Frugal Fashion: How to save money on new clothes

Posted by Victoria Lochhead on

Frugal Fashion, how to save money on clothes blog cover

According to the ONS the average household in the UK spent almost £1200 on clothing and shoes in 2020.  With the cost of living soaring, namely on essentials like food, fuel and heating bills, it would seem that cutting down the clothes expenditure can be a good place to save a few pounds.  So, here's my top tips to save cash on clothes.

1.  Purge your wardrobe and sell off what you don't wear.  

According to Love Your Clothes, almost 1/3 of what is hanging in your wardrobe hasn't been worn in over a year.  In my experience as a stylist, I would say that figure is pretty conservative; most of us wear about 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time, meaning there's 80% of our wardrobes only getting worn about 20% of the time.  Starting with a good clear out of those things that we're not wearing could turn up some sellable items that can go to a good new home whilst also earning you a few pounds.  You can sell your unwanted clothes (that are in excellent condition) on sites like Vinted, Depop and eBay or through dress agencies.  You could also sell off other items to a company that pays you by weight such as cash for clothes companies or if you don't want to sell them,  donate to your local charity shop.  Clearing out the clutter helps you see what wearable clothes you own and might even generate some cash too.

2.  Wear more of what you already own more often

The clothes you already own are the most financially savvy (and sustainable) things you can wear.  You've already spent the money on them (and all the energy has already gone into their production), so extending the life and getting the most value out of what you own is the number one thing you can do.  Often we overlook items in the wardrobe, because we can't see them (perhaps at the back or under another item on a hanger) or because we get bored and don't always see how we can breathe new life into them.  In our Facebook group, we set regular challenges to create new outfits from what we already have in the wardrobe - to break open our habits and find new ways to wear our clothes.  Just by extending the life of our clothes by 3 months, we reduce the waste, water and carbon footprint of those items by as much as 10%, and as we've already spent the money on them, they're a zero expenditure option moving forward!  My dad has newer clothes for 'best' and then wears them at home, and then as they get scruffier, for gardening, and when they're gone beyond gardening wear he cuts them up and uses them for rags and dusters, extracting every ounce of value from those items!

3.  Buy well, buy once

If we think of our purchases on a cost per wear basis, a pair of jeans that cost £100 and gets worn 100 times, has a cost per wear of £1.  A £20 pair of jeans that gets worn once has a cost per wear of £20.  So the more we can wear something, the lower the cost per wear.  

Think about the pair of jeans I just described.  If your £100 pair of jeans is a perfect fit, an excellent quality fabric and something you wear regularly, you're far more likely to wear them over and over again.  If you buy a so-so pair that go baggy at the knees after a couple of hours, or start to rub, dig or slip down, you'll soon get fed up of them.  If you're going to buy something, make sure the fit is excellent, the quality is made to last, and it is something you love.  The slow fashion movement might mean splashing out a bit more initially on a winter coat, but making sure that coat lasts you for years rather than months.

4.  Buy only what you need

This one might sound obvious, but I ask clients 'what do you need in your wardrobe?' and they're often not quite sure.  I encourage my clients to organise and sort their wardrobes twice a year and to create a shopping list of what they need for the coming season (Find out more about this method in the Wardrobe Revival blog and the Fluid Wardrobe blog).  Focusing on a list avoids duplicate purchases, and mistakes we can be tempted to purchase but never get round to wearing.

5.  Repair and recycle

The longer we can keep wearing and loving our clothes, the better for our pockets and the better for the planet.  Acquiring skills in mending and repairing means being able to navigate a few youtube videos, and for the more adventurous, you could try upcycling old garments into something new!  I particularly love the how to tips on the Love Your Clothes website.  Here's a silk kimono I made from old pieces of silk, which I absolutely adore:

An up cycled silk kimono

6.  Buy preloved clothes

You can literally save thousands of pounds by exploring preloved clothes rather than new.  In my year of no new clothes at all in 2014 I saved a small fortune, and have done every year since.  Even if you're not someone who likes the idea of browsing a charity shop, a simple search on ebay will show you how many things are available for sale at a heavily discounted price with the new tags still attached.  Even our dress agency has so many 'new' clothes that a previous owner has never gotten around to wearing, so preloved doesnt have to mean worn.  And if you love a browse or a rummage, you can save a small fortune buying preloved clothing instead of new.  It's better for your pocket, and better for the planet too.  To give you an example, I once bought a beautiful big red leather handbag from a charity shop and it cost me 20p.  It was in fantastic condition and I have used and used and used that bag.  By selling off what you don't wear regularly and using that money to buy preloved clothes, you can get your annual budget down to next to nothing.  Here's a Pringle cashmere jumper I bought in a charity shop for £1.  How much would that have cost had I bought it new?

example of a preloved bargain pringle cashmere jumper

7.  Rent, borrow or swap

The most wasteful and often the most expensive outfit is the one you wear once.  Buying something to wear as a guest to a wedding or an event can set you back quite a tidy sum, and then how often do you wear that outfit again?  So if you're invited to a formal event and don't have something already, why not consider renting an outfit?  There's lots of clothing rental companies out there to have a look at, and it's considerably cheaper than buying a whole new outfit.  You could also consider borrowing something from a friend (which cost me the price of a bunch of flowers and a dry clean).  And if you don't have a do to go to but want some new to you things in the wardrobe, you could try swapping.  Invite a group of friends over with the clothes they don't wear, and everyone has a try on and a swap.  It can be a very entertaining evening, and if you check out your local area, some places organise clothes swapping events.

8.   Have to buy new?  Get a discount!

There will be some things you need that you have to buy new - underwear, socks, nightwear, swimwear etc.  Or there might be something you've seen for sale and you have simply fallen in love with it and know that its just what you need.  Before you click to add the item to your shopping cart, do a search online to see if the store in question has any current discount vouchers.  Often you can bag free delivery, or a 10% discount with a voucher code.  Even if you're in the shop and spot something, it's worth whipping out the phone to see if it would be cheaper to buy it online.  Sometimes signing up for the stores newsletter can earn you a discount, so it's worth checking.  And if you can manage it, keep a list of what you like and then wait for  the sales to roll around.  

Do you have any more tips on how to save money on clothes?  If so, do share in the comments below and share our tips with any friends who want to cut back on their spending too!

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