How To Build A Wardrobe On A Budget, Frugal Clothes Shopping 101

How to build a wardrobe on a budget - Dress Up Frugally

By Jennifer Schmidt

As moms, quite often frugality becomes a way of life whether we choose it or not. The media has made frugal living the new buzzword of the year, and people are becoming more aware of the many options for living on less . . . and loving it! While most people are open to saving dollars by eating at home, cutting a few coupons, and dressing their children in thrift stores’ clothing, there are still some who haven’t ventured into the world of pre-owned clothing for themselves. In this article, I’ll show you how to build a wardrobe on a budget.

Where To Start

Many moms share with me that they want to class up their wardrobe, but they don’t know where to start. These tips may be just for you. With a few suggestions, moms can dress in an amazing, designer wardrobe on a thrift-store budget.

Our goal with how to build a wardrobe on a budget is to establish a quality, core wardrobe that oozes class in its cut, color, fabric, and style. The benefit of shopping second-hand is you can find high-quality fabrics, designers, and well-made clothes that will last for years to come regardless of your size. Building a core wardrobe is essential, whether women buy retail or second-hand.

How To Build A Wardrobe On A Budget

Magazines cover this topic often, but they recommend investing thousands of dollars for these essential pieces. They assure you it’s worth it in the long run! Speaking from experience, that essential core wardrobe can be purchased for pennies on the dollar. The varying list of core wardrobe essentials for a woman’s closet is as follows:

  • Basic black dress
  • Trench coat
  • Classic dress pants
  • Classic white (if you’re cool toned) or off-white (if you’re warm toned) shirt (there are lots of stylish ones . . . it doesn’t have to look like a man’s shirt)
  • Skirt (A-line style looks great on everyone)
  • Dressy jacket/blazer
  • Day dress (so many choices to be fun and feminine or cute and sassy)
  • Any-occasion top
  • Jeans (some fabulous-fitting ones with a little flare)
  • A comfortable alternative to a sweat suit

Finding The Right Budget Accessories

Even in the realm of how to build a wardrobe on a budget, great accessories are a category of their own. Whether it is shoes, necklaces, earings, bracelets, belts, scarves, wraps, or handbags, accessories make a core wardrobe pop and add polish to any outfit.

One of the most difficult stumbling blocks in buying clothes at yard sales or thrift stores is the huge amount of “junk” one has to go through in order to find the “jewel.” Identifying essential pieces in a core wardrobe makes that process much easier because there is a starting place to the “search and score” process.

How To Shop At Thrift Stores

The majority of larger thrift stores have clothing “organized” in some chaotic pattern—dresses, long sleeve tops, jeans, slacks, etc. Often I don’t have the time to meticulously examine every piece. Quite frankly, I don’t have time to browse through every aisle.

When I enter any thrift store, the first thing I search for are pieces in monochromatic colors. Black, navy blue and dark browns are classic colors that create the building blocks in your wardrobe. Black is always classy and elegant, while giving a slenderizing look at the same time.

Once these core wardrobe pieces have been established, then have fun and dress outside your typical comfort zone with purchases in varying colors, fabrics, and accessories. Five years ago, I considered myself a very classic dresser; now I am enjoying trying various styles that I would never have dared to wear if buying retail. Once the learning curve is conquered, the payoff is well worth it.

Give It A Chance!

Hopefully, this brief peek into the way I approach how to build a wardrobe on a budget has encouraged you to think outside the box about second-hand clothes shopping. I receive emails daily from women who share their excitement at how following these few basic suggestions has changed their opinion on wardrobe shopping. The women who once told me, “I can never find anything,” are now sharing about all their fun and fabulous finds. So give this a chance.

Let’s update the wardrobe for pennies on the dollar and go from frump to fabulous.

Jennifer Schmidt enjoys her number-one calling in life as a wife, home school mom of five, and daughter of the King. Jen frequently speaks at retreats, homeschool conferences, and to young moms’ (MOPS) groups. She shares with humor and authenticity on various family-related topics, including the joy of frugal and debt-free living. Jennifer has a passion for seeing families strengthened and encouraged in their life-long process of creating lasting legacies. Visit Jen’s delightful blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam at:

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