This same story is being retold all over the country. My husband and I both got laid off within a week of each and we have had to learn to live differently. It used to be nothing for me to go to a store and pick up a bunch of clothes that I (1) did not fit into yet (but would soon, ha-ha), (2) looked great on the hanger and not so good on me, (3) fit a temporary mood I was in (like my biker phase, my cowboy phase, my Princess Diana phase, etc. ) or well, you get the point and probably have a few instances of your own you can think of. Off to Goodwill with the clothes that still had tags on them or were worn once.
Those days are gone and it is a good thing. That kind of waste and overspending got us into trouble in the first place. Now non-necessary purchases have to be thought of ahead of time and planned for; something I never did before. Luckily, I do not have a job now that requires I wear suits or fancy clothes. But I still have to look acceptable as well as neat. Here are a few things I have learned over the past couple of years that have helped me stretch my budget as well as my wardrobe. I hope there is something that can help you too.
I stick with basic colors; my wardrobe is mostly black or navy blue. Everything I own is interchangeable with everything else I own. I only have one blouse with a pattern for those big nights out, so most of my wardrobe is simply plain colors. If you have a strong love for floral patterns or stripes, that can work too. Just be sure that you have enough solid colored items to make more outfits out of. Having an interchangeable wardrobe also helps elevate that stress in the morning of “what am I going to wear.”
I have found good quality, well-made t-shirts can be the anchor to any wardrobe and many retailers now offer those types of t-shirts. For instance, Old Navy always has good quality t-shirts in a variety of colors and are often priced between $5 and $7 each. Other bigger retails offer similar quality t-shirts for under $5. You need to look for sales and keep an eye open especially at the end of a season. Variety is now also available; you can get scoop neck, v-neck, long sleeve, ¾ sleeves, or short sleeve. Some t-shirts even have patterns.
T-shirts, on their own, can be rather boring. Dressing them up can be fun, easy and does not have to be expensive. The one thing I always wear with a t-shirt is my favorite cross. You can wear your favorite necklace, pin, brooch, choker or other piece of jewelry, probably something you already own. Because of the plainness of the shirt, the addition of jewelry is a great fit and makes the top much dressier. For that matter, if you are crafty, you can paint, bedazzle, or embellish t-shirts. I, myself, have never had much luck doing that and the only thing I ever got out of trying that were lots of car washing rags. But if you are good at those things, the options are almost limitless (limitless according to your talent).
Scarves are another inexpensive, fun way to dress up a t-shirt. This is where you can add color and design easily. I picked up the cutest summer scarf at Fashion Bug for $4.99. I can tie it in front of me, wrap it around my neck or use it like a shawl. Many of the scarves I saw at the store even had a tag showing how to do different knots or different ways to display the scarf. I also searched the Internet for “how to tie a scarf” and lots of sites come up. Using the same scarf in different ways increases your wardrobe without increasing your debt.
This next idea may sound a little archaic but bear with me. Vests are a great way to dress up a t-shirt. With a vest, like a scarf, you can add color and design to your t-shirt. Many of the thrift stores have great vests at wonderful prices. My mother actually made me a few before she passed away. If you can sew (which I can’t), you can save money that way too. I think a vest with a long sleeved t-shirt can look very good and it adds a little dimension to an otherwise plain look.
For those times when I want to “dress up” a little bit more, I take that one patterned blouse I spoke of earlier, put on a coordinating t-shirt underneath, and button just one button about half way down. I like to do that because I have a little more belly than I would like and I only own one bra (so if it is in the wash I have to come up with something to stay modest). The nice blouse, which I found at a thrift store for $2.99, works wonderful for that. If you wanted to reward yourself for something, you could always go out and buy a really nice blouse or find one that already lives in your closet and revitalize it.
So we have looked at jewelry and/or embellishments, scarves, vests and over blouses as ways to dress up a t-shirt. I have one other suggestion that might really sound weird but here goes. Wearing a hat. Most women look great in a hat and a hat can really change the attitude of an outfit as well as the wearer. I own a medium-priced ($49.99) black felt hat that I wear just about everywhere. You get funny looks at first and I think those are looks of awe. It takes an attitude to carry off wearing a hat. There are so many hats out there now; fun, bright, wide brimmed, narrow brimmed, Annie Hall-like, etc. You just need to find the hat that fits your personality. Once you do, then even your t-shirt will have more flair.
What I really wanted to say is if things are rough now, you can still look and feel good by using your talents, learning to express your real self, and searching for great deals. I am so glad things changed for us, because it gave me a new perspective and now when I wear my outfits I feel good because I know I did not go into debt because of them, I look neat and presentable and I have learned a valuable lesson about working with what I have and making the most of it.
Good luck to all of you out there. Here’s to making a fashion statement with t-shirts!!!