How to be a fashionista on a college budget

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For some people, clothes are merely a societal norm.

For others, like myself, they represent a realm of possibilities, and a way to express yourself without using words.

I am not embarrassed to say clothes are among my favorite things.

Many people have the false presumption that in order to look stylish and trendy, their wardrobes need to cost as much as a down payment on a car.

Not true. And here is a list to prove it – stylish tips for looking fabulous on a college budget:

Work with what you have.

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I have been in the fitting room many times with countless numbers of clothes ready to try on, and realized that three-fourths of the clothes I picked out I already own something similar.

Often people don’t realize what they have in their own wardrobes. In order to avoid repurchasing the same (or similar) items, create your own boutique in the confines of your closet.

Pick a day every now and then to completely empty your closet and lay out all your clothes. Assess everything you own and get creative. Pair outfits and see what pieces can transition into the next season. Before you know it, you will have a new wardrobe out of what you already own.

“I always take one older top, and try and pair it with something newer,” says Brooke Ellis, assistant manager at Copper Penny. “Sometimes I go on Pinterest in the morning to get inspiration for my outfits, and then I take what I already have and pair it together to recreate the look. That saves me from buying things.”

A sales associate at Copper Penny and CofC senior works a big part of her wardrobe around 10 pieces of clothing.

“I try and create outfits and build my wardrobe around about 10 of my favorite staples that I love and feel good in,” says Abby Durland. “Whether it’s an edgy necklace or new pair of leggings, I try and buy pieces that I know I will wear all the time and be able to mix and match with other articles of clothing in my closet.”


Make your clothing versatile.

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Not only does this one help with styling on a budget, it also aids in the busy lifestyles many college students lead.

From rushing to class, to internships, to study groups, and so on, college students may leave their house at 9 a.m. and not return again until dinnertime. Schedules are so jam-packed throughout the week that we barely have time for a good meal, let alone an outfit change.

It is important to transition your clothing depending on what your schedule has planned for you.

Running late to class and don’t have time to pick out an outfit, but know that you have a lunch date right after? Don’t worry! You can make those jeans and t-shirt look super trendy by adding some funky hoop earrings and changing into some cute booties in no time.

Switching up your look with a few minor changes is a quick fix for looking stylish in a pinch.


Work around staples.

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There are certain things every girl has in her wardrobe that never goes out of style. That little black dress you’ve already worn 100 times can turn into a fashion statement by styling it different ways.

It may be as simple as adding a sweater over your shoulders, or pairing it with tights and boots to create a totally different look. You may feel like your outfit is repetitive, but the truth is when it comes to staples, no one notices if you style the outfit differently.

Ellis believes every girl should have a few things that are easy to work with.

“My staple pieces are my chambray button up – you can pair it over a dress or with white jeans and boots,” she says. “Every girl needs at least one pair of killer booties, they never go out of style! And this one is so obvious, but a little black dress that you can use for any occasion.”


Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.

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It is a lot more economical to go out and buy a fun costume necklace or some funky gold bangles than to purchase an entirely new outfit.

Use the articles of clothing you already have and add some trendy accessories to change up the look.

If you find yourself fishing through everything you own and still don’t have what you need, then buy something new! Adding a fun new necklace to an outfit you’ve already sported gives you a whole new look without having to spend a fortune.

“Every once in a while I like to splurge on a patterned blouse or leather dress, but overall, I like to stick to neutrals, black, white, and grays so I can pair lots of different outfits without getting sick of my clothes,” says Durland.


One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

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One of the best perks of having girlfriends is being able to consolidate your wardrobes. If you find yourself rummaging through all your clothes and accessories, and still can’t find anything worth wearing, call up your gal pals and ask if you can swap.

Ellis loves using her friends’ closets as her personal shopping center.

“I’m a big fan of sharing my wardrobe with my girlfriends,” she said. “This allows you to play with your style. Because everyone thinks different things, it’s really fun to put yourself in your friends closet and try something new on.”

Maybe she’s over that cocktail dress she wore to last week’s event, but it’s something totally new to you!


There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence.

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When all else fails, treat yourself. If that beautiful dress in the department store window is screaming your name, go claim it!

You don’t have to do this all the time, but it is important to expand your wardrobe every now and then.

And if you have already implemented the first five tactics in this list, you won’t feel so bad in doing so.


Is it time for a little shopping,yet?


– by Christen Koribanics

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