How to Maximize Your Wardrobe Without Minimizing Your Wallet

Brenna Parker

Humber public relations student

Toronto-based tips and suggestions on clothes and shopping

It is often when I find myself complaining about having nothing to wear and insisting that “I need new clothes.” Admittedly, I am dramatizing the situation and I acknowledge that new clothes fall under the luxury category, as opposed to necessity. But, that doesn’t change my opinion on the situation. As a student with only part-time hours at a restaurant, fashion doesn’t naturally fit into my budget, but I have found ways around that.

If you can relate to my situation, the following tips will be helpful in getting you out of your all-black-everything routine, without getting in the way of your

spending-half-your-paycheque-on-Friday-nights routine.

  1. Thrift shop!

Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There are two main benefits of thrift shopping: you can acquire double the amount of pieces for only a fraction of regular retail cost, and you can avoid wearing the same clothes as everyone else.

Thrift shopping isn’t easy for everyone, but it is a skill worth acquiring. Big thrift shops like Value Village or Goodwill are your one-stop-shops. Go alone or with one other friend and get yourself a cart with the mindset that you are going to fill it. These places are big and, unlike in regular retail stores, the really good pieces are hidden, so you must be prepared to look.

Buying several simple pieces is more beneficial than buying a couple bold items. A piece that is an outfit in itself will be worn rarely, whereas simple pieces are more versatile and can be put to many uses. This is not to say avoid intricate pieces altogether, but know your priorities are with the simple and more adaptable items. Fill your cart and try everything on; sizes in thrift stores are not what you know them to be, so make sure it fits!

You will find your best deals at the big used-clothing stores, but I would also suggest stopping in to any of the privately owned vintage stores that you come across in your daily adventures. The price range will probably raise, but so will the quality of product. At small vintage stores, I find the best selections of jackets, shoes and dresses.

I live in the east end of Toronto and frequent the Value Village at Woodbine and Danforth, but my favourite and most reliable location is the Lansdowne outlet. In terms of small vintage stores, I don’t have a preference, but Kensington Market never fails to deliver when it comes to vintage clothing—never mind good food, live music events, or fun late-night bars.

  1. Talk to Grandma


I recognize that when thinking of clothing or fashion, the word Grandma—or variations alike—does not come to mind. But, it is important to remember that fashion is cyclical and trends recycle themselves. This means that many of the trends popular right now can most likely be accredited to your grandmother’s generation or those before her. After all, it was the 1970’s that popularized the high-rise trend.

Now, I don’t know how hip or trendy your grandmother was in her time, nor whether she kept any of her old clothes, but if she could provide another clothing source, then I would suggest considering that option.

If you are granted access to your grandmother’s closet, remember that you probably won’t style the clothes exactly how she did, you will want to modernize them. For example, I would assume that your grandmothers tartan pantsuit wouldn’t be of much interest to you, so take only the jacket and pair it with a pair of light-denim ripped jeans.

The last thing I would suggest when looking through your grandmother’s wardrobe is that you find out if you have the same foot size as her before you let yourself look at her shoe collection. I fell in love with so many of my grandmother’s shoes that I couldn’t have due to the two-inch difference in our foot sizes.

  1. Keep it, Tweak it or Trade it


When doing your seasonal—or in my case, monthly—cull through your closet in an attempt to cut down on the number of clothes that seem to be taking over your living space, remember that there are alternatives to just throwing away or donating your belongings.

It sounds counteractive, but… you can keep it. When I say keep it, I mean in storage somewhere where it’s still out of your way and not for everyday use—if you have the space, that is. As mentioned before, fashion is cyclical and things will go in and out of style, so keeping some stuff that you think could make a comeback can be worth it. I recently revived an old, oversized, tattered, black T-shirt that I had gotten sick of years ago. Now it feels brand new all over again.

As for those pieces that you’ve worn so many times, you’re beginning to resent them… tweak them. Turn that dress-shirt into a collared- sleeveless; cut your t-shirt into a crop-top; keep the bottom half of that dress as a skirt. You can even use the fabric from pieces to make things like scarves or headbands.

Now if you know there is no use in keeping it and you can’t find a way to tweak it, then trade it! There are two options for this. You can organize a clothing trade with your friends or in your community.

Clothing trades make for great social events and they are an easy way to get rid of your old clothes while also getting new, free stuff. If you are too busy or too lazy to organize an event, then take your clothes to Common Sort and let them do all the work for you. Common Sort is a used-clothing store that will take your clothes and give you 50 per cent of the price they will sell it for in-store credit, or 25 per cent in cash. They may not take everything, but the rest you can donate.

All of these tips have helped me to keep my closet full and my clothing current. Admittedly, I still fall victim to the over-priced, brand-new pair of Top Shop jeans every once in a while, but nobody’s perfect, and everyone knows that pants are the hardest clothing item to find vintage. Some of these methods will require more time and effort and not everyone wants to pay that price, but let me leave you with one question: when leaving a store $100 poorer, would you rather be holding a bag filled with twenty items, or a bag filled with two?


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