How to Look Classy on Any Budget

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to fashion and style is that it costs a lot of money to look classy, but I beg to differ.

It’s far more important to dress in a way that is tasteful and flattering, and there are simple tricks you can learn to elevate your style without spending a lot of money.

Yes, it is possible to cultivate good taste and learn to style yourself to look polished and classy… on any budget. Here are my best tips.

True confessions: It might have taken me longer to decide on a photo to use for this graphic than it did to write the post. It’s a lot of pressure! 😂

How to Look Classy on Any Budget

#1. Get rid of worn, ill-fitting, and out-of -date clothing.

It’s far better to have a small, highly edited wardrobe of items you love and wear over and over, than a closet crammed full of everything you’ve purchased over the past 20 years.

If you haven’t done a good closet edit in a while, this is the place to start. Getting rid of items that are worn, out of style, stained, ill-fitting, or too large or small should be the first step towards elevating your style.

Need help with that? Read my post: How to Purge Your Closet and Love Your Wardrobe Again.

How to Purge Your Closet and Love Your Wardrobe Again

#2. Learn how to dress your unique body and define your personal style.

The single best thing I ever did to elevate my personal style was to learn my body type and how to dress it properly.

Since taking the Adore Your Wardrobe course offered by my friend Kelly Snyder, I now know how to discern if an item of clothing works for me or not, and I’m much better at putting outfits together that have the correct balance and proportion for my body. If you struggle with this, I highly recommend her course.

As far as defining your personal style, you will find lots of tutorials if you google the topic. Putting a label on your unique style will help you clarify and define your look, and ultimately make shopping and outfit-building easier.

#3. Wear properly fitting undergarments. 

They’re called foundation garments for a reason. If the foundation of a house isn’t sound, the whole house will collapse… and the same is true for your outfits.

Be sure to get regular bra fittings, and replace your bras and underwear regularly.

Also, be sure you are wearing your bra correctly and caring for it properly. I wash my bras on the delicate cycle using mesh laundry bags and hang them to dry. And it’s good to tighten the straps every few wears to make sure your “girls” are up where they belong.

#4. Have your clothes tailored.

Wearing clothing that fits properly is a reflection of good taste, so get to know a good tailor and utilize her often.

This tip affects some people more than others. If you have a body type that doesn’t align with typical off-the-rack sizing, you will end up using a tailor more than those of us who are more of a standard size/shape/silhouette.

If you find yourself needing a tailor often, it may pay to spend a bit more at stores like Nordstrom where they provide this service for free or at a discount… and have the tailoring done immediately, before even leaving the store.

#5. Know when to splurge and when to save, and stay away from trends that don’t work for you.

It’s worth it to invest in quality pieces if you will wear them often, and over the course of many years; but if it’s a trendy item or something very memorable that you may only wear a handful of times, go with the fast fashion version.

If your budget is tight, learn your labels and how to discern quality garments, and buy pricier products second-hand from consignment shops or online retailers like eBay, Poshmark, Thred-Up, etc.

And remember, incorporating a trendy item from time to time that aligns with your personal style is a good way to keep your look current, but don’t over-do it with the trendy pieces. That’s a sure way to look like a slave to fashion.

#6. Know your fabrics.

The materials you wear can reflect poor taste. Some simply look cheap, plus, man-made fibers won’t hang properly on your body like natural wool or cotton fabrics.

A while back, I wrote a post about What Makes A Garment Good Quality (or Not). You may find it helpful.

#7. Take care of your clothes, but don’t over-wash them.

Learn the proper way to care for different types of fabrics, and if in doubt, wash according to the instructions on the tag. If an item gets torn or snagged, have it repaired. Have buttons replaced if they get loose or fall off, etc.

Also, over-washing can break down fabrics over time, so don’t wash them unless they’re stained or dirty.

Get in the habit of hanging your clothes or folding them and putting them away when you take them off. Leaving them draped over the ironing board or in a heap on the floor will affect their shape and structure over time, plus it forces you to wash them more often.

Whether you spent a lot or a little on an item of clothing, taking good care of it will extend the life of the garment and keep it looking its best.

#8. Keep your shoes clean and polished, and make sure your handbag doesn’t show signs of wear and tear.

This goes alone with #7 but I felt like it deserved it’s own bullet point. The condition of your shoes and handbag goes a long way towards presenting a polished appearance.

And yes, I have a post for this too — Fight the Frump: Update Your Handbag.

Fight the Frump: Update Your Handbag

#9. Wear tasteful accessories. 

Having some trendy fashion jewelry is a fun way to change up your look and create a focal point for a simple outfit, but investing in a few key pieces that are tasteful and understated that you can wear often will go a long way towards elevating your style.

These do not have to be high end designer pieces that cost a lot; it’s more about discerning what looks cheap vs. what looks classy.

This extends to your eyewear as well. Make sure your eyeglasses and sunglasses are current and work for your personal style.

#10. Avoid big logos, and never buy fakes.

Wearing big logos and fake designer items looks try-hard and cheap. It’s far more tasteful to wear a quality piece from a generic designer.

#11. Practice good grooming habits.

Keep your nails and hair clean and groomed, take care of your skin and teeth, and learn to apply your makeup.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the salon. There are plenty of websites and YouTube tutorials that will teach you how to do these things at home on the cheap.

The exception to this is your teeth, but this goes along with cost per wear. If you can afford to straighten crooked teeth or fix your dental work, it’s a worthwhile investment in your appearance that will last a lifetime.

What would you add to this list?

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42 thoughts on “How to Look Classy on Any Budget

  1. Great post! I guess I am unconsciously following these guidelines. I do have a question about colors. I bought a pair of perfect shorts from Talbot’s. The color is tarragon. I am finding it difficult to style this color. I usually try to have the same color in my top as shorts in a print, but I haven’t had much luck. I know white is good with them, but I do not look great in bright white, so ivory is better for me. but I would like some choices. Any ideas, anyone?

    1. I have tarragon pants. I’ve paired them with a navy/off white striped tee. Also a light denim toned chambray shirt over a plain white tee (or off white as you prefer).  

    2. I am no fashionista for sure, but I would definitely do ivory and black. Some of the bloggers have been showing a lot black tops, which is a neutral and seems to look great with most colors. I quickly looked on the Talbot’s site and put in tarragon in the search. Seems they have paired it with a nice striped t-shirt, a dotted (very subtle) looks like long sleeved t-shirt style top. I looked at all their options for tarragon to see what they showed. Perhaps others who are more in the know can help. Also, if you are on Facebook, put the question to JLS Fashion Tribe. So many style savvy women in the group.

  2. What do you do if you have added the COVID-19? Do you still purge too small items assuming styles will have changed by the time you are back in that size? Keep if you expect to lose even some of the weight?  

    1. It took me like 3 reads to figure out what you were saying… LOL!

      I always put away clothing that doesn’t fit but that I still love into a “maybe” bin and hold onto it until I see if I need it again. I don’t like keeping things in my closet that don’t fit b/c it’s mental clutter and gets in the way of creating outfits I can wear now.

  3. Informative post. I think you covered it all. I follow you for many reasons. One of my favs is because you always look classy & well put together no matter what you’re wearing – dressy or super casual.  FYI – I woke up to 61 degrees this AM 😳. High of 72 today in NE WI at our lake home. What a treat, as it has been balmy here too. Needless to say, I’m going for a very loooooong walk. WooHoo!

  4. So timely for me as I just did major purge Saturday. I would add nice winter jackets,..
    I always look forward to your winter posts.  I find for me age and stage of life is reflected 
    in my wardrobe.  Always love seeing the variety you post!

    1. I definitely agree that taking age and stage of life into account is a piece of the puzzle. And yes to nice winter jackets. And wearing a jacket that fits the occasion, not the same parka to everything. You guys are full of other great tips.

  5. Great post! Your writing makes me feel like I’m chatting with a sister or girlfriend. You’ve made me decide to get a better handbag in the next few weeks and do a better purge of my closet. Thank you! 

  6. I grew up in a place where only classy exists. So many shades of beige! Sometimes, I get sick of it and wear something outrageous, just to have fun. Yes, I am wearing the shirt that says, “I like beef cuts and I cannot lie.” However, reading this post made me realize what a good job my mother did teaching me the rules and I know that I’ve had so many opportunities because of it. This is a great post and should be shared with all the children. It really helps to know how to alter your own clothes.

    1. LOL, sometimes it’s fun to be outrageous. I think it’s all about knowing your audience and choosing the right time and place. Maybe that should have been tip #12. 🙂

  7. These are great suggestions and I will be referring to the list when I switch my closet over to the next two seasons. I have a hard time getting rid of things if I feel it stills have life left in it, but I have started to realize when its date has expired sort of speak… I agree on the trendy items and try not to spend much on these. My daughter and I were actually just discussing the TYE DYE which is so popular right now but will it be back for fall or next spring and summer? I have seen quite a few of the bloggers rave about the soma undergarments, so I may watch for a promo and give these a try… Do you have favorites in these for the no show department?
    Also I enjoyed your post yesterday, we had been away as a family for a few days at a cottage and spent most of it outdoors and at the beach. .. It was just what we needed a nice break and diversion from all that’s been going on… Of course all the rules were followed and we are thankful that our Atlantic provinces have bubbled( because the numbers very low and are almost non existent right now) and we were able to have this change in scenery. Praying that the USA will soon turn a corner, and see the numbers drop.
    We are having the hot weather as well and are in for a hot week ahead…

  8. Great post! I’d love to see a post of top 10 or less items that are classic and don’t really go out of style:) thanks so much for all you do!

  9. This is a thought provoking post! Good information and great to go over the basics from time to time. Helpful closet information we sometimes skim over. I know I have really done a good job in purging my closet if I scare myself a little! Ha!

  10. I would add 2 things that don’t cost anything. First, posture. Shoulders up & back & hips, legs, feet in straight alignment.  Makes a world of difference in how your clothes look on you, & how your image is projected to others. Second, smile!

    1. So true Gail! Best way to look like you have lost 5 to 10 lbs is to stand up tall or straight. Smiling makes everyone look more appealing and inviting. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. I love your first outfit! Those shoes! 

    One of my big beefs is wearing yoga pants with a short top and calling that an outfit. It should be for working out only. Or, at least wear a tunic top. Certainly not a classy look! 

    Thank you for the reminder to edit your closet. I’ve gained weight (Covid19) with the gym closed. I’m going to spend some time this morning putting any items of clothing that is too tight to the back of my closet. I always get a satisfied feeling from organizing. 

  12. Thanks for the motivation to work on a closet purge!  I desperately need to do this!  Great post today and the older one on purging your closet!  

  13. Great post very helpful… Thank you for all you do for us. I did find out I am rectangle shape also known as straight. Still trying to learn how to dress. Lol trial and ERROR, I would live to have a personal shopper some day and yes Tailoring is important…


  14. Great post, Jo-Lynn and perfectly aligned with my philosophy about clothes. I do believe one can dress fashionably AND you don’t need a bulging closet of expensive clothes.  I’ve found having less space for clothes in my new little house has made my wardrobe more functional and fun. I honestly have nothing in my summer wardrobe more than two years old and so everything fits and makes me feel good.  And what’s more, I do have not spent a lot of money or time shopping. Great ideas here! 

  15. Great post JoLynne! Spot on and so many good take-aways. You are always classy! Have a great week. 🙂

  16. Fantastic list!  The one thing that popped in my mind is that as we age, while we don’t need to dress matronly, when we dress like a teenager or our young adult daughter, that ages us.  I like it when I see moms celebrating the stage of life they are in with the outfit they are wearing.  My mind is grappling with you loving the heat and humidity.  Larry and I just can’t tolerate it, so we are sequestered in the house.  The thought of having to mow the yard this week just about makes me sick, even though I have a riding mower.  I’ll be out there real early one morning.  I hope that y’all have had a good day!

    1. I love the heat as long as I can escape from it, lol!!! I take full advantage of having central air. 🙂 I would definitely be mowing in the early morning hours, that’s when I walk/run too.

  17. Thank you, for the great reminders and I love the black and white checked skirt you are wearing in the photo! Did I miss that in a previous post? I have so many pencil skirts but that would be fabulous for next spring/sumner fall (when I am dressing for work travel again, fingers crossed).

  18. Great post and all sooo true. The first thing I thought of when I opened this post was……WOW!!!!! What a great picture of you. I LOVE the black and white outfit and those sandals look amazing on you.  You really did it right with the whole outfit. Do you ever wear it?  You should hurry and think of a place to wear it. LOL  

  19. PS  I color code my clothes in my closet. I did this a few years ago and it really helps me find what I need when dressing and helps me not buy what I don’t need.  I use to think it was too OCD if you did this but really if you try it you won’t go back to the other way. 🙂  

    1. I color code the clothes in my closet too. It helps a lot with putting outfits together and also helps me with buying new clothes.

      1. Yes… Jen it really helps. So glad I did it like 5 yrs ago. Now I just need to do my husbands side 🙂 lol. 

  20. I love your posts. You always give such great tips. I just finished taking the Adore your Wardrobe signature class and learned so much about how to dress my body type. I’m signed up for the Advanced class that starts in late August and can’t wait to learn more. I’m a short-waisted pear with cool undertone. Since you took this class also, I’m wondering if you would share your body type??….you probably already did that somewhere on your website. I’m still working on training my eye on what looks good. You always look fantastic in your outfits.

  21. Thanks ~~ this is very helpful.   The comments help me too!  I have the rack out and all intentions of beginning “the purge.   Do you try on most of the clothes? (Before keep or let go?)  Do you ever re- sell?  This is a real chore so looking for input before I begin. 

    1. I absolutely tried everything on – every last piece. That is key. I was shocked by how many things I was keeping in case… and found out they no longer fit.

      Now that I do this with every change of season, I don’t always try it all on, but if I haven’t tried it on that season, I do.

      If this is the first time you’ve done a whole closet purge, I definitely recommend trying everything on. If you have a ton of clothes, do it in stages.

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