Something we seem to hear constantly in the world of frugal blogging is people insisting that they "can't afford" to buy new clothes. Mostly of course, what they actually mean, is that they are choosing to spend their money elsewhere - by overpaying on the mortgage, or putting money aside into savings each month (or for the very lucky, both!). Of course there are those out there who are genuinely struggling to such an extent that any new clothing purchase has to be carefully considering and painstakingly saved for - and then bought second hand at a charity shop, to boot (or pair of boots, perhaps!). That's a different matter entirely and you know already my take on the difference between voluntary Frugality, and genuine struggle.
For those who just want to know how they can go about updating their wardrobe, or buying new things, in the most cost effective way, and without spending money on things that simply end up hanging in the wardrobe unworn, read on. I'm enlisted the help of the lovely Singlegirl and for the purposes of this post, you can consider us your Trinny & Susannah - although in fairness she could sit on my shoulders and we'd STILL not be as tall as Trinny, I think!
On the subject of Trinny and Susannah, embarrassing it may be but one thing SG and I definitely agree on is that they do talk amazing sense when it comes to body shape and dressing to suit it. Their Body Shape Bible is a must for your bookshelf if you want to crack the mystery of "What Not To Wear" and can often be found floating around in charity shops for pennies, too. Take as an example those of us with, well, let's say quite a lot of goods on (or indeed IN) our balcony - ever wondered why you put on an item with a high neck and take it straight off again? Or worse, wear it but feel frumpy, lumpy and ill at ease? High necks (or worse - Polos - SG threatened to hibernate until spring when someone told her that Polo necks were a must-have fashion item for winter 2013!) simply turn the area from above your waist to your chin into one huge shelf - robbing you of all definition! Leave them on the shelf ladies and let others work that look - you can do better! Once you crack secrets like this, it will go a long way towards making sure that the items in your wardrobe all suit and flatter you, regardless of how much they cost. You could put on the most expensive garment in the world - if it's not in a style that suits your body, you'll look like you're wearing a sack. That friend who ALWAYS looks fab whatever she wear? That's nothing to do with how much she spends - it's all to do with her having done her homework and ALWAYS wearing clothes that suit her figure and shape!
So - where should you spend and where should you save? Well we think - buy cheap and replace often: Basic knickers - grey undies are NOT a good look. Primark do great packs of side seam free hi-legs for £4.50, or you can spend a bit more on M&S if that floats your boat. T-Shirt style tops, particularly those in Black or White. Black fades to an unattractive grey, and white does its damndest to go the other way. M&S are a good bet here too - they do basic tops and vests in a range of necklines for around £8 - you can often pick these up even cheaper in their outlet stores too. Again for simple vests Primark are a great alternative - I love their lace-trimmed vests in a whole rainbow of colours for wearing under v-necked jumpers. Flat pumps for summer - now SG won't be seen dead in these but I'm not a heels-girl and so live and die in pumps through the summer - Primark again - around £5. They are no better and no worse than any other of their type but a couple of pairs will see you through the warmer weather happily enough.
On to the areas where - as your Mum or Gran probably said "Buy Cheap, Buy twice" - winter coats - spending a bit more here on a good quality coat will mean you can get several years wear out of it - so a supermarket purchase for £35 will probably do you for one winter, whereas a "better" brand costing £80 will maybe do you for three and will hang better as well - you do the maths! I will always spend a bit more on tailored trousers for work - I have a pair that I bought YEARS ago which are still perfectly good, hang beautifully and I love wearing - the fabric is nice and the cut is good. Footwear too - trainers if you wear them, by all means shop at an outlet store to save a few pennies but buy what fits and supports your feet, and don't just base the decision on which are cheapest. Bra's - the key here is that different manufacturers make bras in subtly different shapes - and once you find the one that suits your boobs, then stick with it. For me it's Freya - their stuff is just fab for me, and so I search out bargains (usually in Debenhams sales) to bring the £30-ish price tag down to half that, or less. If you've got "a lot up top" though - expect to have to pay a little bit more to keep the girls happy - otherwise in a few years they will get their own back by tripping you up!
Look after your clothes too - coats need dry-cleaning to avoid shiny patches, and the life of boots and shoes can be massively extended by popping them in to have new heels and soles put on - if you're spending £50 or more on a pair of boots then it makes sense to make them last as well as you can. SG points out that bobbles on jumpers are a real no-no and can be easily removed with an ordinary disposable razor - CAREFULLY!
So now we've covered where to spend and where to save, how do you achieve getting the wardrobe you want at a cost you can work with? Pop back NEXT friday to find out...
Robyn & Singlegirl
pssst - Singlegirl's blog can be found at http://singleandutterlyfabulous.blogspot.co.uk/ - but it is NOT to be read if you are of a nervous disposition or under the age of 18!