Freebie fashion: the extreme budget style guide

Stylist Lori Wiechec gives some tops tips on updating your wardrobe when you’re on a tight budget.



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You’re in desperate need of a wardrobe update but there’s just one catch – you’re stony-broke and even a trip to Primark will leave you penniless. So what’s a frugal fashionista to do? Forget maxing out your overdraft or living off baked beans on toast till payday. Updating your look for next to nothing is surprisingly simple when you know how. So we turned to stylist Lori Wiechec for some pointers. Lori helped bring the popular US swishing phenomenon to the UK and knows more than a thing or two about looking fabulous on a shoestring. From blagging free stuff to savvy at-home tailoring, get saving with her top tips for the skint snappy dresser.

Swap till you drop
Got a wardrobe bursting with duds in mint condition that you never ever wear? “Swap impulse buys or clothes you’ve fallen out of love with for something new,” says Lori. “Organise a fun informal swap party with your friends, or attend one of the UK’s many swishing events. Find your nearest at” If you’d rather do it from the comfort of your home, exchange your threads on Swap Style, Britain’s leading online swishing destination, or try sites such as Big Wardrobe and Covert Candy.

Hit the high street
Not to spend money, of course. “Bring a bag of your most decent rejects to the nearest clothing exchange,” says Lori. The downside is that the best shops like Bang Bang and Notting Hill CE tend to concentrated in London. If your offerings aren’t in very good nick, try one of the new crop of in-store recycling schemes. “Oxfam will give you a £5 M&S voucher if you donate any M&S-branded clothing,” says Lori. “H&M are rolling out a similar voucher incentive scheme later this year.”



Flog your fashion
After hard cash for your unwanted wares? Get selling online. “eBay is a great place to start,” says Lori, “but you may have more success flogging your clothing on a more specialised fashion site.” Asos Marketplace and Preloved are ideal if you have any mid-range items to offload. For the odd designer piece, it’s worth listing it on UK site Stilorama. or if you’re feeling adventurous, pop it on cult French marketplace Vestiaire Collective.

Go on the blag
If you’ve got nothing to pawn, it’s time to start looking into scoring some freebies. “Sign up to and snag yourself a bag of complimentary clothes,” says Lori. “ Although the mailing list is more likely to publish homewares, it’s not unusual to find people giving away apparel. Lists are nationwide and organised by area.” she adds. “Even Gumtree has a free stuff section that regularly features clothing. Again, you don’t know what you’ll get, but that’s half the fun.”

Tailor your togs
Put off wearing ill-fitting threads? Overhauling a badly fitting pencil skirt or overly tight jacket will update your look and can cost you peanuts. “Tailors don’t come cheap,” says Lori, “so check if your local dry cleaner offers an alteration service. Many of them do these days and it’s likely to be far more affordable. If you fancy going DIY, check out the excellent Burda Style blog. It’s packed with informative, easy-to-follow tips and tutorials.”

Make do and mend
Don’t be tempted to throw away your moth-eaten statement jumpers or torn cigarette pants. ”From patching holes and fixing ripped trousers, to sewing on buttons, mending clothing is easy,” says Lori. “It just takes a little bit of time and plenty of patience. Like any job, it’s best not to rush it.” The web is chock full of videos and tutorials on how to repair broken clothes to revamp a lacklustre wardrobe. For the basics, take a peek at this easy DIY tutorial.

Customise your clothing
Tweaking old threads can make them fresh again and bang on trend. “Get into customisation to upcycle tired basics, “ says Lori. “Try jazzing up a boring sweater with appliqué touches. This tutorial will show you how to add cute pom-poms to your knits. Or nod to the lace trend and sew a trim on a skirt for an after-dark touch. You can even try replacing a panel on an old frumpy tee to create a sexy evening silhouette, as Mollytov does here.”



Transform those threads
A minor tweak is all well and good, but what if you want to turn what you have into something completely new? “Restore faded garments or change their colour completely with a cheap home dye,” says Lori. “For more complex stuff, tune into the YouTube series ThreadBanger. Each episode is easy enough for beginners and usually only requires scissors and a sewing machine or a needle and thread.” Then, you could even try selling your crafty creations on Etsy or Folksy.

Age-proof your wardrobe
Protection is key if you want to eke out more longevity from your wardrobe.”Natural fabrics in particular require extra attention,” says Lori. “Stain and weather-proof suede and leather shoes withTopshop’s protector spray. Maintain vibrant colour by storing your cottons, woollens and silks out of direct sunlight. Stuff your shoes with newspaper and keep knits flat so they retain their shape. If you’re storing garments for a while, envelope them in sealed bags or surround with lavender sachets to keep the moths at bay.”

Handle with care
Your clothes will last a lot longer if you treat them with a little TLC. “Hand wash anything special with mild eco detergent at the coolest temperature possible to preserve colour and form,” says Lori. “Line dry all items if you can, as tumble dryers can be really harsh on fabrics. When you have the cash, grab a maintenance kit from Total Wardrobe Care and think about investing in a handheld steamer which is gentler on fabrics than a conventional iron.”


January 24, 2013. January.

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