How to Get New Outfits for Free

27 Aug

Oh Autumn, why do you tempt me? It’s 90 degrees out and yet I find myself longing for that cable-knit sweater I saw at Marshall’s this past weekend. It’s olive — my go-to fall color for 2013 — and would look amazing with dark skinnies, cognac booties and a latte, preferably pumpkin spice. (I don’t even like pumpkin lattes – that’s how powerful a hold Autumn has on me.)

Sigh. It’s moments like this that make shopping embargoes so impossible. With a closet full of perfectly wearable clothes, putting the kibosh on fashion-related purchases seems like a reasonable cost-cutting measure, and yet — as the darling L Bee can attest — it’s pure torture.

My obsession with fashion is in direct conflict with my desire to save money and avoid spending frivolously. As such, I’ve tried a few things recently to score new-to-me outfits for nothing, and it works pretty well (olive cable-knit sweaters notwithstanding). Here are three ways I score new outfits for free, and a bonus tip I haven’t yet tried:

Shop My Closet: Back in my tweens, I was utterly captivated by Alicia Silverstone’s digital closet in the movie Clueless (yes, Girl Meets Debt, I totally understand your obsession with this movie). That’s why a headline in Mashable about that technology being available FOR REALS was so exciting, and why I immediately downloaded the Cloth app and started taking headless selfies of my outfit ensembles. My goals with the tool were to a) increase my confidence in outfit-building, and b) create a catalog of looks I could refer to during style slumps. It’s cool to scroll through the images and see how I style the same item differently. For example, my white skinnies:

whitedenim3 whitedenim2 whitedenim1

My favorite image is photo-bombed by my dog Derby. He cannot be outdone by white denim.

Shop My Friend’s Closet: One of my good friends also struggles with overspending on fashion. While commiserating our respective fashion addictions (#firstworldproblems, anyone?), we decided to swap unwanted clothes since we admire each other’s styles. Best. Decision. Ever! I’ve scored a handful of items from these swaps which I wear repeatedly.

Get Pin-spired: Pinterest can either feed or starve my shopping addiction depending on my state of vulnerability. For the purpose of this post, Pinterest is an awesome outfit consultant and one I’m using regularly. For example, I bought a chevron-patterned maxi skirt at the beginning of the season and wasn’t sure how to style it. So, I typed in “chevron maxi skirt” and pinned these ideas:

chevron1 chevronmaxi2 chevronmaxi1

And now for the bonus tip I promised…

Try Mystery Shopping: I know bloggers like MakingSenseofCents have done this side gig before and I think it’s brilliant, but have yet to take the plunge. Ultimately, stores will reimburse you a certain amount in exchange for feedback on your retail shopping experience. Naturally, some assignments require you purchase something to get the full experience. Aw shucks, do I have to?

While it’s entirely possible I’ll come home this week with that olive loveliness from Marshall’s, these strategies have saved my budget over the past few months. Now I want to hear from you — how do you save on clothing? Is there anything you have to actively keep yourself from buying?

10 Responses to “How to Get New Outfits for Free”

  1. debtfreeoneday August 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    I love your outfit selector photos – and your dog is so cute! I really need to become more fashionable these days, but it’s been hard what with debt repayment. But I like the idea of a clothes swap and perhaps I should sell my old stuff to make room for new. 🙂

    • Kendal August 27, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      I highly recommend a clothes swap and selling your clothes is a great idea, too. I haven’t done much in the way of consignment lately — I was actually quite the little consigner in my early teens — but I know friends who have lots of luck selling their clothes on eBay. I also suggest looking at your wardrobe and identifying your favorite items, then looking them up on Pinterest for outfit inspiration!

  2. DC @ Young Adult Money August 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Did I hear free?!? I’m all about free! I need to go through my closet and get rid of everything I don’t wear anymore, and maybe rediscover some things I SHOULD be wearing more often.

    • Kendal August 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      Going through your closet is really helpful since it gets rid of clutter and helps you see what you actually own! I’ve been pleased with my progress — I have enough stuff to wear a different look everyday and it’s amazing how much it diffuses my desire to go shopping. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter August 31, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    I have felt for the past little while that my closet needed a huge overhaul. I have just so many outfits that don’t fit (my weight fluctuates a lot) properly, or that don’t match anything. I also have a closet full of poorly constructed clothes. Sigh. I love what you’ve done here though.. I need to catalogue my stuff.

    • Kendal September 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      I have a few items saved which don’t fit me anymore but might again someday. These items are classic pieces, like work pants, which I spent good money on. You might consider going through your closet and saving items that don’t fit (but might someday) and donating garments that aren’t flattering. What you’ll have left is a closet full of pieces that fit your current shape from which you can build outfits.

  4. Stefanie September 2, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    Your closet is adorable. I just hosted a “clothing exchange” at my apartment last weekend so I have all my essentials for next summer. I’m also pulling out all my finds from the last exchange which I hosted at the start of spring (when everyone’s cleaning out their winter wardrobe). I’ve got three pairs of amazing boots to try (all free!!)

    • Kendal September 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

      That’s awesome! Clothing swaps are the best. I like how you organize your swaps at the end of the season, right when everyone is eager to get rid of what they don’t wear to make room for new seasonal stuff.

  5. Marissa@Thirtysixmonths September 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Love love love this post! Who says fashion and savings can’t possibly work well in a single statement. I really like your pinned idea of the mint chevron with the white tank top. It looks so fresh! Another tip is to try DIY. There are tons of DIY blogs out there that have a lot of great ideas.

    • Kendal September 4, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      Great point! I actually tried the tee shirt tube dress that’s floating around YouTube. Basically, you turn an XL tee shirt into a dress by squeezing through the collar and tying the sleeves behind you. Hilarious! It was actually kind of cute, but the shirt I used was slightly too small and super wrinkled, so I just looked like a hot mess.