Don’t overspend at thrift stores
Sometimes we can be enthralled by the mediocre because it is surrounded by the totally uninteresting. Something that works is not the same as something that you will wear regularly. Don’t get overly excited, because those “cheap” finds can add up really quickly. My general rule of thumb for thrifting is that I only buy something if I’ll wear it once for every dollar it costs. If I want that ten-dollar bowtie, I had better be willing to wear it at least ten times.
Don’t follow trends
A while ago I decided that I was going to dress however I felt like dressing, and not question whether my choices lined up with the status quo. I know this is the antithesis of what you are usually told. My own mother makes fun of me on occasion because what I wear can be 40 years outdated. Ignoring seasonal fashion advice is one of the best ways to develop your own personal style. Don’t label your style as anything, and don’t be afraid to try things that are out of vogue. This will also save you money. If you aren’t worried about whether this year’s colour is cerise or lavender, you are less likely to go out and stock your wardrobe with new stuff.
“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” — Yves Saint Laurent
Balance the unique and the useful
Don’t overdo it. I own more crazy patterned spandex than I would like to admit, but the only way I get away with wearing it is by pairing it with really simple pieces. For someone who prides herself on creative attire, I also own a lot of black. Figure out what you want to be the focal point of your outfit, and use the rest of your wardrobe to highlight it tastefully. I guarantee you’ll get compliments on it all day.
Spend more, buy less
Hear me out. Three years ago I decided that I wasn’t going to buy any clothing made in sweat shops, meaning that my wardrobe slowly filled up with thrift store finds and one of a kind pieces made by hand here in Hamilton. Not gonna lie, it was more expensive. You don’t realize how cheap mass manufactured clothing is until you abstain. I can no longer go out and buy four or five things in a day, because if I buy one thing from a local designer it clears out my clothing budget for the next four or five months. My no-mass-manufactured-clothing rule has done two things: First of all, I shop significantly less frequently. Secondly, the clothing I do buy is legitimately better quality. It looks better, it washes better, it wears better. Not everything that is expensive is better made, but if you buy smart, you won’t regret it. You will also be dressed in things that no one else around you will have thought about wearing. You can’t get more unique than a style a seamstress only made once.
The best thing I could have done for my wardrobe was learn to sew. You can extend the life of things that might otherwise fall apart, you can alter things to have them fit better (remember those men’s button ups?) and you might even be able to make your own clothing (the holy grail of the unique wardrobe). Worth all the accidental finger pricks in the world, I promise.
Hand-me-downs are your best friend
Take all of your parents’ cast offs. I’m not kidding. Some of my favorite clothing has been slyly coopted from my mother’s wardrobe. Keep an eye on your snazzily dressed relatives and when they are giving away old items, snap them up. This goes for all genders. Never doubt the universal utility and timelessness of a men’s button-up. Best of all, they are free.
Make use of the old and toss the uninteresting
Some of the things I get the most compliments for are things I bought in 2006. Sure, the Old Navy tank top that I owned in middle school has (shockingly) not stood the test of time, but some of the more interesting things I owned back then have held up. The key is cleaning out your wardrobe decently often, but hanging on to things that are unique. Don’t use this as an excuse to never throw anything away, but keep your fashion future in mind, because sometimes old pieces can surprise you. The added benefit is that everyone else in your life will think that they are new.