How to curate your wardrobe on a budget

I started 2019 on a mission to curate my wardrobe. I felt overwhelmed by my cluttered closet, was tired of holding on to things I never wear, and wanted to commit to an aesthetic that feels truly me. Fashion is one of the best ways to express yourself, but it’s not always easy to do that on a student budget. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned that will hopefully help you on your own journey towards a revamped wardrobe and heightened self-expression.


Make a Vision Board

It sounds cheesy, I know, but hear me out. Gathering pictures of clothing items, color schemes, or makeup looks that you love will help keep your vision in mind. If you don’t have a collection of fashion magazines to deconstruct with a pair of scissors, Pinterest is your new best friend. The free browser extension lets you save images from your favorite Instagram influencers or online shopping sites onto a virtual board. Just don’t get carried away; keeping this board small (around 10-20 pictures) will force you to really refine your style, so you aren’t replacing clutter with more clutter.


Clean it Out, Marie Kondo-Style

Speaking of clutter, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” came right when I needed it. Just thinking about the stash of styles I’ve accumulated over the years made me anxious. Kondo recommends taking everything off their hangers and out of your drawers, creating a clothing mountain on your bed. Then, look at each piece individually and ask, “Does this spark joy?” The idea that your belongings should bring you joy is so liberating- it has really made me question my relationship to my belongings and my purchasing habits, and transformed my view of consumerism. Don’t be afraid to be brutal during this step: if you don’t wear it, if it doesn’t feel like ‘you,’ if it doesn’t spark joy, it’s got to go. Life can be messy, but your closet doesn’t have to be.


Your Money Back, (Somewhat) Guaranteed

Once you’ve separated what sparks joy from what doesn’t, sort through what you’re letting go of. It’s great to donate what you can, but as penny-pinching students, selling your clothes can add to your budget for new items. The easiest way to earn a little cash is to take your in-season styles to Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange, which will give you cash or store credit for a fraction of each item’s selling price. But if you have the time and are willing to put in a little more effort, selling online can get you a higher return. Consider listing high-quality vintage or thrifted pieces on Depop (basically a thrift store in app form), or sell newer items from well-known retailers on Poshmark or ThredUp. Just keep a close eye on site policies, commission, shipping rates, the original price of the item and the value of your time in mind when settling on a price.


Shop with Intention

I sometimes find myself thumbing through thrift store racks or scrolling through online shops just looking for something to want. In order to get out of this habit, look at what you already have. Ask yourself, what’s missing from my wardrobe? Do I need a few basics, like a go-to cozy hoodie, or a long-lasting pair of jeans? Make a list, then seek those specific pieces out. Shopping with intention will save you time and money, as well as the regret of buying something you rarely wear.


Build Upon Basics

Start with basic pieces, especially if you’re just trying out different styles. Once you’ve got a feel for your aesthetic, go for statement pieces. Yes, I’m talking about those pinstripe conductor overalls you’ve been eyeing for months. No, do not hesitate to buy that plaid blazer that evokes your inner lady boss. Maybe it’s finally time to treat yourself to those wild platform boots you’ve been ogling. Whatever it is, consider putting a few dollars aside each month for statement pieces, which will force you to really think about them before investing, and make it all the more exciting once you finally do.


Last - But Not Least - Be Honest with Yourself

Clothing is such a powerful form of self-expression. Your clothing speaks to who you are, and it can also speak to who you want to be. What image do you want to put out into the world? If you’ve never thought about it before, it may take some looking around and experimenting with styles. But the most important thing to do when curating your closet is to be honest with yourself about what you love, what you’re comfortable in, and what feels genuinely you.


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