I personally LOVE Do it Yourself (DIY) fashion, refashioning, or upcycling but of course some people are totally opposed to it, only want new things, will only wear something someone else has made, and only want the "real thing". That's fine, but this post might not be useful for you. Maybe open your mind and try something new, especially if you are struggling financially. If you want to stretch your dollar, buy items that can be worn in many different ways and are appropriate for different situations (e.g., buy clothes that are appropriate for work but can be made casual). Consult fashion blogs about how to make many different outfits from the same items (e.g., 7 basic pieces 14 different looks). Below are some things you can do to improve your wardrobe and bring out your inner feminine fashionista on a budget (well these things will cost more time rather than money... it can become a time consuming but useful and fun hobby).
New Ways to Improve Your Wardrobe
1) Buy a sewing machine and start sewing: Altering your own clothes will help you to look better, save you money from tailors, and allow you to wear more of the clothes you already have. It can also help you to look great in thrifted items even if they are outdated or ill-fitting. You can refashion your old clothes/thrifted clothes into entirely new items and join the green upcycling movement. Lastly, if you make your own clothes sometimes then you can always get exactly what you want instead of spending a lot of time and money to find something someone else made.
I am planning to buy a sewing machine next week. I will start off practicing with scrap fabric and then start making alterations to the clothes I already have. I have already watched many sewing tutorials on YouTube so I'm ready (e.g., sewing materials tutorial). Later on I will start making over thrift store items and eventually refashioning clothing into entirely new items (e.g., turn a t-shirt into a pencil skirt, use t-shirts to make banded skirt, make a lace tank top). When I feel confident I will use sewing patterns (e.g., from Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, Burdastyle etc.) to make items from scratch but that can be expensive so I will have to limit how often I do that. PDF sewing patterns can be downloaded, printed, and used instantly so I'm excited!
2) Thrifting: Buying clothes from a thrift store is an easy and inexpensive way to add feminine items to your wardrobe. You can save so much money that you may lose all interest in buying retail (I have. Almost everything I wear is from a thrift store, I get compliments, and people can't tell). You can find modern items from popular stores (sometimes unworn with the tags still on) or vintage items that are one of a kind. Or you can sometimes purchase fabric or clothing items to refashion into new items (cheaper than buying from a fabric store). It's just fabric...think outside of the box and make it into whatever you want. There are many tutorials about how to thrift and women showing what they found at thrift stores (e.g., video1, video2, video3). Some people look down on thrifting but if you've been on Pinterest or YouTube you will see that all sorts of women are doing it and many are very fashionable (just wash before wearing items). I think that it's way more important to spend money on education, housing, investments, healthy food, transportation, and necessities rather than on clothing.
3) Pinterest, Polyvore, and YouTube: Pinterest, Polyvore and the Internet can give you many ideas about how to add femininity to your wardrobe. I recently started some Pinterest pages to keep track of DIY fashion ideas and sewing patterns I would like to use. Choosing sewing patterns is like shopping for new clothes except most patterns are under $6 and you will be making the clothes yourself. The benefit of using Pinterest instead of just bookmarking items you like is that you can see what you pinned, like making an online scrapbook, instead of just a list of links. You can also save video tutorials on YouTube and many are posted on Pinterest as well. Polyvore can be used to put outfits or clothing collections together so there is no need to cut up magazines (reminds me of Cher's computer program from Clueless).
Simple Feminine Items to Add to your Wardrobe (many can be found in thrift stores. In DIY projects the way your items turn out will depend on your skill and artistic ability)
Peter pan or lace collars: Add some adorable to your plain shirts and dresses by adding a collar. These are all the rage and can instantly add cuteness to any outfit. They are super feminine, vintage, and maybe even hipster. I especially like the one's with pearls. There are many tutorials about how to make them yourself (pearl collars, Peter Pan collar)
Scarves: Tie them around your neck in various ways as demonstrated in this 25 ways to tie a scarf video. Or you can tie a chiffon or silk scarf into a bow and pin it to a blouse.
Spats: Spats are a vintage shoe accessory that have made a comeback thanks to the steampunk trend. I think they are adorable! You can transform any pair of shoes or boots into a unique vintage style or tall boot (tutorial Part 1 & Part 2).
Pearls: Pearls are always classy and elegant. I heard it was bad luck to buy your own pearls but who believes in superstition anyway? You can buy imitation pearls for low prices and wear them in different ways (9 ways to wear a pearl necklace).
Cute belts: My favorites are belts with bows. They are usually inexpensive and add a touch of femininity to any outfit. Here are tutorials for makingbow belts, elastic belts, and peplum belt 1, peplum belt 2.
Shoe accessories: I prefer the ones with bows (I love bows on everything lol!) or the ones that look like jewelry. If you have a pair of plain boring shoes then accessories may be exactly what you need. Here are some tutorials: add bows to shoes Part 1 & Part 2, pinup Valentine's Day bow shoes, add ruffles.
Tights and Nylons: I really like wearing tights. I prefer them to nylons because they don't run but nylons are great too. Thick tights will allow you to wear skirts/dresses even in the winter. I like tights with cute patterns and nylons with vintage styles. Fishnets are also awesome in the bedroom lol ;)
Alterations you can Make to your Clothing
You can buy items and wear them as is. Or you can add feminine details to the clothing. If you can sew you can also alter your clothing to fit you in a more flattering manner. Once you see how easy it is to add feminine touches to items you won't feel the need to pay $30 for a tank top with flowers or a blouse with a studded collar since it is so easy and inexpensive to add these details yourself. Some of the alterations can be done without sewing (e.g., no sew hemming tape), with simple hand sewing, or using fabric glue if necessary (tutorial). Save money by looking for fashion inspiration online instead of buying magazines.
All of the looks below will depend on your skill and imagination. A designer or artist could make awesome alterations that you can not, at least not without practice. I strongly advise looking at retail/designer items for inspiration or else your project may not look very good. There are MANY ways to alter clothes, these are just some examples. Good Luck!:
1) Hem your clothes, shorten sleeves and hems, and bring in the sides of items that are too large (how to hem and fit a thrifted skirt)
2) Add fabric flowers, bows, or ruffles to your t-shirts, tank tops, and blouses (flowers, large ruffle, ruffles1, ruffles2, tulle flower, add frills)
3) Add lace/fabric inserts/add-ons to clothing (DIY lace sleeves, lace cap sleeve, flutter sleeves, add lace, ruffle sleeve, bow sleeve)
4) Add beads, pearls, or studs (embellished sweater, studded blazer)
5) Add an iron on or stenciled detail (use templates to paint clothes, lace pattern tutorial)
6) Use fabric paint to change the look of your clothes (sweater DIY, puff paint beads)
7) Add pre-made or homemade appliques (DIY applique collar)
8) Change the buttons on your shirt or jacket (self-explanatory)
9) Cut up a t-shirt and use a no-sew method to embellish it (tutorial)
10) Dye your clothes (tutorial)
11) Paint your shoes or add decorations (tutorial-don't like the style but you can do whatever your want, add shoe bling)
Feminine accents: frills, lace, peplums, flowers, bows, ruffles, polka dots.