My top tips for being fashionable on a budget

Chic without the cost

Written by Sorcha Cusack


I don’t keep up with fashion. The truth is I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Once upon a time I lived the naïve life that my parents’ credit card would buy all the new clothes I ever needed, and then reality hit with the teenage years and the horrific realisation that they now expected me to manage my own 'allowance' and – god forbid – budget myself.

Everything seemed to collapse at once, starting with my wardrobe and ending with my social life. I kid you not. I can stand up now and say that yes, I have been that girl who refused to go out because I had nothing to wear. I have been a fashion victim of bright colours in a pastel season. I have wasted countless savings on clothes that never got their full use due to the 'fat fit' I thought they gave me from buying the wrong size. I fell in love with polka dots then moved on twice as fast.

See my problem is, I like change too much to stick with anything. Fact. I like to jazz up my wardrobe but now I just can’t afford it. Thus I’ve discovered some little fashion tips and tricks to keep both my style cravings at bay as well as allowing me the cash to afford the social events to flaunt it.

Cut it, glue it, bead it, belt it

Take old clothes that you’ll never wear again and jazz it up. Seriously – you have nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work out, you weren’t going to wear it again anyway. I’ve transformed frumpy jumpers with slim belts, I’ve saved some shoes with beads and glue. As well as saving you some added cash, you’ll find the compliments will fly your way. It took me far too long to realise that people admire personalised fashion more so than somebody who bought into the latest trends. Clothes are really an extension of your personality – show it off.

Have some staples in your wardrobe. They will go with everything

Black pumps, nude pumps. Black cardigan, brown belt. Gold bangles. Tights. Buy good ones and they’ll save you a bomb in the long run! I used to buy shoes from Pennys every turn about thinking that the 'disposable pumps' were saving me money instead of costing me more. The fact of the matter is, staple clothes get worn so often that they wear out in a month or so and you end up buying shoes more often than you originally thought. The same applies to cardigans and belts. The answer? Good quality pumps, etc. Splurge that little bit extra on the basics. You genuinely won’t regret it. Paying €25 euro now for a cardigan saves you buying four or more at €7/8 a pop in a year.

Thrift shopping – vintage clothes. Mix and match

This is my personal favourite. Going into charity shops has actually become a hobby of mine now, so much so that I enjoy nothing more than hunting for a bargain with my best friend at the weekend. We’ve got the vintage bug. Going on EBay and checking out your local second-hand shops is brilliant for bringing out your creative side as you end up mixing and matching new with old to rock old trends with a twist.

Make-up – moisturiser with foundation – flawless in every season

Unlike clothes, make-up really can’t be tried on. Even with those gloopy bottles of 'testers' that lie on all the shelves. One of the biggest problems I’ve had with make-up is that I end up getting the wrong colour and can’t wear it for fear of looking orange. I figured out how to get around this one day when I was messing with colours – use moisturiser. A slightly darker foundation then your skin tone can be blended down with a dab of moisturiser. Eye shadow will last longer and foundation will go on easier if you moisturise first. Hand cream isn’t really needed if you have a good solid moisturiser already. In a nutshell, don’t buy needless products, but if you do, alter them so that they suit your skin as well as the occasion.

Swap shop with friends

A crazy event which is definitely rewarding on every level is hosting your own swap shop with friends. Take all your old clothes and accessories and bring them to a swapping party. Everyone you’re friendly with probably share your style anyway, as well as buying in the same shops and following the same teenage trends. Craic will be had.

Make it something it isn’t… Gok Wan style

For my last birthday I had nothing to wear. I had been busy the weeks before it and genuinely couldn’t go out shopping to get something for it. I ended up borrowing a white shirt from my dad’s wardrobe and teaming it with a blue dress of mine, folded over to become a skirt. I then covered it with a gold belt and heels. I got loads of compliments on the night, and nobody was any the wiser! When I told my friends what I’d done, some even tried out the style themselves. Win! The moral of the story is, learn from Gok Wan and alter your wardrobe to suit the occasion.

Dye it yourself

Aside from dying clothes (a tricky event… Youtube videos definitely don’t do it justice) you could also try taking those hair products and changing colour yourself. I wouldn’t recommend going for the more flamboyant colours (pink is dodgy if it’s not done professionally) but browns and blacks are easy to do whilst also saving you about €50.

Go natural – make the products yourself

The internet is loaded with natural face masks and products that are perfect for every type of skin and can be made from things which you’d have anyway in the kitchen cupboard. Eggs, yoghurt, honey… they’re way cheaper to buy than the products in pharmacies, and also aren’t loaded with chemicals. Try it out. What’s the worst that could happen?

Discover your style, what flatters you, etc and stick with it

I can’t stress enough how important it is to discover what it is that genuinely makes you tick. Don’t buy bright risky colours if you know you’ll never wear them. Don’t buy a skirt a size too small in the hopes that it’ll motivate you to fit into it. If you’re too small to work long skirts, then don’t buy a wardrobe load. It’s things like these that coined the need for wardrobe spring-cleaning and are fully stopping you from having any reasonable cash in that purse of yours.

Gain the confidence to wear it, even if the old you wouldn’t

You’ve just bought a dress you adore. You don’t often wear dresses. The outcome is that you end up never wearing this stunning dress and you miss out on an opportunity to look and feel great. So just bite the bullet and wear it. I used to wear jeans all the time, but moved on to a dress and pumps and gained an added boost of confidence along with compliments. Just because dresses are a step up on the formal chart, doesn’t mean you can’t dress them down.

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