Why I Can't Have Frugal Fashion (Plz help!)

Shockingly, I have thoughts about money for once. Unfortunately, this time it’s strictly through the lens of fashion.

I would love a small wardrobe that is capsule like and efficient. Timeless, not trendy. Durable, not just “in” for the season. Ethical and sustainable.

Acquiring such a wardrobe would mean lots of research, time, and money, but in theory I could do it.

Here’s my stumbling block: my fashion tastes are so ridiculously mercurial. I mean isn’t everyone’s? Not that I’m chasing trends, but the colors, textures, jewelry I like vary so much! Sometimes it’s punk rock. Sometimes it’s gamer punk. Sometimes it’s high tea in the 1800s. Sometimes its suburban riffraff.

Are any of you fashion forward people able to reconcile this in your wardrobes?

Feel free to tell me I’m overthinking. That’s my thing.


I do not fashion but: 2nd hand?

There are so many ads for the real real and thread up on my podcasts, plus maybe rent the runway? So you wear the things and then they go back and you get your money back.


I know i said I do not fashion but

Can we pls have theme parties after COVID

Gamer punk
High tea in the 1800s
suburban rifraff

wonderful party themes


My idea of fashion is easily capsulized… Black and grey leggings. Drapery tunicy t shirts and sweaters. Sweater or body con dresses. Pencil skirts and regular t shirts.

I’ve switched buying to mostly ethical and I wear things out faster than I can replace. I love second hand but mostly can’t find it and that’s okay (if I had a budget it would disagree, but I don’t).

I am hear for all of the suggestions that will be usa only or require time I don’t have but will eagerly read


I only wear New Balance clothes or work clothes. I may not be much use here.


I am not fashion forward, but I think that it is possible to have a core capsule, and to catch certain tastes through the styling and one or two fun pieces.

I’m thinking of that woman who did the same black dress for a year.


My sense of style is more about things I look good in that are also comfortable. No idea if they’re in style or not, don’t really care, especially since clothing styles are so diverse these days. It’s not like pre-online shopping in the 80s and 90s where it was nearly impossible to find something you liked if it was no longer “in style”.

But it seems to work, since I get comments on my dresses a lot, and even more on my fun knee socks.


I forget where I’ve read this, I think in quite a few places actually, but so much of having style is just embracing what you love, leaning in, owning it, and being confident more than anything.


Ooh, I was thinking your kind of evanescent fashion, like mine, is really hard to reconcile with having a capsule wardrobe. But @darlingpants suggestion of clothing rental is a good one!

Personally, while I have been tempted by the cute and efficient capsule wardrobes I see, I have given up on the concept. I like having a wide variety of pretty clothes. I remember being torn, when I was a teenager, between going full hippie and full goth and since I couldn’t decide on either I did neither. Now I kind of wish I had just collected wardrobes of both. (I did have several pieces I loved that combined hippie and goth aspects. Actually, I still do.) Nowadays I have Pinterest boards for witchy, dark academia, and cottagecore style inspiration, and I am joyful when I find a new piece of clothing that corresponds to one of those. (That really doesn’t answer your question at all, but I figured you might be interested anyway.)


Oh! so. I gave up on the capsule wardrobe thing, generally, but! but! I travel for long-term a lot an usually I pack down quite small (one month on a kids’ school backpack). This is how I do my mixing styles thing for a long-term smaller travel wardrobe:

my base pieces mix with most styles. These are usually my most expensive pieces and are usually acquired extremely lightly used through a in-person thrift store (lol), poshmark/ebay or through an outlet sale/store. For me, these are merino wool (because of low stink factor/long life) and are generally black/gray/teal (my base colors for my wardrobe). These are things like leggings, turtlenecks, tanks, cap sleeve shirts. These I will wear over and over and over again.

To have more mixed wardrobes I focus on the cheaper/lighter pieces that change the outfit. These are:

  • vests
  • tights
  • jewelry
  • skirts
  • belts

These are more likely to be made of not-amazing fabric but have the fun personality. For example I have a hot pink school girl skirt and 1940s pencil skirt. The same base layers can be combined for totally different aesthetics by changing the skirts and earrings.

I get all of these off poshmark/mercari/ebay by acquiring fast fashion second hand and living with that. some of my fun pieces I do sew.

The things that I spend big dollars for are statement shoes and long-lasting shoes. I have 7 pairs of shoes and they all pretty much fulfill a specific function - one of those functions is that I wear my silver platform boots with wings when I need to punk rock an outfit.

I stay within the same colorways EXCEPT for a few accent pieces. My whole wardrobe conforms to those colorways.

I do investment pieces as well that usually tend to be dresses, and I stick with black/white that can then be dressed up. If they’re suits, I go wild with colors and use whatever underneath as the neutral pallette.

For example, I have a lace A-line dress that I’ve worn in a 1950s style fit and then have also worn with a crinoline + hot pink bondage harness. Both are an aesthetic.

My biggest advice I give to people into fashion is not to think that capsule wardrobe means only the seasonless, beautiful fancy blob pieces. You’ll most regret not having your amazing fringe-glitter jacket (or whatever it is) than you’ll regret not having 3 different white $200 tanks. Just make sure that all the base pieces can be mixed or matched.

ETA: I currently have 238 pieces of clothing. Average price of each piece is $15 - that’s because I have most of it free from clothing swaps/freepiles/made myself but then I also own an $800 custom suit.

ETA2: My article on my wardrobe spreadsheet https://www.racked.com/2018/4/10/17215194/closet-clothing-wardrobe-charts-data

ETA3: I am very small compared to the American market. This means I usually either get US vintage clothing which fits my proportions better usually, I alter the clothing I do get OR I get stuff made on an asian sizing scale which generally fits me better. I have accepted alteration as part of the cost of doing business.


Also, for things that I do want to acquire new (I have an ethics standard as far as a labor when it comes to new purchases) that are investment, I plot for a long time. I’ve been planning on buying these pants for about 2 years now and I have the money in my clothing investment category but haven’t decided to do it yet because…I don’t really NEED them.



I found some of the older posts on Putting Me Together to be really helpful about how to create a wardrobe that is pretty remixable and how to understand better what the building pieces are that would make that work for me.

I buy almost everything on thredup and poshmark. Thredup seems best if you have an idea of something you want (a blue and white floral print) and poshmark seems best if you have a really specific idea (j.crew sweater in 100% merino wool)


I will second that. I will also say threadup really good if you want a specific fast fashion brand quite cheap. Like old navy sweaters or something like that.


Don’t you worry that the brand will stop selling the pants that you want? I see these are the autumn/winter 2020 version, so do they basically sell the same pants in every season so you expect them to come back? I find myself lusting after specific pieces and then the brand stops making them.


They have in fact stopped selling my size - this particular brand keeps the same patterns but changes the fabrics each season. I’m still holding out for black pinstripe, I hope.

I was hoping to get them second hand but this is a really small brand and people hang on to their pieces from them.

Yup, I just make myself decide if it’s worth it to me, lol. This is why I rarely end up buying things new. I just wait and then they’re out of it and I go “oh well it’s not meant to be”


Also I will add that as a person that works out about 5-7 days a week and gets skin fungal infections quite easily, I have not figured out how to capsule wardrobe workout clothing.

I need at least 3 pairs of leggings: One to wear, one to be drying, one to be washing and two pairs of sports bras (they dry faster).


ugh i feel all this so hard. add in being a former poor kid and plus sized for extra anxiety about feeling like i need to buy all the things now bc who knows when i will have money or find something that fits me again!

at this point i just have a big wardrobe and have made my peace with it. i do sometimes create a capsule for the season and that is fun and does make life easier in lots of ways. i put the season’s capsule on a clothing rack outside my closet, where everything else is. that way when i start to be rebel-y against my rules, i can dip into the treasure trove and pull out that one dress that is not in my capsule but i MUST wear today. it works for me by helping feel like i have abundance and also some structure.


That sounds cozy!

I’m a person who gravitates towards a small closet, wearing the same few things over and over, but I feel like I’ve been turning over clothes a lot because my body has changed quite a lot in the last 3 years and I’m still finding the combo of clothes that I’m just consistently comfortable and feel good (and good-looking!) in.


Yes! I mean if I ever find a place to live. -_-

I see some of myself in this statement :joy:

LOL. I am still happy to have you come along, as long as you are game to attempt to answer questions as earnestly as you can. First question: CHIFFON OR TULLE? Explain.

this is also my aesthetic, you know me very well. but then also sometimes i look like a character out of tron and it goes completely the opposite way!

As to all the other great advice:

  • Core pieces with accessories! Yes, this seems like the way. Even if for my particular style, core pieces may mean different things. I liked some of the core pieces described here, but I think I may add things in lieu of say, a “light trench” and the somewhat arbitrary “2 striped tees”?
  • High quality basics / low quality statements - I thought this would be the other way around! My basics get worn and sweated through really, really easily…Maybe I am just gross.
  • Colors - this is an interesting idea. Style will vary, but color preferences probably not so much. For example, I don’t like hot pink. But I really like nude pink/a muted rose. I will review my wardrobe.
  • I LOVE the idea of a capsule and treasure trove. It reminds me of what user @tardis said about buying art to rotate throughout the year/seasons.
  • And yeah my body is changing so radically and I’ll have another kid so it feels strange to put the money and time into it now… but isn’t that also just life?

Thanks so much all. This gives me a really great starting point.


And that feels worse in low quality and they fall apart faster (I basically wear basics and occasionally vampy stuff)

Let’s all do this it sounds the most fun. I think my shoes already do this