clothes shopping in clothing store 50 percent off sale rack

Spend Less, Dress Better: No More Back-of-the-Closet Mistakes

Cutting the cost of clothes is less about finding bargains and more about knowing what to wear, where to buy and when to stop buying.

clothes shopping in clothing store 50 percent off sale rack

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if one day the Shopping Fairy smiled on you and gave back all the money you’ve ever spent on clothes you didn’t wear? How much would you have? Enough for a new car, maybe even a summer cottage? I could surely boost my retirement fund with all the money I’ve wasted on back-of-the-closet mistakes.

Here’s the problem: We head for the racks with no particular plan in mind. If it fits, it’s a candidate. And if it’s also on sale? Done deal. That kind of shopping just wreaks havoc on a bank account and can fill the dark side of the closet fast.

Cutting the cost of clothes is less about finding bargains and more about knowing what to wear, where to buy, and when to stop buying.

What’s Right for You

Your uniform

Everyone needs a uniform. This is your look, your signature style. Your uniform addresses your body type, shape, image, and color palette.

Your shape

Clothing is always designed for silhouette first and measurements second says professional stylest Kendall Farr, author of The Pocket Stylist. Your measurements can change, but your essential frame remains the same―that’s your silhouette.

A simple way to describe your shape uses letters and a number:

  • A is smaller at the top than at the bottom
  • V is just the opposite
  • H is straight up and down
  • 8 is curvaceous

The properly shaped garment for your silhouette creates an unbroken line, which means the item fits
properly. Once you identify your silhouette, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to spot that same shape in
clothes on the rack.

An item of clothing that is not cut to your silhouette will never fit your shape―no matter the size, how
it’s cut or how many times it’s been marked down.

When you start learning how to make the right choice for your body type, you’ll stop wasting money on
clothes that look great on the hanger but are all wrong in the mirror.

Your image

Your clothing image is that “look” to which you are drawn most often. Stumped? Your favorite outfits hold the clues. Consider what you like to wear, then stick with that look.

  • Romantic: Ruffles and lace, soft luxurious fabrics, gently curved lines, dainty patterns, draped silhouettes.
  • Sporty: All kinds of sportswear, from casual to chic; comfortable, versatile, and practical clothes; slacks instead of dresses when appropriate.
  • Classic: Separates and traditional, tailored pieces that are always in style.
  • Dramatic: Distinctive or theatrical clothing in bold prints and designs.

Your colors

Each of us has natural coloring. It’s in our DNA and shows up in our hair, eyes and skin. Certain colors will make you look healthier, radiant, and alive, even without makeup.

“The predominant tone or color under your skin dictates the colors you should wear,” says professional color analyst Susan Anderson. “For example, if your natural skin color has yellow undertones and you wear yellow, you will appear yellow. But wearing colors with blue undertones balances the yellow, resulting in a beautifully radiant appearance.”

Go to for a simple, free online analysis, or consult the classic book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackon.

Take Action

Your plan

Creating a written plan for the number of pieces you need for your lifestyle is invaluable.
Why? Because without a specific plan, you won’t know when to stop buying and will just keep spending
mindlessly. Generally, suits are the foundation of a wardrobe. Whether yours are business suits or running
suits depends on where you are in your life.

Closet sweep

While there are likely many items in your wardrobe you need to purge, you may be surprised to discover how many pieces you already have to plug into your wardrobe plan. Take everything out of your closet. Audition the clothes you own by trying them on. Only those that fit your shape, style, and color palette—and fill a slot on your written plan—earn a place back in your closet.

Everything else? Sell what you don’t want at a yard sale or an online auction site like eBay. Or donate it to charity and take a tax deduction for the fair market value of each piece.

Mix and match

If you stick to your style, shape, and color palette, you’ll probably be able to come up with new outfits by mixing and matching what you already have—and it won’t cost a dime. Look to inexpensive accessories to keep up with trends and fads. But when investing in classic pieces like slacks, suits and skirts, always try to go for quality.

Find a tailor

A good tailor can take a garment down by as many as two sizes. This means a jacket or pair of slacks that is perfect in every other way may still be a candidate for your wardrobe plan.

Smart Shopping

Time the sales

Waiting for sales is a great way to stretch your clothing dollars, particularly if you are ready to invest in a few high-end pieces. Typically stores discount spring and summer clothes in June and  July, then put fall and winter items on sale in January and February. Each store also has its own sales cycle. One reader says her local Target marks down clothes every Tuesday night. That makes Wednesday morning her favorite time to go shopping.

Find out how your favorite store operates, then time your purchases. If an item you need isn’t on sale, ask the staff when it will be. Try requesting that a particular item be held for you pending the markdowns.

Other places to buy

These days, there’s a whole new world of opportunity in consignment, vintage, discount, and thrift stores, warehouse clubs, outlets, and even eBay.

Shop online

This can be a bit tricky. But you can find great bargains online if you’re familiar with how a specific brand or item fits and are confident about the color. Make sure you know the website’s return policy and factor shipping charges into your final cost.



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