Mother Said: Dress Well on a Budget

As long as I can remember my mother was a "clotheshorse." Okay, so that is an old term. Today the term would be "fashionista." I remember her sisters, my aunts, would say the same that she was always in style, even when it came to how she would wear a scarf.

What Mom couldn't find in the stores she would buy a few patterns, design her own, and head to her sewing machine. We still have some of Mom's sketches of her clothing designs. They reminded me of the sketches we would see on the Oscars by former Hollywood's clothing designer Edith Head. A few years back, we surprised Mom and framed a few of her beautiful clothing sketches, as she had forgotten all about them. Through the years, Mom also collected beautiful old vintage clothes, hats, and purses that she discovered at estate sales.

After she "retired," from teaching, she didn't really "retire." Instead she went to work for a couple of clothing department stores who carried many high-end brand names. Her daughters certainly benefited when it came to her gift giving with her employee discount. Today, mom finally retired and spends her time wearing decorative ball caps, jeans, and garden gloves - her lush green and colorful flower gardens do not care what labels she wears.
Ralph Lauren Tote
What I learned from my mother was spend your money on "classics." Do not spend lots of money on the trends. Big difference. Trends come and go. Sure, if you want to look trendy, then look through the recent fashion magazines and see what is in trend, and buy these items on sale, or at more affordable department stores. Spend your dollars on timeless style handbags, shoes, outer wear, a few good pieces of basic jewelry, and even a pair of classic-style designer sunglasses. You know, that basic "little black dress?" In fact, shop around for your classics. You won't believe some of the slightly-used designer handbags you can find online or in vintage shops. Also, study the lines of the classics such as the iconic Coco Chanel jackets. Chances are you will find the same cut and detail on a more affordable brand. 

Confused on what a classic style is? Typically a "classic style" is a design that has stood the "test of time." It's a style that flatters most everyone. If in doubt, Google "Jacqueline Kennedy," However, a classic style is not to be confused with a "vintage style." Vintage style starts with the classic look, but it is accessorized in a way that it hints at a specific time period of fashion. Also to be considered are "artistic" items that you will always have, and always be complimented on such as vintage outer wear made with the same patterns as the collectible Pendleton wool blankets - again, this is just an example. 

Vintage 1960's Whiting & Davis
The texture feels so good
Also, think about some good basic pants and shirts in monochromatic colors (shades of black, navy, or brown) and then doll up the outfit with fun trendy and colorful accessories. Don't forget to add some of the vintage-retro looks, as well. 

Trust me, today I am far from being a fashion icon, especially now since I no longer work in the public eye (i.e. law firm), and now employed as a freelance writer from home. I have hung up my beautiful blazers adorned with charming antique brooches, and today my choice of "office apparel" is a pair of linty sweat pants and maybe a clean t-shirt. Hey, you never know when you have to clean up a cat-yak-hairball, feel the urge to prune rose bushes, or take a nap with a dog on your lap.
Clare V. Foldover Clutch
My new personal favorite
For the most part, I know no color other than black. In my teens, and as a young woman, I tried to follow in mom's footsteps, but finally went back to the Bohemian ways of my youth, and also gave my sore feet a break and went for comfort - - Birkenstocks. However, I still own my 20 year-old red velvet Ralph Lauren heels as if they are a trophy - - a trophy of my youth. Hey five pairs later, at least Birks are rather - - "timeless."

My point? Shop well and spend the dollars on classic and timeless styles of handbags, shoes, outer wear, basic good jewelry (precious metals and stones), and sunglasses. You will not only have these forever, but also create your own signature style. In other words - - stop buying the crap that will end up in our landfills. 

Coco Chanel 


  1. I love this post! Such good tips! Thank you for sharing. You are one of the features at the Make it Pretty party. Here is the link to this week's bash. Have a happy week. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  2. Oh my goodness! Kathryn, what a nice surprise. Thank you so much, I am so happy to hear you enjoyed my post. This is exciting! Thanks again, C~


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