OK, time for a post on where we are trying hard to be super frugal- clothing! There are some ways we are doing this that feel successful, and other areas where I feel we are still struggling and can improve.
So here are a few of the wins:
*I work in an environment where I’m not judged for wearing the same few outfits over and over again.
I am in no way associated with an industry that deals in fashion, and I truly don’t care that I have pictures of me from dozens of different occasions wear I’m wearing the same outfit. I know. a lot of people stress about having the same look at different events- that does not play into one of the things I stress about or value. I’ve worn the same dress to different weddings (as seen in these pictures from weddings in 2016 and 2018) and I pretty much wear the same 10-15 outfits over and over again (and some of them are straight up yoga pants and tank tops).
I have a fairly minimal closet, and it would probably be even smaller if I hadn’t had children and gone through the “what can I wear as maternity and also nurse in” phase.
*Some of the clothing I wear on a regular basis I’ve owned for almost a decade. I try to buy materials that will hopefully last and outfits that have material that is breathable, but not super thin. SO MANY “cheaper” options are just that- cheaply made and cheaply worn out because they pill or fall apart after the first or second wash. I also don’t buy a lot of super trendy styles (see the above comment about not working in fashion… although I did cave to one of those exposed shoulder dresses recently. It’s just so perfect for Phoenix summers!) IT was nice to hear that several of my instagram followers also keep pieces around for many many years- I was blown away and humbled by one of my readers who told me she has been regularly wearing items she bought USED over 15 years ago! That really made me reconsider my excuse of not buying things used because they will wear out faster…
*Our children pretty much live in hand me downs… I wrote all about hand me downs in THIS POST, so I won’t re-hash too much, but my son is finally in the area where he destroys most of his clothing pretty fast, because that’s life as a five year old!
*My husband and I try not to have too many items of clothing. And, unless I’ve fallen into the trap of shopping in a rush, I am VERY picky about what I buy. Here’s another area I think we’re doing well- I can do VERY basic mending… I can’t do many alterations, but I can sew back on a button or mend a small tear or a hemline that has come undone. This definitely helps extend the life of our clothes.
*Shopping in the off season- this is more or less easier to do in Phoenix because we really only have “hot, hotter, and bearable” as our weather choices. As “summer looks” are going on sale, odds are good we still have another 6 weeks of weather where you can get away with short sleeved or sleeveless shirts as long as you have a jacket to throw over them. Our fast fashion world can make dresses on clearance at the end of a season end up cheaper than dresses I can find at a thrift store. But the part of me that wants to make more ethical and environmentally choices about what I wear is still really bothered by that and I want to get better about the kind of industry I support. It is REALLY hard to find the balance between not having a lot of expendable income for the family to spend on clothing and also not wanting to buy things that might have been made by labor conditions that I feel are deeply unjust. I am JUST beginning to grapple with this, and I definitely buy things out of convenience or how affordable they are most of the time, but I want that to change… which brings me to how I really hope to improve my frugal approach to clothing- while my kids live in mostly hand me downs or thrifted clothes, my husband and I buy almost all of our clothing brand new. Partially this is due to me not having the easiest body type to clothe. I’m petite but also curvy. It’s a weird combination, and it means that a lot of online options don’t work well for me without sending back a LOT of things on the search for something I will wear a lot. However, the biggest reason we buy new, especially my husband who could easily order stuff online, is that I just haven’t put much time into researching resources. In preparing for this blog post, I polled my instagram followers about if they bought most of their clothes used or new and almost 1/3 of the responses said used! I asked a few of them to tell me more about resources like Poshmark and Thredup, buying on places like facebook marketplace (not for me as I don’t have facebook, but potentially useful to my husband…) or Offer Up, and several also mentioned using rental services like rent the runway for special events. I want to research these more for the next time I need a new piece of clothing. I also want to research more about which materials tend to last the longest.
*I obsessively wash my clothes- maybe it’s just the time of life that I’m in, but many people who responded that they have clothing that lasted a long time told me that they try to wash things as little as possible. I feel like washing is a bit inevitable with things like workout clothes or summer shirts (because Phoenix…), but I want to try to start moving toward spot cleaning and refreshing clothes instead of washing every piece every time.
*Because we don’t keep large amounts of clothing, if something happens to a crucial piece of our wardrobe we often don’t have a lot of time to shop before replacing it. I need to get better about anticipating what piece is going to wear out or get wrecked so I can start doing some minimal shopping ahead of time (and take more advantage of things like shopping at the end of seasons for more than just what I think I can use for a few more weeks!)
*I want to revisit my sewing past time- I haven’t touched my sewing machine since having my second kid and I think if I learned some basic alteration skills then I could take advantage of buying an item that fits me everywhere but the shoulders or in every way but how long it is, etc. So that’s probably going on my tending list in the next couple of months.
Anyone have anything to add to the conversation about frugal fashion/apparel? I’d love to hear your tips or thoughts on buying used vs. new, keeping clothes for a long time, wearing what you have, and how to balance finances and ethical fashion choices when possible!