In Vogue, Not in Debt

With cooler weather around the corner, many moms begin thinking of cute fall clothes. However, our kids’ needs come first, leaving little left over for us to update our wardrobes.

So until daycare is free and groceries cost a smile, I needed to figure out how to freshen up my working mom’s attire without breaking out the credit card.

I could be like Marisa from New Dress a Day who uncovers $1 finds at thrift stores and transforms them into runway-worthy designs. But my sewing skills are nil. Really – I make my husband sew on buttons and hem pants.

Or, I could try the Six Items or Less plan, living off six pieces of clothing for one month. But that would necessitate doing laundry more than once a week.

To curb my dilemma, I turned to two St. Louis experts to help me on my quest for cuteness. With their advice and a little extra work on my part, I’m headed on the right track to an affordable wardrobe rework.

Tip 1: Stick with some quality basics. Seven seasons of What Not to Wear has ingrained one key message in my head – buying a few essential pieces you can mix and match builds a strong foundation for any wardrobe.

Dana Colcleasure of NEXT women’s resale boutique suggested that for fall, moms purchase two great pairs of jeans – one for everyday wear and one for date night – and a trendy, chunky necklace to add some pizzazz. Another easy basic? Think a great knit.

“Textured knits were showing all over the runways, and we’re already seeing them arriving daily at NEXT,” she said via email. “Try a cardigan with fun details that suit your personality. We’re seeing them with unique buttons, crocheted details and corduroy-trimmed pockets, just to name a few. One’s cuter than the next; they’re easy to wear, and they come in a variety of styles so there is something for everyone. It also plays to the 1950s trend we’re seeing.” Best of all, a lightweight jacket or cardigan can extend summer tanks, sleeveless tops and dresses well into fall.

For work-appropriate dresses that stand the test of time, I love Target’s Merona dress collection. For less than $40, you can get a high-end look that survives baby spit-up and multiple spins in the washing machine. Plus, the dresses go on clearance only weeks after hitting the shelves. I picked up this dress for $39.99 a month ago, and then – ouch – found it on sale for $19.99 this past weekend.

Tip 2: The Internet is your friend. Kim Julian, savings guru at STL Mommy, continually updates her site with coupons and discounts from leading retailers and points her followers to other budget-friendly resources. “One of the biggest trends right now is daily deal retail sites,” she said through email. “You receive a bonus when you sign up as well as when you refer friends. A few of my favorites are Swirl, Beyond the Rack, Zulily, Hautelook, ideeliand Jasmere.”

In addition to checking out www.stlmommy.com and www.retailmenot.com, I also have an email account dedicated solely for email coupons. My one caveat is to not let an email dictate my shopping needs – if it’s not for something I was planning on buying already, I delete it.

Tip 3: A consignment treasure awaits. A trip to a resale store can help your budget substantially. Remarked Colcleasure, “One of the things I’m most proud to offer my customers at NEXT are the meaningful differences they can see in their wardrobes and wallets. Our items run 30% to 90% off department store and boutique prices, with most items in the store falling in the 50% to 75% off range. We also don’t carry discount brands, so your purchases are going to be higher quality and see you through all of those rough and tumble days with the kids. Shop inexpensively, not cheaply, is what I like to say.”

While they’re a great way to save money, resale stores are also ideal for finding vintage pieces or one-of-a-kind items and are excellent for the environment since they reduce waste through the recycling of quality clothing. Plus, at many resale shops like Goodwill and ScholarShop, proceeds go to help people in need.

In addition to resale stores, Julian offered other solutions, “If you’re looking for used clothes, be sure to stop by garage sales or look at Craig’s List. Online shoppers, check out eBay. For a season’s worth of clothes, search by size, gender and the word ‘lot.’”

Tip 4: Watch the calendar. Getting great deals is all about timing. Julian suggested waiting for big sales on fall clothing when the winter fashion starts hitting the shelves, to look for hot deals around Black Friday, and to know when a retailer’s big sales are down the pipeline, such as Old Navy’s Saturday $1 deals which happen a couple of times a season and JCPenney which “has a ‘$10 off of $10’ coupon code that comes around twice a season.”

For me, I always hold off on my Banana Republic splurge until the Gap Give & Get 30% off events, which – yea! – start August 26th. Plus, 5% of what I spend goes to help my choice from five nonprofits, so I feel less guilty.

As moms, we didn’t give up our love of fashion when our little ones made their appearance. We’ve just learned to be a little more cautious when building our fall wardrobes so we don’t annihilate our family’s budget. With a sharp eye, a tight budget and a little creativity, we can still look fantastic as we wipe snotty noses and change dirty diapers.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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