Fashion blogger and stylist Nikki Parkinson
Fashion blogger and stylist Nikki Parkinson Contributed

Costbusters: staying in fashion without going broke

THERE is one firm rule for clothes shopping on a budget - know what's in your wardrobe before you hit the stores.

Every season, do a wardrobe edit and carry a list of the clothing gaps in your handbag or wallet, so the latest trends don't tempt you into credit card misery.

Nikki Parkinson from blog Styling You said these were the first steps to prevent blowing the budget on unnecessary or unsuitable purchases.

"It doesn't matter what budget level you're buying at, if you already have five white t-shirts that are perfectly fine and you get seduced by another one when you're out, that's a complete waste of money," she said.

"If you have a really organised wardrobe that you go through each season before you start shopping - then you're aware of what's missing.

"I always ask people to start with the basics first because another big mistake when we don't know what's in our wardrobe and we haven't filled the gaps with the basics is we buy the show pony pieces - the things with glitter that have lovely patterns.

"The problem is you bring them home and have nothing to wear with them."

Basics is different for everyone - from office wear to smart casual or beyond. But it usually includes black, white, navy or even chambray and khaki these days.

The average Australian spends $37 a week on clothing and $7 on footwear.

That lifts to between $54 and $82 a week for families, depending on the age of the kids.

MORE: How to save money on cosmetics and toiletries

Ms Parkinson, who won the 2015 Telstra microbusiness award for Queensland this month, has reached success through sharing her tips on fashion and beauty to the everyday woman.

She said there were no longer set sale cycles, so her sales shopping tip was signing up for loyalty emails at your most frequented stores.

"Sales happen all the time. Sometimes there can be spot sales over a weekend, and if you're not in the know then you could miss out on buying something less than retail," she said.

"It doesn't have to be an annoying email thing; choose half a dozen stores with clothes you like and usually buy from."

Ms Parkinson said start-of-season sales might have fewer bargains, but there were more sizing options available than end-of-season clearouts.

When it came to trends, Ms Parkinson said each shopper must understand their individual style and not become a slave to high-fashion trends.

"You should notice trends and see if there's anything, when you're updating your wardrobe, that you can relate but you don't have to adopt a new trend every season," she said.

Lots of blogs and websites can guide you through during drab in to fab.
Lots of blogs and websites can guide you through during drab in to fab. Brenda Strong


Give a taffeta deb dress a new life with a slash or tuck. Or turn a beige - literally - lace dress into something that pops with some dye.

Search the internet for repurposing clothes and a zillion websites will come up but Koren Helbig, from the She Makes Magic blog, says Marisa Lynch's New Dress a Day is her current inspiration.

Lynch gave herself 365 days and $365. She bought a new low budget dress for $1 each day and then sewed, dyed or cinched it to make it chic or current - breathing new life decades after they were made.

"Sometimes she doesn't even use a sewing machine and it shows you can make ugly, huge, weird '80s-style prom dresses, for example, into something really cool and hip and modern and funky," Ms Helbig said.

"It starts to get your eye in. Then when you go to op shops or you have a clothes swap party and you see something that is maybe too big or you don't like the sleeves or it's too long, you think maybe it might be better as a t-shirt or a dress. It opens your mind to see it's possible to change it and make it cool."



If you want to recoup some money and the clothes are good quality, then online selling is an option.

But Ms Parkinson said this only worked if you were savvy, had time and the clothes were designer labels.

"If something was cheap to start with, you're not going to get much back for it on eBay or Gumtree but if you paid good money and it's still in good condition, just maybe not for you anymore, then all it takes is your time to sell that," she said.

Remember what's already in the closet before setting foot in a shop.
Remember what's already in the closet before setting foot in a shop. Contributed


Like Styling You's shopping tips, op shopper Sarah Morgan said you must remember your actual wardrobe to ensure what you bought connected back.

"It's a big thing because otherwise you'll end up throwing the dress you've just bought back to the op shop pile," the Scout and Finch blogger said.

Ms Morgan also cautioned against going into an op shop expecting to find an outfit. Instead, she recommended shopping decisions be dictated by what is in stock.

"And make sure you bring your phone or iPad where you can look up the labels and check the price tags connect," she said.

THE CHALLENGE: Go second-hand clothes shopping with $40 to put together an outfit to wear on a date.

THE PROCESS: Visited three op shops with an open mind about an appropriate outfit.

THE RESULT: Found Gordon Smith gingham check blazer for $10 and black Charlie Brown dress for $29.95.


Try a clothes swap party!

Ingredients: Friends, garbage bags of clothes, mirrors, food and wine.

1. Clean out junk from wardrobe and jewellery boxes. Be brutal.

2. Convince friends to do the same and invite them all over.

3. Coat them in delicious treats. Blend in wine.

4. Scatter full-length mirrors.

5. Add a sprinkle of cunning.

"The best way to do it is to throw it all in a massive pile in your lounge room," said Koren Helbig, from the She Makes Magic blog.

"Then just dive into the pile but get your elbows out because it can be quite competitive to get the good stuff.

"Basically it's just finders-keepers. Find something you like and, if it works, pop it in your to-keep pile. If it doesn't, throw it back and keep rummaging.

"You come away with maybe a massive pile or maybe nothing, depending on how much you like your friends' styles.

"The host of the party at the end will collect all the unwanted clothes and drop them in a goodwill bin.

"So basically it's just like cleaning your wardrobe out for goodwill but you're just having a little sidestep where you're giving your friends first dibs on any of your really cool stuff."

The only rule? Everyone has to bring at least one thing to swap. 


Repurposing inspiration:


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