As a fashion editor who revels in shopping (and spends most of my day discovering trending new clothes), it can be hard to resist buying something new every few weeks. But last year, as my credit card bills soared, I made a pact with myself at the beginning of this year to be a smarter shopper in 2020. And with the current circumstances, it’s made me even more conscious about where and how I’m spending right now.
Which brings me to the million-dollar question: How do you feel stylish when you don’t want to spend any money? There’s no doubt (now more than ever as we find ourselves in our new stay-at-home reality) that we want to feel and look good, and luckily, fashion has a wonderful way of uplifting our spirits (even during quarantine).
By having a few clever styling tricks up your sleeve, mixing the right pieces, and rediscovering your own wardrobe, you can completely transform and elevate your look. But most importantly, feeling and looking your best is all about a good attitude, so wear that thrift-store find with pride.
Scroll below as we share some tips on how to feel stylish without spending any money. And if you can’t resist the urge to scoop up a few pieces, you can shop our affordable picks that we believe are worth the investment.
1. De-Clutter Your Closet & Get Reacquainted With Your Wardrobe
It’s time to go shopping in your closet! You'd be surprised by all the wonders that lie within your own wardrobe. The first step to rediscovering all the amazing pieces in your closet is decluttering and reorganizing so you can easily see everything you own. (Check out some useful organizational tricks if you need some tips.) Once you get a clear idea of what’s in your wardrobe, you can have fun styling the pieces in fresh ways.
Perfect for organizing your closet:
2. Experiment With Accessories
Even old clothes can be elevated with the right accessories (which don't have to cost a lot of money). Rummage your jewelry and accessories drawer for chic and trending pieces that will add a stylish touch to your outfit. A bold headband, a cool scrunchie, a statement chain necklace, retro socks, a vintage-print headscarf, a trending baseball cap, or cool hair clips can all add a fashion-forward look.
A statement scrunchie (especially in a chic fabric such as leather) will instantly jazz up all your outfits.
Baseball caps are having a major moment among the fashion set this season (spotted all over our feeds). The best part is they're affordable and you probably already own one.
Jewelry is one of the chicest ways to elevate your basics. Raid your jewelry box and play with layering.
A statement headband will liven up your look with zero effort required.
Affordable accessories we love:
3. Style Your Favorite Basics in a Myriad of Inventive Ways
Your trusty basics are the backbone of a timeless wardrobe, but it’s how you style your staples that can breathe new life into your look. Get creative with the pieces you love most. For example, a classic relaxed button-down shirt can be styled with cycling shorts, tube socks, and sneakers one day and worn under a knit bra top the next. Take a look at our Insta account for plenty of outfit styling ideas, and check out some of these cool fashion-girl Insta accounts to get inspired.
Under a knit bra.
With high-waisted shorts.
Open with sweats.
Under a tube top.
A great basic:
4. Get Creative With Layering
Following the note above, layering your existing clothes in nifty ways can also create a stylish look. Think: slinging a sweater loosely over another sweater, wearing your tube socks over the bottom of your sweats, belting an oversize cardigan, or styling a hoodie under a blazer. There are countless cool ways to feel stylish using the pieces you already own.
A hoodie under a blazer makes for a perfect business-casual look.
It's a safe bet you have at least two sweaters in your closet. Make the most out of them and layer one nonchalantly over another.
Layering your tube socks over your sweats is a surefire way to look wholly on trend.
Belt a billowy dress, layer on a cool vest, and finish with boots and accessories galore.
A pointy collar shirt over a sweatshirt and sweatpants is one cool layered look.
Layer that cute cardigan you have over a wide-collar blouse for a seriously pretty look.
5. Try a Tonal Look
Wearing the same color scheme from head to toe in different textures will elevate any look. Check your closet for fabrics in the same color scheme like denim or cashmere, and create an ensemble that looks luxe.
An affordable tonal look:
6. Search Your Closet for Fabrics, Prints, and Silhouettes That Are Trending Right Now
From this season's biggest fabric trends (such as leather, crochet, vintage denim) to the print trends that were all over the runways (pinstripes, polka dots, vintage florals) and the silhouettes that are trending right now (voluminous, billowy dresses, puff sleeves, wide-leg trousers), scouring your closet for some of these specific styles will keep your looks very au courant.
Puff sleeves, vintage-inspired collars, and wide-leg trousers are all trending in 2020.
If you wear one print, make it polka dots—a classic most of us already own.
Leather continues to reign supreme as one of the biggest trends of 2020.
7. Look to Zara's Site for Styling Ideas
Aside from taking to Instagram for inspo, Zara is a treasure trove of on-trend outfit ideas that will get you inspired to style similar pieces that you may already own. The hard part will be trying to resist adding everything to your cart! Frankie Shop, Net-a-Porter, and Pixie Market are also great sites to look at for trending outfit inspo.
8. Raid a Friend's Closet
Or your sister's or your partner's, for that matter. If your friends and family are willing to part with (or will allow you to borrow) certain items in their closet, this will give you the chance to reinvigorate your wardrobe with zero spending involved. I can't tell you how many cool vintage belts, bags, and cardigans I've scooped up from my mom's closet, as well as oversize button-down shirts and crew-neck sweaters that I've snagged from my husband's side of the armoire—providing my wardrobe with a welcome refresh.
9. Do a Clothing Swap
On a similar note, trading clothes with a stylish friend is a great way of gaining some exciting new pieces without spending any money. Or even better—when quarantine is over—have a big clothes swap party over cocktails.
10. Find the Love for Your Steamer and Iron
I feel embarrassed at the number of pants, blouses, skirts, and dresses I never wear (but absolutely love) because—quite frankly—they need a good iron. But when I overcome my laziness and finally succumb to steaming or ironing, it’s like I have a whole new closet of clothes that have just been delivered. Time to make friends with your steamer and iron!
Invest in a steamer:
11. Buy Quality Pre-Owned & Secondhand Items
If you do have a small budget to spend, then think about shopping on sites that sell secondhand, pre-owned, and vintage items, such as The RealReal (for designer discount goods), Etsy, eBay, and Poshmark as well as online vintage stores. Check out some of my favorites. Opt for quality pieces that will last.
The RealReal is our favorite for pre-owned designer wares:
Judith is the senior fashion market editor at Who What Wear and has worked in fashion for nearly a decade. Judith started on the Shop Who What Wear team, creating content and managing a team of merchandisers for the Who What Wear shopping app. She later crossed over to the editorial team, where she shares the coolest, most desirable fashion market finds and brands in her shopping-focused stories and social takeovers. She has become one of the top affiliate earners during her six plus years at Who What Wear. Before working in fashion, Judith was a TV host on the PBS travel show Globe Trekker (airing on Netflix and Amazon Prime) and shared her passion for travel and food. She studied at the prestigious London Academy of Dramatic Arts as well as Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. She later studied fashion merchandising and design, which laid the foundation for her career in fashion.