Looking chic on a budget

Looking chic on a budget

I have been asked on several occasions to post about dressing on a budget. This a particularly difficult subject. One woman’s budget can be different to another’s. What might be cheap to one woman might seem expensive to another.

I have had times in my life when I have had little money to spend on clothes. I spent many years bringing up my two children on my own. At the same time I was building up my image and coaching consultancy and money was tight. My business involved selling image consultancy services to large corporations. I therefore had to look smart, currant and professional. Not easy.

Interestingly I tended to invest as much money as I could in well cut suits and coats. They seemed expensive at the time however they were well cut and in quality fabrics. Back in those days the high street still offered good quality fabrics. MandS had a range of Italian designed wool suits.

My quality suits lasted well. I could ring the changes with budget priced tops in different styles and colours. My shoes had to be good quality and comfortable as I was often standing all day.

My off duty clothes consisted of jeans and sweaters. I remember having a great mac which lasted years.

So what advice would I give if you are dressing on a limited budget. I find charity shops and second hand shops great hunting grounds. It takes perseverance.  If you have a charity or second hand shop close it is worth popping in on a regular basis. You never know you might find a gem.

Nowadays there are more options. TKMaxx can often turn up some great designer pieces. There are also several online sales sites like Vente Privee and Secretsales.

Another strategy I use is shopping in the sales. Nowadays there are sales on somewhere most of the year. I shop on sites or in shops that I know and like. I sometimes I watch a particular piece and hope that it turns up in the sale in my size. It is a bit of a lottery but I have some great pieces in my wardrobe from being patient.

What I don’t do is compromise on style, fit and quality. I do not find that it is worth it in the long run. My series “shop your closet” shows how long I keep my good quality clothes. If you consider “cost per wear” many of them must be minus by now.

I would recommend you go through your wardrobe. See if you are buying two budget garments where you could have bought one good quality one for the same price. Check where you have wastage.

The clothes I feature on this blog are mostly mid-range. Prices that I can afford or aspire to. I could show budget price garments on the blog. However as the blog has grown I have learnt from my own mistakes and do not feel that is the direction I want to go. There are excellent blogs out there who offer better advice on shopping on a budget. As I get older I feel that quality over quantity wins every time.


NORDSTROM – Seems to have a year round sale section

JOHN LEWIS – Has a special offer section

THE OUTNET – Is a good resource if you like designer pieces at reduced prices

UNIQLO – I find that Uniqlo is a good hunting ground for basics at good prices

BODEN – Has a clearance section. Low on sizes and mostly summer orientated.


In my collage my cream jacket is from  Zara (£29.99 from memory)
My black leather jacket is the oldest garment I own. Purchased in 1985 from AgnesB in Paris (has been altered to look more modern)
Black & White coat from MandS (£50 in the sale)
Long blue cashmere cardigan from TKMaxx (can’t remember the price)
Red wrap coat. Bought about 10 years ago from TKMaxx by Nicole Farhi.
Sheepskin coat (Probably the most expensive garment I have ever purchased) Purchased around 1998 from a catalogue company. By Cerrutti. I lusted after it for months and waited till it was in their sale.



  1. Christine
    3rd September 2016 / 16:58

    This is a great post with lots of sound advice. Good pieces do last for years and don’t date so quickly. Sometimes you just have to put them away for a bit and then bring them out again when the fashion swings back in their direction. However, the quality of much that is available in the high street has sadly declined. Once upon a time reasonable quality could be found in Next, Monsoon etc but not any more.

  2. Viv Butler
    3rd September 2016 / 17:05

    I agree with all of the above Josephine, for ladies of a certain age, you can manage with less, but quality and cut being paramount. I suggest also the Dress Agency, where with a good eye bargains can also be found. I love Gerard Darel in Guildford at sale time where I always come away feeling very French and tres chic. This will be put to the test on my upcoming holiday in Avignon !

    • 3rd September 2016 / 17:19

      Hi Viv
      I also love Gerard Darel and found some great bargains in the January sales in their shop in St. Tropez.

  3. Barbara
    3rd September 2016 / 17:50

    I have just spent four hours trying to plan my wardrobe for a cruise in October. I am appalled at how many clothes and accessories I have, and the amount I have spent. And your advice is so pertinent and I will try better in future – well I am about to become a grandmother so will have different priorities. But the excuse keep coming (I am not average size or height and beautiful scarves and jewellery are such a comfort!).

  4. Penelope
    3rd September 2016 / 20:01

    I now shop almost exclusively at consignment shops-I have some beautiful pieces that I could not afford at the regular price. I agree that jackets of designer quality are always worth the money-but having said that I just bought an Armani jacket at my local consignment shop for $40. After you shop at these stores for awhile, you get to know what is new/nearly new and whether or not it is worth purchasing. At one time, I was able to purchase new in the shops of my choice, however, I suffered a brain injury in a fall and after six months of rehab, have been on a disability pension ever since.

  5. 3rd September 2016 / 22:32

    Hi Josephine, interesting blog to read. I tend to by a mixture of expensive (not often) and cheaper. Cheaper normally the throw away after a short use, but the more expensive classic items get worn over and over. Nice to see your blog, maybe you could take a look at my blog? Thanks Jacqui

  6. Sue Lewellen
    4th September 2016 / 01:30

    I had a chance to shop Marshalls while in Austin TX. I got a Michael Kors sweater, Ann Klein pants, Calvin Klein shirt, a Violet and Claire blouse, a Cupio tunic and a pair of wondeful black and white checked leggings for $210. Thought I did pretty well!

  7. Sue Lewellen
    4th September 2016 / 01:30

    I find Marshalls to be a great place to find name-brand bargains.

  8. 4th September 2016 / 07:58

    I shop consigment shops, Marshall’s, TJMaxx (in the US), have started shopping at Nordstrom’s as well. I keep my clothes forever almost, so have a great amount t choose from. Now that I own a jewelry store, I have been wearing dresses all summer. Look forward to coller weather and jackets as well.

  9. 5th September 2016 / 09:09

    Thanks for all your great comments and recommendations. You seems to be very savvy shoppers

  10. Elizabeth Biggs
    14th September 2016 / 02:37

    Hi Josephine – I just started following your blog and really like it – especially your tips about accessories. I too am obsessed with scarves! One thing that I would love to see is information for over 50 women who are bigger/curvier – that presents an additional obstacle in our quest to be stylish. I had my one and only child near 40 and never bounced back to pre-baby weight. I find that in plus sizes, there is a fine line between age appropriate/classy and frumpy. Thanks! Liz

    • 14th September 2016 / 08:49

      Hi Elizabeth
      Scarves and accessories are a great way to draw attention towards your face and away from other areas. Not sure if you are in the UK or US. If UK two brands I use often are very stylish and good for curvier figures.

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