Buying Clothes Cheap (Not Buying Cheap Clothes)

“I read your blog on saving money,” a colleague told me the other day.

“Oh? What did you think?” Yes, I fished for compliments.

“They’re good but you always look so stylish.” (Which is always nice to hear). I briefly explained my shopping methodology then realized I should do a blog post.

First, I’m not a fashion photo blogger as I don’t have the desire for photos and most of the time I tend to look like what I am – a bit of a harried writer who doesn’t own a hairbrush and has a tendency to look shiny in photographs. I’m also kind of shit at wearing ridiculous heels.

(Love her)

Second, I think you can have nice clothing at a good price without having a wardrobe entire populated with H&M. My look is pretty classic with buttoned down shirts, pencil and flared skirts and waisted dresses, all in colour. This means that I’ve got clothing in my closet that’s more than 10 years old but still in great shape.

I tend to avoid pants except jeans thanks to the lack of patience to find pants that fit my hips, arse, thighs, waist AND leg length. Then I usually have to get it altered.

I also hate paying full price for clothing. This also goes for shoes though I believe that generally shoes are more comfortable in leather. Except Louboutins, they’re uncomfortable, I don’t care what you say. I think I see more women limping in Louboutins than striding confidently in them.

So, shopping. First, a budget, always. Stick to one and pay cash. If you can’t pay cash, don’t buy it. I like the save and spend method.

“But Renée,” – you say – what if what I love isn’t available when I’ve saved the money?”

Well, in that case, too bad. Shopping isn’t worth the excessive debt. If you can pay off your card by the end of the month (and I’ve been guilty of not doing this occasionally), then go ahead. If not, then don’t buy it.

Next, go try stuff on. Don’t buy any of it. Seriously. Try stuff on at high-end and low-end stores. Find out what you like and what looks good on you. Make notes. Take pictures. Tweet them and ask for opinions. Do not buy anything. Take measurements, note what sizes you are in various makes and labels. You’ll probably have an average of four sizes. For example, I range from a size 6 to a size 12, depending on cut and store. Roll your eyes and mutter about vanity sizing and the lack of coherency in women’s fashions.

Oh, I wouldn’t bring a friend when you do this. This is a research mission to find out what you like and what looks good on you. A friend, while well-meaning, can distract from this.

Once you have an idea what works on you, you can start with sales, online and off. Sign up for store emails. Often you’ll get coupons and codes that can save you money. Banana Republic, which does a good buttoned down shirt, will send emails that often offer 10 to 40 per cent off sale and new items.

If you have a favourite store, learn their sales cycle. Most stores mark items for sale on Wednesday night for Thursday and Friday.  Perhaps they have a monthly sale. Independent boutiques can set their own sales schedule so it’s always good to get on their mailing lists. Rac boutique in Toronto just had their annual bazaar where they collaborated with other independent boutique to host a four-day market where items were available for sale.

When I’m not in a store, I like to check out consignment and thrift stores. That way I can find items I like for very good prices. I stick to dresses because they fit my torso and waist and fall gently over my hips. I found a Dolce & Gabbana animal print silk dress for approximately $180. It was cheaper and of better quality than the one in Banana Republic.

Occasionally I try on things like these:

Made in the sixties. The skirt is quilted and the top is a bit boob-encapsulating.
























Online shopping

Coupons, sales, eBay,, – you can find almost anything cheaper online. That day of research? Take that information and use it when you’re buying online. It will cut back on returns.

Again, only do this if you have the budget for it.

A great seamstress

I’ve bought a dress from Monsoon when I was in London about four years ago. It has a basic tank top and a cascading ruffled skirt. It’s pretty and has done its due diligence as a LBD. I’m thinking of taking it to my local seamstress to see if she can remove the top and turn it into a high-waisted skirt. I’d try but I can’t properly set a zip. So far I’ve had her narrow sleeves, drop hems, tighten arm holes, fit the waistline and fix darts.


I won’t spend money on tshirts but I do like to get them cheap. I lean towards Gap’s line and buy them when they have them on sale.

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