Frugal fashion: dress for less

frugal fashionWe all like to look smart and stylish when we need to. However, like many people, my income doesn’t allow lots of clothes shopping. I need smart clothes for work and I want some nice things for social occasions. So how to buy decent clothes on a budget? Is frugal fashion possible and can you really dress for less?

First steps to frugal fashion

Buy second hand

Buying second hand is clearly better for your budget than making new purchases. Don’t be sniffy about wearing someone else’s cast offs. No one will know unless you choose to tell them and may be impressed if you call second hand clothes vintage! Just wash them before you wear them.

Second hand frugal fashion offers other benefits too. I can buy better quality than I could afford new, I am often supporting a charity, and items get re-used rather than thrown away. Why not be a green fashionista? With this in mind, the best places to buy second hand are boot sales, charity shops and eBay. You can also sometimes find second hand items of clothing on Facebook. I used to love a good jumble sale, but you rarely see them these days.

Boot sales

I love it when the boot sale season begins. It is best to go when the weather is good as you will be more likely to find people who have had a clear out and genuinely just want rid of stuff at a good price. If you go on rainy days you might find a field full of professional traders who charge a lot more. Get there early and take as much change as you can. A couple of carrier bags are always useful.

Many of my clothes come from boot sales and I am not ashamed to admit it. They are great places to indulge in a bit of frugal fashion retail therapy if you don’t have much money. I have a post about buying from car boot sales here.

Charity shops

Charity shops aren’t as cheap as they used to be. Most now understand that they can reasonably charge more for designer names and decent brands. In the end, they are trying to raise money for good causes so who can blame them?

You can still pick up a bargain, though. Most have changing rooms, of course, so you can make sure you like your items and they suit you before handing over your hard earned cash. You can also take them back if you have a change of heart, as long as you keep the receipt.


I still buy a lot of frugal fashion from eBay. It is a bit of a lottery as most private sellers won’t accept returns unless there is something wrong with the item or it was incorrectly described. If I purchase something and it doesn’t suit, I simply re-sell it (you might like to read my post about selling clothes on eBay).

If you want to buy a new item, it is worth searching the brand outlet section. There are some great bargains and huge discounts to be had from Boohoo, Very, Littlewoods and Skechers, for example.

Everything 5pounds

Still one of my favourites, is always great value. I buy a lot of my work clothes from there. The items tend to be aimed at a younger woman than myself, so I have to scroll through. I always search the internet to see if I can find a free postage code to make it even cheaper.

I Saw it First

Although not quite as cheap as Everything5pounds, I Saw it First always seems to have a huge sale going on with discounts of 40 or 50%. It only sells tiny sizes though, so not for everyone for sure.


In our house we call it Primarni…. Primark is still a brilliant place to go for frugal fashion. I like buying basics there such as T-shirts, jumpers and vest tops, but have also found it great for tights, socks, knickers and pyjamas.

I used to worry that Primark was so cheap because they didn’t ensure the workers who make the clothes were properly paid and looked after, but they have a declaration of their ethics on their website that is reassuring.

frugal fashionWatch out for their in store reductions for even better bargains. My daughter recently bought some boots that were reduced to £1! Actually, as they were so cheap she got a pair for her sister as well.

Bargain Crazy

A site I have just discovered is Bargain Crazy, another outlet for Littlewoods. They don’t just sell clothes, but everything you might find in a Littlewoods catalogue.

Sometimes there is a reason the items didn’t sell – I was just looking at a voluminous wet look skirt thinking ‘that would be a mistake’…. However, if you do find something you like it will be at a good price.

Supermarket savvy

Supermarkets are really good for clothes. I tend not to look at them when I am doing my general shopping, though, as it is too easy to over spend. I will go in specially if I need something. This week I bought two T-shirts in Asda which will be ideal for my yoga practice. They were just £6 for two. Bargain!!

I prefer the choice in Tesco, though. The style of clothing seems to be more my taste and the quality is good. The items aren’t super cheap, but great value. They are fantastic for jeans. It is well worth keeping an eye out for the sales too.

Get cash back

Before you buy anything online, be it frugal fashion or something else, it is worth checking TopCashback to see if you can get cash back on your purchases. If you use my referral code I will earn a commission and you can currently score a £5 Tesco gift card*.

I also recommend checking the Money Saving Expert deals. They research current deals on everything, including fashion.

Market stalls

If you are lucky enough to have a decent market in your home town then, of course, the clothes stalls there are always worth perusing. You do need to watch the quality, however. They do tend to be cheap for a reason…

There does, though, seem to be a trend for beautiful floaty clothes in neutral colours on our markets now. If you ever go abroad to places like Mallorca or Tenerife you will see loads of shops selling similar items. These aren’t generally that cheap.

I know some of you will say that you prefer to spend a little more on items of clothing that are classic and will last. This is a good idea too, but in reality most of us get bored with the same old stuff. Our weight fluctuates and even really decent quality items will only take so many washes before they start to look a little tired. So it makes sense to pay less when you can.

If you have no budget at all remember you can always ‘shop’ from your wardrobe. Dig out those things that sit unworn and unloved in the back of the closet and give them another go. If you know you will never wear them, sell them or donate to charity. Take the wardrobe challenge!

*This offer finishes on 30th April 2018 and you have to spend £10 in order to receive the card. For full terms and conditions go to the Top Cashback website.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry – it won’t cost you a thing. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Thank you to @makeupbyisobel for the loan of the photos – sassy!

4 thoughts on “Frugal fashion: dress for less

  1. I have not bought anything new for my work wardrobe in over 10 years. Everything is either from a charity shop, car boot or a hand-me-down.

    Charity shops in more exclusive areas/towns usually work out cheaper. If I want/need a charity shop fix then I’ll go to the next town 10 miles away. Brand names and good quality lines to be had for the same price as Tesco & Primarni items in my local area.

  2. I think much depends not only on one’s pocket but also how one wishes to dress. I was always taught to buy the best that I can afford and it will always look smart, and for the most part I have done this. I mightn’t be in the vanguard of fashion, but as we know, fashion and style are often two different things. Iris Apfel has style but she’s not fashionable. Style over fashion any day, I say.
    If you want to have loads of clothes, a quick turn around of things, so that next summer you won’t be wearing this summer’s T-shirts and dresses, then by all means buy cheaply either new or secondhand. But if you want to have things which will last and serve you well, and always look smart, then save for really good garments, especially when it comes to the large ticket items. I have a cream wool Artigiano blazer (we must now call them blazers, I think, not jackets) which I bought dozen years ago and last year I had it modified slightly to a more modern look (shorter length) and it will be worn again this summer. It is still smart 12 years after purchase, Q.E.D. and I still love it.
    Margaret P

    • This isn’t possible for people on a really low income, however. For example my daughter has just got a new job but has little money to buy office attire. She will be searching for secondhand and buying a few bits from Primark. Buying quality new items costs a lot and it’s not worth getting in debt if you can’t wait.

      • No, I’d never go into debt to buy clothes, and I’ve bought many things from charity shops in the past. Thank goodness there are shops like Primark and the supermarkets who now sell acceptable clothes, Jane. When I was growing up there weren’t such places, clothes were expensive wherever you went, people just had fewer clothes, generally speaking, in the 1950s and 1960s.
        Margaret P

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