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Frugal city living - clothes

Living in the city during the week and attending work in the CBD has forced me to update my wardrobe - frugally.  I wrote about frugal city living - food last week, and if you missed the post about me being in the city during the week, catch up here.

a collection of op-shopped, homemade and a few new clothes for work
At my previous job I was provided a uniform and everyone wore the same thing. I didn’t mind that at all, it was comfortable and I didn’t have to think about what to wear. Also nobody judged me on what I was wearing, as long as I was neat and my shirt was tucked in, I just blended in with everyone else. In the city, apparently, we still need to dress for success, which I just find an inconvenience. Sure I like to dress nicely occasionally, but I don’t like to have to think about it every day and I don’t like to have to spend money on clothes that might be better spent on farm gadgets and fruit trees. But if I turned up to work in jeans and t-shirts I would not be respected, so I do have to make some effort to dress appropriately (although I draw the line at wearing high heels or makeup).

My first frugal solution has been several visits to op shops (charity/thrift store), in which I have managed to stock up on plenty of skirts and tops suitable for work. I wasn’t expecting to find so many suitable items, but apparently people must buy things and change their mind and send them off to the op shop with nothing wrong with them (I very rarely have anything for the op shop myself, its either altered to fit or put in the rag bag when it falls apart, so I have trouble understanding why so may good items are being given away). Some items are clearly barely worn, and from expensive shops. I find it quite shocking that people would not only waste good money on expensive clothes, but to also then just give them away to charity where I can pick them up at a fraction of the original price, seems mad to me. Even my local op shop at Kingaroy had a surprisingly good range and it’s a very low socio-economic area, but the best one I’ve found so far is a Salvos on Logan Rd near Sunnybank, it is HUGE and full of bargains (also low socio-economic area, but I think they circulate the clothes around Salvos stores in the city).

Another great idea, which I have participated in previously, is clothes swaps. This is where you get together with a group of friends (the more the better) and bring all your unwanted clothes. The swaps I’ve been to have been a bit of a free-for-all, with all the clothes in a pile in the middle of the room and everyone just sorting through and grabbing the ones they want, but I have also heard of people being more civilized and using hangers etc (I believe that there are also more organized clothes swaps in some capital cities, but it sounds like they are a bit picky about the clothes that can be swapped). You never know what someone will be happy to repair or cannibalize into another sewing project, so I don’t agree with rejecting clothes that are ripped or stained, but still have some good fabric. I still wear a number of items that I’ve picked up at clothes swaps, so they are an excellent source of clothing if you have the right group of people together.

I hope this isn't your normal, I'm trying hard to make sure its not mine either
Now that I have stocked up and have plenty of work clothes to keep me going until winter, my next frugal strategy is to maintain these clothes.  Frugal Queen wrote an excellent post on the subject last year. I am terrible at spilling food on my clothes, so I get dressed for work after I’ve had breakfast, and I get changed as soon as I get home. I handwash anything delicate and spot clean anything I do spill. The more often you wash clothes, the quicker they wear out, so I only wash when clothes are actually dirty. The other useful skill is to learn how to mend clothes, simple things like sewing on buttons that fall off, or sewing up an unraveling seam can extend the life of a garment, particularly when they seem to be so badly made these days (made cheaply and quickly).

You can take this even further if you have access to a sewing machine, and make some of your own work clothes. I have a couple of skirt patterns that I have made several times, which is a cheap and easy way to update your skirt collection. I have made a blouse once and it turned out “interesting” (not exactly symmetrical), but wearable, I think I need some practice on some of the more challenging techniques and I certainly wouldn’t attempt trousers at this stage! And my recent knitting attempts have added a vest to my wardrobe, so if I keep practicing I could try cardigans in no time!

Finally, I have so far managed to resist the urge to buy anything new. I do have some items that I have bought new over the years and looked after, such as a good pair of black trousers and a few good woolen cardigans, but right now I don’t NEED anything, so I am holding off. It certainly is difficult to walk through the mall and see all the clothes shops with sales and all the people dressed nicely, but I keep thinking of how else I would like to spend that money, and if I don’t actually go into the shops, I don’t get tempted by anything on sale. While I do think its important to dress appropriately for work, it is possible to do so in a frugal manner.

Any tips on frugal clothing for the city?


  1. I find it hard with clothes, I should hit the op shops and see what I can find. I'd say go classic rather than fashionable then it doesn't go out of fashion as such.

  2. The absolute frugal queen would have to be Jessie from rabidlittlehippy. She just attended a wedding and 4 out of 5 in her family, went wearing beautiful clothes made from bed linen i passed along. Allegra is wearing the most adorable pick frock with reverse colour collars and cap sleeves and it was made from two Laura Ashley pillow cases that were lurking in the bottom of my linen cupboard for over 20 years. Jess's dress was made out of a bottle green sheet. The boy's matching shirts from another old sheet. Amazing effort Jess - everyone looked good.

  3. I forget how lucky I am! Being at home means I can wear what I like. I need to remind myself to go to some effort every now and then though. I do tend to look a bit scruffy and not care.

    Thanks for the information Lynda. I'm going to have a look at the pictures. That's impressive!

  4. i have to dress well for work. My solution is to buy good quality skirts which last for years (classic is good). I buy them on sale or from op shops. I then have about 6 tops which I alternate through to change the outfits. These are a mixture of sale items and op shop finds. Every so often I donate some of the tops to the op shop and get more. This keeps my wardrobe fresh and means I'm donating good quality items to the op shop so someone else can get some wear out of them plus the op shop makes some money which goes into the community. I have a quality wardrobe for little financial outlay.
    I find its very important to buy good quality shoes and look after them. My work shoes typically last 5 years or so. I only have a couple of pair for winter and a couple for summer. I buy them on sale as well.

  5. I found black slacks worked for me...rotate the blouses...a couple cardigans, one black. I don't think people notice what you wear everyday as long as it looks acceptable in your workplace.

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