Nix the Budget Blues and Still Look Like a Fashionista

05 Jan

Fashion’s a breeze when you’ve got money to blow. For fashionistas – female or male – keeping up with fashion and style definitely takes a lot of money, and getting that fresh-from-the-runway look here in Jamaica gets tricky when you’re short on cash. Shopping at first rate stores, though preferred for the fashionista, can put a dent in the wallet. But is this reason to flop onto your bed in despair and hurl your one of a kind Ann Klein high heel slingbacks across the room in a fit of depression? Oh no girl. Get yourself up, arrange your clothes just so, rescue your Ann Kleins, take a seat and listen up. If you do things somewhat differently you can change or upgrade your wardrobe without spending a bundle. And if you carefully select your purchases and create a shopping list when buying a number of clothing items at once, you’ll be able to get what you need without damaging your wallet too much. Yes; it is possible. Really. And now that I have your attention, pull out your ipad and take notes because I am going to make you look good for less.

First of all, look through your closet and examine what you do have. And do so with a discriminating eye. There might be some things in there that you can dress up and create a new outfit or have come back into style that you can resuscitate. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t throw away old clothes, not “dissing” the more voluptuous among us, but losing a few pounds will widen your wardrobe. As an added bonus, with weight loss, more types of clothes will look good on you. Remember that accessories can also spice up an old outfit. For women, scarves in accent colors and fun patterns can spiff up a mostly solid colored wardrobe, and can be found at very reasonable prices.

When shopping, the mindset to have is that “the high cost of many items nowadays necessitates careful budgeting irrespective of what you are purchasing”. There are really good buys out there that don’t come with a huge price tag, so stay away from the expensive brand names. You often end up paying for the name, and those jeans are the same even without the name. Furthermore, you need to comparison shop when it comes to the price of items at stores. I have found for example, that in Kingston, Carby’s Discount Centre, a clothing store for women and men in Twin Gates Plaza, sells some of the very same items, brand and all, that a contemporary, Lees Fifth Avenue in Tropical Plaza does, and sells it for less. And as they are just across the road from each other, it doesn’t take much effort to do some sleuthing.

Redefine the Word “Sale”. Sounds basic, but to really save a bundle on clothes you have to be willing to hold out for the hard-core sales – 40% or 50% and up off is good. Look at better sales first, and find your figure. And a general rule of thumb when shopping for clothes is “start with the lowest-price stores first, but focus only on what you’re likely to find at that kind of store”. If you have money left over, go to more expensive stuff or save it for later! Be sure to buy new-looking stuff, because the item might have been in the store for a significantly long time and have aged. Smell it too to help give you an indicator as to how long it may have been in the store. Stores like Ammars and Lees Fifth Avenue that sell clothes, shoes and accessories for women, men and children, have sales several times per year, and are found in many major shopping centres around the island. Collectibles clothing stores (women’s and men’s with accessories) isn’t bad either. I’d say a must try for the fashionably forward. You can sometimes find funky/fun pieces there and the prices are comparable to Lees. For the sportingly fabulous, Western Sports has several branches throughout Jamaica. All these stores sell clothes that are mid to higher end and have several sales per year. There might be good finds at these.

Don’t Stop Buying. Counterintuitive? Well, think about dieting and how you pass on sweets and carbs until you binge. Scary, but it can happen with pent-up shopping desires, too. Satiate the fashion lover in you with a very small treat: you set the amount and frequency – say $800 a month for new earrings, etc. Pay with cash.

Shop in Season. Sure, stuff is cheaper when bought at the end of the season or even out of season. And that’s fine if you’re just looking for any old thing to wear. But if you love fashion (and you do, or you wouldn’t be a fashionista), you should shop as close to the season as possible. Otherwise you’ll just waste your money on trends that will be out of style by the time the next year rolls around.

Swap With Pals. Friends that wear your size and share your taste are a gold mine. So see if clothes you have match theirs and try trading clothes with your friends. This way, you and they can have a totally different wardrobe now for zero dollars spent. Chaching! You could do this one-on-one or even go large scale and organize a swap meet where everyone can switch shoes, clothes, etc.

Get Rid of Your Inner Snob. Scour discount stores. Buy basics from the warehouse store where you buy your paper towels in bulk, such as Mega Mart and Pricesmart. These sell some items of clothes and footwear for the entire family, and you have a good chance of finding less expensive items there. Move over mac and cheese, here come some clothes!

Become a Do-it-Yourself Whiz. Definitely don’t buy things just because they are in style at the time. Chances are things that are in style are expensive. Be yourself and be creative. Set your own trends. Learn to whip together a new outfit on the sewing machine or simply turn old jeans into a new skirt. Recycling is an easy update: a ruffle on last year’s skirt, a bow at the ankle of three-year-old strappy sandals. Also, the web is a good source for ideas. Look up ways to transform the clothing you already have.

If you’re shopping for clothes for the office, the same rules generally apply. But you need to consider some specific things. Augmenting what you already have? Well just buy a few pieces that easily blend in with what you already have. However, if you just landed an office job and looking into your closet only see jeans, t-shirts, and the suit you borrowed from your friend to wear to the job interview, you have a problem. In creating your wardrobe, the key is to assemble one that you can wear every week without it being obvious that you only have one week’s work of clothes.

Gauge how formal your new office is before you buy clothes. Some offices have adopted a “business casual” standard of dress or at least casual Fridays. Look at what others are wearing. It’s possible that your work wardrobe can be a dress shirt and khakis or a skirt without a tie or jacket. If this is the case, have a couple of jackets and ties that you can use to dress up your basics and save yourself the full cost of obtaining or maintaining a professional wardrobe. As you get to know the job, you’ll also get to know how it’s appropriate to express your personality in your wardrobe, and how it’s not.

Before shopping, look hard in your closet for anything you might turn into office material. Maybe you have a nice white button-front that just needs ironing, or a pair of shoes that would look like new with a coat of polish.

Get larger pieces (pants, skirts, and jackets) in neutral colors that mix and match. Neutral colors – black, navy blue, gray, tan (or taupe or camel), cream, white – work best, as they not only mix with each other, they don’t stand out so you can wear them repeatedly and not make it obvious that you’re wearing the same thing. Navy blue isn’t technically a “neutral” according to color theory, but it blends so well it’s effectively one when it comes to fashion. Remember that five well-chosen shirts combined with two pairs of pants will give you ten combinations, but two outfits that don’t go with anything else will only give you two combinations. Get accent pieces in coordinating colors. If you stick with neutrals for the big stuff, you’ll have a wide range of coordinating colors to choose from for shirts and ties. Know which colors complement your skin tone. Avoid neutral colors for accent pieces, except white – white shirts look great on almost everyone. Stick with solid colors, as distinct patterns are more likely to stand out (thus allowing people to notice that you’re wearing the same thing again) and they’re more difficult to mix and match. If you do get a pattern, make sure it’s an understated one that still matches with a lot of other things.

When shopping, always think about items you have on hand that can be combined with your new wardrobe pieces to extend your work wardrobe options. That cute top may not be appropriate for the office but may look nice under a black blazer with a set of pearls. Lees and Ammars, being department stores, are your best for finding mid-priced yet nice pieces.

You’ll probably have to get a few dry-clean-only jackets, as the good, durable ones are usually wool or polyester; same deal for pants and skirts. However, there are also nice ones in heavy cotton. Buy machine-washable shirts and tops as you can iron them to crispness, which makes them look more expensive, and cut down on your dry-cleaning bill. You can also save money by using home dry-cleaning systems.

Consider suits. Suits in solid colors or with subtle patterns are best for splitting up and using each half separately.

Shoes should be comfortable and well-fitting, preferably leather. Don’t try to squeeze into a pair that doesn’t fit. If you have a nice pair of shoes that looks fine but the sole is worn out, take it to a shoe repair shop – it is often less expensive to replace a sole than to buy a new pair of shoes. Regularly replacing the heel and toe savers on the bottom will help keep them from wearing out.

  • Shoes for women: If you can only start with one pair of shoes to go with everything, choose black. For your second pair, choose a color that will go with more of your wardrobe. If you have a good deal of blacks, greys, blues, and reds, navy shoes would be a good choice. If you tend to have more earth colors, such as beige, brown, tan, and green, look for tan or dark brown shoes.. Hose in colours that work best with you skin tone are best with all color shoes – avoid white and very shiny hose.
  • Shoes for men: As for men, black is the color to choose if you can only start with one pair of shoes. For your second pair, dark brown or oxblood (a dark burgundy or maroon) is recommended. Navy is usually not an option for men. Dress shoes for men should be simple, with 4 or 5 holes for laces and no design or contrasting trim that stands out. Dress loafers or dress boots can also work if very plain leather. Socks should be black or dark brown (small patterns are acceptable). Don’t wear work boots, hiking shoes, or white athletic socks to the office.

Ok. Now you have clothes for all occasions, all acquired at reasonable prices or for free, and you are busy celebrating. Good job fashionista! If after all this, you have money you wish to blow on high-end pieces, boutiques (small stores, therefore a very limited number of pieces) like Changes and Xtras (both sell women’s clothes and accessories) in Kingston may just cater to your pallet. Buying a few high end pieces enables you to mix and match and bring up the overall worth of your wardrobe. You may also find a jacket or two for work here. Try as well, clothing stores at the various large hotels around the island. These tend to carry high end, name brand items. If you’re in the Rose Hall area of St. James, the stores at the Half Moon Shopping Centre which cater more to the fabulously rich are worth a try.

And now for the final bit of advice fashionistas: Having gotten your beautiful wardrobe, care for the items well, and they’ll turn out to be a great investment.


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