I’ve written a few times on my recent pivot from buying and wearing bargain-basement clothing to purchasing higher-quality items. Wearing $115 jeans and $80 blazers is fun, but not so much for my wallet.
Even though I wear clothing that has a higher price tag, I very rarely pay the full retail price.
Here’s how I wear higher-quality clothing on a budget (and you can too):
1. Change your perspective on what a “deal” is.
I used to think spending anything more than $4 on a shirt and $10 on jeans was wasteful. It wasn’t until I actually tried on more expensive clothing that I realized that higher-quality, higher-priced clothes fit better and lasted longer than their cheaper counterparts. Plus I actually wore the more expensive items more often. (You know, the “this was a bargain but I never wear it” situation.)
Instead of judging a piece of clothing solely on my out-of-pocket expense I have started to evaluate clothing by how versatile the piece is (can I wear it with lots of other items already in my closet), how it fits, and how it makes me feel.
Why would I wear a pair of $15 mid-rise Old Navy jeans that makes my muffin top spill out and makes me feel horrible about myself when I could spend $60-$100 on high-rise NYDJ jeans that completely contain my mid-section and make me feel curvy, trim, and super cute.
Plus my price-per-wear on a pair of quality jeans will most likely be lower than the price-per-wear on cheap jeans that I don’t like wearing.
2. Know your preferred styles and sizes.
This is the research portion of the process. You need to go to the store and try stuff on so you can discover you favorite brands and the sizes that fit you the best.
Why? Because you will very rarely be able to find amazing deals in the store. The best prices will typically be found online and you need to know exactly what you’re looking for.
In the beginning, just work on the basics: jeans, shoes, and a general shirt size. Spend the time figuring out if you wear petite, regular, or tall, regular or plus. Measure inseams and rises of the pants. Write everything down.
I probably spent 2-3 hours trying on every single high-rise jean in Nordstrom and Macy’s finding the brand, style, and size that fit the best. Yes, it was a pain, but now I don’t need to do it again.
Now that I know the sizes I wear in my favorite brands and styles, I can work my magic on the internet to find sales, discounts, and deals from the comfort of home.
3. Search Amazon and eBay for deals and discounts.
My first stop when shopping online is always, always Amazon. If I am looking for a new pair of jeans, I do a quick search on Amazon to see if my preferred brand (NYDJ), style (bootcut), and size (6 or 6 Petite) are discounted.
You can also search eBay for discounts, just look for a reputable seller (with a 99%+ positive feedback + tons and tons of transactions).
I prefer Amazon because most fashion items (clothing, shoes, etc.) can be returned for free.
4. Sign up for email and promotional lists.
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, Nordstrom and Macy’s are the primary places you’ll find higher-quality clothing, so it’s a good idea to sign up for their promotional emails.
You’ll be notified of promotions and sales, and sometimes, especially with Macy’s, they have email-only discount codes.
You should also sign up for Nordstrom’s Rewards program — you’ll get a $20 credit when you purchase $2,000.
5. Shop local secondhand/thrift stores and online sites, like thredUP (get a $10 credit if you’re new to thredUP HERE) and Schoola (get a $10 credit if you’re new to Schoola HERE), for your preferred brands and sizes.
As you shop secondhand, understand that you’ll have a lot of misses, meaning you’ll go shopping and find absolutely nothing at all. But sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot and find $150 jeans for $20.
Here’s a list of our readers’ favorite secondhand shops in Oregon and SW Washington:
- Shwop — SE Portland; Amazing concept. You purchase a membership which allows you to swap out clothing as you please. You give them the items you no longer wear and get items you need right now. Individual and family memberships available.
- Degrees of Chic — Canby, Oregon (now exclusively online)
- Here We Go Again — Portland (2 locations)
- Plato’s Closet — Beaverton, Clackamas, Salem, Eugene
- Rock It Resell — Beaverton, Aloha
- William Temple House Thrift Store — NW Portland
- Crossroads Trading Co. — Portland (2 locations)
- GHM Boutique — Portland/Beaverton
- New to You — McMinnville
- Simply Posh — Lake Oswego
- Button — N Portland
- Funky Munkey — Salem
- Buffalo Exchange — Portland (2 locations), Eugene
- Spanky’s — Vancouver, Beaverton
- Salvation Army — 50% off on Wednesdays
We love fashion at Frugal Living NW and love sharing the deals we find even more! Sign up for our Frugal Fashion emails HERE and we’ll keep you updated when we find great deals on high-quality clothing!
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