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How to Build Your First Wardrobe on a Budget

By Elena Kalieva


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It’s easy to look good when you have that kind of bank to burn. However for many of us, that’s just not the case. Every dollar counts but hey, that shouldn’t stop you from being the most dapper man in the room, right?

Today, I’m going to help you build your first wardrobe on a budget. You’ll be surprised how you can turn from average Joe to Mr. Cleaned Up Nicely in just a handful, inexpensive tweaks.

Know thy formula

The very first thing you need to learn about building your wardrobe is the core items. These are the pieces that will stand as your staples, each of which you can mix and match with one another. While they are your basics, you shouldn’t consider getting what everyone else does. Remember: A touch of your personal style is always the way to go.

When gathering your core items, keep this formula in mind: 2 x 3 x 5 x 2. What the hell does that mean?

2 pairs of shoes, 3 trousers, 5 shirts and 2 jackets (which double as a blazer and suit).

Sounds like a few, right? Wrong. With those staples in your closet, you have 60 unique outfits you can wear. From here, you can start adding accessories — but more on that later.

Clear out

I understand how hard it is to throw out that tacky cat sweater your ex girlfriend gave you but you got to let go, my friend. That’s not going to do you right with any other lady the next time you go out.

Clean out your closet to make way for new items. Sort out those that no longer fit you. Give up those you know would make you look like a fashion drag. Keep those items that you could still pair up with the new ones.

With a cleaner closet, you’ll be pushed to get a wardrobe upgrade. And fast.


No, you’re not about to turn into a lady shopaholic who prefers to go around malls for hours and end up not buying anything. This is, however, a very effective trick to find the best stores that have the best deals your money can buy.

Go out and window-shop in your area. Whether it’s your neighborhood mall, some thrift stores or a few other shops you’ll pass through along the way, take the time to go around and see what each has to offer.

Leave your wallet behind. Right now, you’re at a stage where you’re browsing items to add to your wardrobe. This will push you to move from one shop to the next and not quickly settle for what you think is ‘already good and cheap’. For all you know, the next store you could’ve gone into is selling original designer pieces at a nifty price.

A good thing to remember here is to remove all your previous prejudices about certain stores. Just because they have a reputation for being off your budget, it doesn’t mean they don’t drop prices — which leads me to my next point..

Be the bargain hunter

Here’s the thing: A lot of designer stores do go on sale. While the prices aren’t always fitting to your pocket, there is another way to become the world’s best bargain hunter.

There are a lot of clearance sales happening in your area, even online. Websites like Dapper.com is a good place to start. Plus, subscribing to these designer brands’ newsletters will also give you an exclusive and early look into how low the prices are. Don’t miss out on that.

Who cares if you’ve been caught dead wearing the same Burberry coat as the guy next to you? Chances are, you bought yours for a far better price and really, that’s all that matters. After all, you might have paid less but what you went through is a labor of love.

Raid someone else’s closet

It would be a gift from the fashion gods if you have a dad who’s stylish and has a similar built. Hand-me-downs are something you shouldn’t take for granted, especially when you have a strong desire to up your wardrobe game with a tight budget to work on.

If your father’s clothes don’t fit, go ahead and raid the closets of your brothers, cousins, uncles or even your grandpa’s. Vintage pieces are timeless, which makes it a perfect addition to your wardrobe. Speaking of vintage..

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Vintage pieces are just the start. Accessories are what you need to take your core items to the next level and at the same time, make it look like you’re not wearing the same old thing two weeks after.

Ties, pocket squares, belts, gloves, jewelries — these accessories will make your entire outfit your very own. So never leave these things behind. Otherwise, you’re going to look like a mannequin that came to life.

The same rule goes: Learn how to find the best stores to shop in and be on the hunt for bargains. With the right amount of patience and luck, you can end up with accessories of high quality paid for less.

When you do have extra..

Sure, you’re on a budget. That’s no problem at all but when you do have extra bucks to burn, go right ahead and invest in quality pieces. These designer items are expensive for a reason: They last a lifetime.

The key here is to learn how to maintain and take care of them. Once you do, they will serve you well for the years to come. You’d be surprised how much you’ll end up saving in the coming months for choosing to splurge that one time.

Building a wardrobe doesn’t always mean spending too much. All it takes is for you to be a smarter shopper.

About Elena Kalieva

Elena has spent years helping people simplify their lives and focus on self-growth. She loves writing about life hacks, building better relationships, and personal development and her expertise lies in guiding others to create fulfilling lives filled with extraordinary achievements. Learn more about TheScrib's Editorial Process.

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