How to look good on a budget

April 2nd, 2009

When it comes to clothes, many John Carroll University students rock the sweatpants and sweatshirt combo with great frequency. However, whether giving a presentation for a class or going to an internship or job interview, it can be important to look put-together at times.

As cash-strapped college students, it can be difficult to maintain a stylish and trendy wardrobe. Luckily, college students are innately resourceful, as the lifestyle demands.

We are a group that can subsist on Easy Mac for days at a time, stretch the weeks (or in some cases, months) in between doing laundry, and make do with very little income.

This gives students a great advantage when coping with the tough economy. Financial experts report that one upside of the recession is that people in our age bracket will learn to live more within their means.

While trying to look good for less, renowned celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, who styles everyone from Anne Hathaway to Cameron Diaz, offers some great tips in her book “Style A to Zoe: The Art of Fashion, Beauty, and Everything Glamour.”

Zoe said, “Old is new. Go vintage (like so many Hollywood starlets) and spend next to nothing on classic designs and designers.”

There are even many celebrity trendsetters who often look like their clothes came from combing through the racks at the local Salvation Army. People like Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate Olsen and Kate Moss are all iconic for their unique and eclectic fashion sense, which can easily be replicated by shopping at thrift stores.

Besides shopping at thrift stores, there are many other options when looking to expand your wardrobe without having to spend a fortune.

One possibility would be to simply shop in your own closet. It can be easy to forget what clothes you have if your closet is slightly disorganized. You may find something buried in the back that you forgot you even owned. You can also borrow clothes from friends to pair with something you already own.

Shopping online is also a good, money-saving technique. American Eagle’s Web site,, frequently runs deals that include free shipping and greatly reduced prices.

Zoe said, “You don’t have to have money to have style. Some of the most stylish people I know don’t even have a working dishwasher, while the woman who walks into Gucci and buys whatever she wants may be incapable of putting a look together on her own. This alone should lower the intimidation factor when it comes to fashion.”

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, “Clothing costs fell by 1.3 percent, the biggest one-month drop since September 1998.” This is good news for fashionistas, but the grim economy makes spending money less appealing than ever before.

If shopping in your closet fails, Zoe suggests shopping for cheaper versions of the latest trends. Stores such as H&M, Target and The Gap offer trendy clothes at relatively inexpensive prices.

However, before taking your next shopping trip, make sure you take a few things into account. Ask yourself: Is this a need or a want? How much use will I get from this item? Would it go well with things I already own? Do I already own something similar?