Baby Steps: Being Frugally Fashionable

One of the requests for our Baby Steps series was discussing ways that you can still be a fashionable mommy without spending a lot of money. I admit that I wish I was more fashionable, but I do the best I can with time constraints and a tight budget. I love to stay on top of the trends though and do indulge in a little shopping at “real stores” on occasion. I have to limit most of my shopping though to the thrift stores, but it is nice to get a couple of cute pieces to keep up with the trends and keep myself a little fashionable.

Here are a few stores that I have found to be reasonable for fashionable steals:

Old Navy– This store is great for everyday basics. T-shirts for layering, yoga pants, even their jeans are an excellent deal. I think of all the discount merchandise out there, Old Navy is probably the best for workmanship. I have only had a couple of things that have shown any issues (stitching coming undone in the shirts). Check this store for getting a nice basic wardrobe and some trendier pieces for the season.

(Navy Flutter Sleeve Wrap Top for $17.50, Old Navy)

Bitten– This line is carried over at Steve & Barry’s, designed by the very stylish Sarah Jessica Parker. This past summer I got some really cute things from there. The prices can’t be beat (for example, only $15 for jeans), but watch this line for workmanship and check what the materials are made from. My cute jean purchase turned out to be 100% cotton jeans so I should have went with a size higher. I do have to be more careful with these clothes when laundering them, but this is a great place to visit to stay up on the trends, without forking over an arm and a leg. Check this store for fashionable accessories (purses, shoes, hair accessories, & jewelry) and excellent deals on jackets and coats.

(Twill Trench Coat in Desert Sand for $8.98, Bitten)

Forever 21– This store seems geared towards a younger crowd, but they do offer some really great wardrobe pieces for a lot less than other stores. I recently purchased my spring coat there and love it, however, I did discover that their return policy is a little lacking. You will want to make sure to check these clothes very carefully before buying them. Check your buttons, check interior linings on jackets, and check the stitching on the legs and the insides of the shirts. Make sure to always try things on, otherwise, you are stuck with the merchandise if the tags have been removed. This is a great spot though to get a few trendy pieces without blowing your budget. Also, don’t overlook this store if you have a cocktail party or a function to go to for your spouse. They have some cute party dresses for $20-30 that would be perfect for those types of occasions. I love this little black dress and think it would be a wonderful addition to any girl’s wardrobe!

Crossover Capsleeve Dress in Black for $19.50, Forever 21)

Target– I used to snub my nose at their clothing because they did not offer very much, but times have changed. Target even offers great lines from designers that rival items you would get at those more expensive stores. Check this store for wardrobe basics, swimsuits, coats, handbags, and shoes. Visit their clearance racks often because they discount merchandise frequently. Take a pointer from Wisebread, and be sure to shop for your clothing based on their markdown schedules (women’s clothing is marked down on Tuesdays). Freshly marked down clearance will offer the best selection at the best price!

(Short-Sleeve Stand-Up Collar Swing Jacket in Yellow for $24.99, Xhilaration)

Payless Shoes– I visit this store, just about every season, to keep up with the latest shoe trends. Payless carries American Eagle shoes that are super cheap, while keeping you looking like a trendy mom. I try to only shop when they run their BOGO sales and sometimes you can find a coupon lurking on the internet.

(Ava Mary Jane in Red for $17.99, Payless Shoes)

Other Stores I did want to say a few words about more expensive stores and how they can still be a viable option, even when funds are more limited.

Although you might be on a budget, it never hurts to drop into a store and check their clearance racks. More than once, I have become pleasantly surprised by a store that I thought was out of my budget, but had more than a few items tucked in the back of their store. It always is such a happy surprise when you find they have plenty of great items on clearance that are right within my budget’s sweet spot.

White House Black Market offers great items on their clearance rack and it has become one of my first stops when shopping for a special occasion dress. They deeply clearance their items and I have been able to walk out of their store with dresses that were 65% off of their original price and $80 shoes for only $19!

( Whisp Chiffon Chemise in Black for $29.99 marked down from $78, White House Black Market)

Department stores can be a great place to find some really great deals. Watch your local paper for coupons and pair the coupons with the sales that they are running. Zoom over to the clearance racks and try on items from those racks first. The departments stores are trying to compete in the fashion world for their own spot so now you will find lines from Vera Wang (offered at Kohl’s), a new line called American Living at JC Penney (which rivals the Ralph Lauren line of clothing), and Sears offers the Lands End line!

(Bisou Bisou Pant in White $29.99 marked down from $44, JC Penney)

Don’t overlook those great discount stores like TJ Maxx & Marshalls for your clothes. You will want to check your items carefully as many of these items are “irregular” or may have some minor issue in the material. Try your items on and make sure they fit you well… and enjoy some extremely fashionable clothing for half or more off!

Finally, as I discussed last week, shopping through a rewards program, like Ebates, can save you even more money. Many stores are signed up with the program so you can get 2% or more cash back on your purchases and then apply your cash rewards to more pieces for your wardrobe. Consider it to be like the CVS rebates program, but the money gets put towards a prescription for your wardrobe needs!

Here are some hot spots to check for great fashion advice & deals:

The Budget Fashionista
The Space Between My Peers
Pennies In My Pocket
The Fashionable Housewife

Sound Off: Share what you would like to talk about next week (any topic on saving money is fair game for discussion!) What are some stores that you frequent for great deals on clothing and shoes?

Published March 05, 2008 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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