Building a Budget Friendly Wardrobe

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Building a Budget Friendly Wardrobe
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Guest post by Molly Cantrell-Kraig; founder of Women With Drive Foundation

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: probably 85% of my wardrobe was purchased at a thrift shop: Goodwill, Salvation Army or a local consignment shop. I buy undergarments and shoes new. Almost everything else comes from a thrift shop. It supports my ecological, environmental or “green” goals of keeping things from landfills, and it saves me buckets of money.

It’s possible to look professional and stylish without spending a fortune. But like anything worth having, you have to be creative, understand what it is you hope to achieve and build upon a strong foundation.

Have a plan when clothes shopping!

When transitioning to independence, it is essential that you dress for the position you WANT to have, not the one you currently do. Take note of specific styles in your industry or a specific fashion mentor that you have, and then “tailor it” to your own point of view and preferences.

Once you have a vision of what you want to resemble, take notes and execute your plan.

What you’ll need:

  1. Notebook/pen: This can be a college ruled back to school special, or you can dress it up by buying a Moleskine pretty journal at a stationery shop. It’s up to you: whatever you do, make sure that it’s easy to carry and something you’ll USE. Jot down messages to yourself, your measurements and any other key information within the pages.
  2. Scissors/glue stick: You’ll need these to cut out the magazine pictures.
  3. Magazines: To keep things inexpensive, ask at a library for older (but still current) fashion magazines. You may also find magazines at salons – they’ll want to get clutter out of their waiting area. Otherwise, consider this a splurge and purchase a few appropriate magazines for your desired look. I recommend Lucky Magazine. Yes, they feature obscenely expensive clothing, but we are going for the LOOK. We’ll translate it to your reality later.

Once you have an idea of the look you want, you’ll need to educate yourself about construction, and I’m not talking hard hats and I-beams. Understand the way a garment is made: seams, fabric finish and drape, weight and how it works on YOUR frame. Not every woman can wear jersey. TRUTH: it’s a common fact that only three women on this planet can wear jersey without looking like a sausage. I look like I’ve lost a bet when I wear jersey.

Familiarize yourself with top designers and stores. Shop at (but do not purchase) items at leading clothing stores. There is no shame is saying, “I’m just looking,” when approached by sales staff. Feel fabric. Try things on. Get used to quality. You’ll need to recognize these indicators when you visit thrift stores to purchase your wardrobe.

Once you understand what you’re looking for, make a list of fashion essentials. Every closet needs basics. Determine this list for yourself, and visit thrift shops until you have the items, prioritizing anything on your list that you feel is most important.


  • DO NOT SCRIMP ON SHOES. Find out when the sales are, but shoes are an essential detail. Hiring managers look for details to weed out applicants. Classic, well-made shoes that are maintained (no scuffs, eroded heels etc.) are indicators of how much you notice ‘the small stuff.’ Notice it.
  • You can fill in your wardrobe with scarves, trendy pieces you can find at Target or other retailers.
  • Find a seamstress/tailor. Alterations make the difference between a garment that covers your body and one that enhances it. You can find someone to do alterations at a dry cleaners, a leading clothing store or google for one in your zip code.
  • Look for a Dress For Success chapter in your area. Dress for Success Worldwide is an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women located in 110 cities across the U.S., Australia, Canada, the U.K., Poland, the Netherlands, the West Indies and New Zealand.

Clothes are a key indicator of how you choose to present yourself to the world. It’s part of the respect you show for yourself and others by choosing flattering, well-tended garments. You are worth it.


Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” us on facebook.


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