How to Upgrade Your Wardrobe Without Spending a Dime on Clothes

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By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and The Flat Broke Cookbook 

Do you want to upgrade your wardrobe? Maybe you’re hoping for that promotion or wanting to look more professional at the office. Perhaps you want to look a little bit more respectable when dropping the kiddos off at school so you finally get your foot in the door of the PTA. It could be that you’re getting back into the dating pool. Or it might just be a matter of wanting to improve your mood and appearance for yourself.

Some people will read this and roll their eyes. That’s absolutely fine. Not every article on this website is for every person. But whether we like it or not, how we present ourselves to the world strongly influences how the world treats us. We can say that it isn’t fair, it’s what’s inside that’s important, or that we’re above such shallow notions, but what should be and what is are often two different things.

You don’t have to go out and buy all-new apparel to level up your look. In fact, most of us can upgrade our wardrobe without spending a single dime on clothes. Here are some tips to help you present a polished appearance to the world using the clothing you already have.

Get rid of things that don’t look good on you.

First things first, it’s time to purge, my fellow Frugalites. You don’t need to keep every stitch of clothing you’ve ever owned. We often see massive closets filled with clothes on social media and television it can seem like dire poverty not to have a closet that is overstuffed to bursting. But by getting rid of anything that doesn’t resonate with your desired style, you can actually look far more polished.

Here are some things you should consider casting aside.

  • Anything that is unflattering
  • Anything that is just plain ugly
  • Anything you haven’t worn in the past 2 years (aside from formal wear or event-specific items)
  • Anything that is too badly damaged to repair
  • Anything that is stained beyond redemption
  • Anything that is more than 2 sizes too big or too small

There are many different ways to deal with culled clothes:

  • Donate them to a women’s shelter or a thrift store to help others
  • Sell them on Facebook Marketplace or eBay
  • Have a yard sale
  • Put them in a consignment store
  • Stash them away for “someday” if you just can’t part with them. (If you do this, remove them from your day-to-day wardrobe, so you aren’t tempted to wear them.)

Obviously, we need some casual clothes and some things for cleaning and painting. However, this doesn’t mean you need an entire wardrobe made up of nothing else, nor does it mean that your casual clothes must be unattractive.

Mend your clothing.

Do you have clothing that needs to be mended? Clothing that has not been maintained looks sloppy. Dropped hems, dangling threads, separated seams, and missing bottoms are all things that can be fixed very easily and take the same garment from slovenly to smart.

A frugal habit of mine for decades has been to toss things that require mending in a basket beside where I sit to watch television. The basket contains a thorough sewing kit. Whenever I sit down to watch television, I pick up something that needs fixing and do my mending while watching some Netflix. (It’s one of my productive hobbies.)

While you have your needle and thread out, consider making some simple alterations to items that don’t fit quite right. Here’s a guide to reasonably simple alterations you can make with minimal sewing skills.

Iron or steam your clothing.

I absolutely loathe ironing and always have. But if you want to look good in clothes that you already own, nothing will up-level these items like a nice crisp pressing.

If you are on the same page as me regarding ironing, consider investing in a handheld steamer. I have this one and use it all the time. It’s lasted for years.

A couple of cheap hacks that will work with some clothing:

  • Hang what you want to wear in the bathroom when you have a hot shower.
  • Pop the item in the dryer with a wet washcloth. (Use a cloth from the same color family so you don’t have contrasting lint on your outfit.)

Maintain your shoes.

One thing that can really drag down a look is unkempt shoes. Footwear that is scuffed, dirty, and damaged makes it look like you didn’t put that much effort into your appearance. Luckily, this is a simple fix in many cases. Some footwear simply needs to be washed or cleaned to be presentable.

I always keep a simple shoe polishing kit on hand. This one has black, white, and neutral polish, as well as a variety of brushes and buffers to keep your shoes shining and clean-looking. A very simple shoe repair for ladies is replacing heel tips that look worse for wear.

If you have high-quality footwear that is showing its age, it might be worthwhile to visit a cobbler to replace soles or heels. I wouldn’t do this with inexpensive shoes that can be easily replaced, but I would absolutely do this with expensive shoes from my less frugal days.

Create outfits from what you already have.

Now that your clothes are flattering, well-maintained, and wrinkle-free, it’s time to assemble some attractive and elegant outfits. Because I travel extensively, I rely on a capsule wardrobe so most of my belongings can be mixed and matched.

Lay out the everyday bottoms you have kept on your bed.  Keep your tops hanging in the closet. Now, take each bottom and look through your tops to see what looks nice together. Consider trying things on so that you ensure they do look good together. I sometimes hang my clothing together in outfits to make getting dressed quick and easy. You can also keep a wardrobe notebook to document the things that you intend to wear together.

If you’re looking for inspiration, go to Pinterest and search up the type of outfit that you’re looking for. You’ll get tons of ideas that you can use to create looks from your existing wardrobe. Here’s a search I did for “work outfits.”

Use a lint roller.

For the love of all things cute and fluffy (see what I did there?) use a flipping lint roller before you leave the house! As a pet owner for decades, I always keep one right beside my door. It’s a quick step that takes just a few seconds but helps you to look crisp and clean. This isn’t just important if you have pets. We all have various fuzzies that can attach themselves to us.

Do you have any tips to upgrade your wardrobe?

Have you ever decided to upgrade your wardrobe? Are there clothing maintenance tasks you’d never leave the house without doing? Are there any tips that I left out? How do you feel about the idea of presenting yourself differently? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

How to Upgrade Your Wardrobe Without Spending a Dime on Clothes
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of TheOrganicPrepper.com, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

1 thought on “How to Upgrade Your Wardrobe Without Spending a Dime on Clothes”

  1. I use scarves to update my sweaters and blouses. Thrifted of course.
    I cannot emphasize enough that if you take care of your clothes they will take care of you. I am retired and don’t have the wear and tear on my shoes and clothing that I once had. I neither wash nor dry clean them as much, often going a few years before dry cleaning, but then I only have 2 articles that require it. I go as many as wearing an item 4 times to a week before laundering. Use the dryer sparingly. And like you, Daisy, I mend and polish as needed. Always wear boots in the winter.
    Keep your weight within 5 pounds if you are slim. Avoid gaining the pounds and if you need to lose, cut out sugar.
    I find that keeping hair and nails clean and neat and paying attention to overall grooming despite the age or style of your clothing is the best thing.

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