and wardrobe budget very, very small. If it isn’t perfect or appropriate for my lifestyle, it doesn’t get to stay. I guess I’ve been doing it so long that it is ingrained. I don’t understand shopping for the sake of shopping, or fashion for the sake of fashion. Though I’d like to grab a few of my friends and dress them like I used to dress my Barbie Dolls when I was a kid. Yes, I made all their clothes and accessories, too. Is it ok to love style but not love fashion?

    • Sounds like you have your style sorted! And absolutely you don’t have to love fashion. I think of fashion as the tool – what is available and the ‘idea’, whilst style is how you apply it to your body and life.

  • (I’m sorry if I double-post, there was a hiccup with my computer. I had a long answer prepared, but here goes the new one)

    This is to say, Imogen, that I really enjoy this blog and your advice, I hope I didn’t come across as aggressive in my previous reply. It’s just that sometimes I get the feeling that blog authors forget that visitors come from all over the world. My country is crap when it comes to its local market. Purchasing value is close to zero for many. Most things are overpriced, imported clothes more so, and local production is almost destroyed. Thrift stores are close to non-existant to the capital, people in the country have it tougher.

    What I mean is, yes, your reasoning is correct, but it’s very very difficult to apply it in some countries. That’s why when I read titles that go “doing so and so is not about money”, I shake my head sometimes, because, in economies like mine, yes, it is about money.

    Again, it has nothing to do with you personally, I’m just explaining myself as I would with a friend over a cup of coffee. And I do apologise again I sounded aggressive 🙂

  • Love this insight, and I couldn’t agree with you more! Making simple changes in your spending patterns like buying used clothing instead of new will make a huge difference and will certainly making staying within a reasonable budget much more simple. Very nicely done! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  • You hit the nail right on the head when you said
    Style is not about money! I think often, people get too caught up at the thought of paying an extravagant amount for luxury items and yet even with money you could very well end up looking tacky and ostentatious. KISS concept: Keep It Simple, Stupid.That is the best way to start and from there goes the creation of a style! Thanks for sharing the awesome post!

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