The Cottage Lifestyle that I espouse is a simple philosophy consisting of easy-to-achieve ideals such as elective frugality, simple abundance, gratitude, heart-of-the-home values, homemade and hand-crafted, defining needs as opposed to wants, non-indebtedness, selective self-sufficiency, and a do-it- and grow-it-yourself attitude!
When it comes to clothes, fashion, and personal style I go for mixing frugal with a "spend" or two.
1. Accessories. Here's where I use my pocketbook! Think leather jackets, boots and shoes - comfort is essential when it comes to footwear - and cheap is NOT comfy.
A leather jacket, or two, can be expensive - several hundred dollars - but will last a lifetime. A great jacket will elevate your entire ensemble!
Feel free to add some whimsey just for the fun of it. Oversized, chunky jewelry, bold and colorful scarves, strappy shoes, etc. Or, go for an understated look. Just don't fall for ho-hum!
Handbags - still in good shape - are great thrift store finds that will save you tons! I love good leather, fabric, or straw handbags but won't spend a fortune for one.
2. Coordinates. I've discovered that one can save money by purchasing good-quality, gently used items from thrift and consignment stores...skirts, pants, sweaters, blouses. In fact, you can purchase higher quality used items for less than you will spend on the light-weight, sleezy, cheaply sewn "made-in-China" attire available at the local "__Mart" (you add the prefixes!).
I've found quality name brand clothes at consignment and thrift shops that when new cost a pretty penny! Used (and I mean gently used) can be ridiculously inexpensive...the Eddie Bauer turtle neck for $2.00, the Chico's skirt for $6.00, the Coldwater Creek lounging outfit for only $7.00!
When thinking coordinates, think homemade, knitted, and crocheted items too. Shrugs, sweaters, caps, leggings, shawls, and scarves are easy to make and fun to create.
Skirts are remarkably easy to make so...sew, sew, sew! You'll grow a wardrobe inexpensively. And by mixing and matching you'll have attire for every day of the month!
A simple A-line skirt made from an old dining room drapery panel. I've used the matching panels to make a gathered trim for a lamp, cover buttons for a knitted pillow, recover a footstool, used the side seams as gift wrap, and sewn a removable, washable cover for my dog's bed! And now I'm wearing a skirt made from one of the drapery panels.
When you save money on wardrobe items you can afford to buy the few costly pieces that will make your "look" seem top-of-the-line!
While the red leather jacket cost me over $200, the long-sleeved turtleneck beneath was only $1.50 at the thrift store.
Don't skimp on footwear! Comfort is essential here. However, handbags - expensive when new - are a steal purchased used and in good shape.
3. Bling and Practicality. Jewelry need not be expensive. Much of the fashion jewelry these days is made of brass, plastic, glass, and other low-cost materials...think baubles and glitz. Fun, fab, and glamorous!
As long as it's stylish and works with your outfits, you can have the "bling" without spending the big "bucks".
4. "Climate sense" is as important as fashion sense! Gloves, scarves, hats and caps...it's important not to sacrifice comfort and health for only "looks". Cold-weather comfort can be stylish, too.
For Winter weather I've left nylons and pantyhose behind! I wear leggings instead beneath my longish skirts worn with boots...a much warmer choice, easier to put on, and no snags or runs either!
5. When shopping thrift and consignment shops for clothing, like the look first. Then check to be sure seams are in good shape, that zippers zip, that buttons aren't missing and if they are do you have replacements?
Look for worn areas and stains. If the item passes muster you'll need to launder it or have it dry cleaned. I've found that I can usually skip the dry cleaning instructions by simple washing the item by hand or via gentle machine washing in cold water and shaping the item to dry on a soft towel.
So, build your own fashion sense by finding a look you love! Then get creative and replicate it yourself!