Fashion on a Budget

By: Mary Kate Patterson

February 17th marked the beginning of the London Fashion week for Fall/Winter of 2012. After the few tepid days of sun Sweet Briar had, its hard to even begin to think of fall and the beginning of another winter. With those sunny days in mind I’d like to revisit the lines showcased in the London Fashion week for Spring/Summer.

It’s nearly impossible to point to one reoccurring trend among the plethora of designers but as usual for spring and summer lines bright colors and lights fabrics were in abundance. One of my personal favorites was the line by London designer Emilia Wickstead, her line is known for its trademark pleats, something to be found in abundance throughout the collection for spring and summer. Her designs focus on classic tailoring with a modern edge giving each piece a sharp and elegant look. Her line in particular made use of low heeled pumps in off colors, the orange in particular caught my eye, a detail which spices up an otherwise simple look. For as much as I may drool over the looks shown on the catwalk they are far and away out of my price range, instead I try to find cheaper clothing with the elements of the designer items I most appreciated.

By picking elements of a designer piece you like you get the opportunity not only to work on developing your personal style but you make it easier to find pieces you will love and will wear for ages rather than those you will begrudgingly put on a few times before sending them off to goodwill. Beautiful, good quality clothing is expensive and because of that when you do spend money it should be on something you’re certain fits your body and your style.

To surmise my hero Nina Garcia, if it makes you feel ordinary its not worth the money. That aside sometimes you just really want things even if they are super trendy or not trendy at all and that is where the beauty of thrift stores comes in. If you are willing to wait, and more importantly to look almost every style now popular has been around a time or two. With a keen eye and some repair skills most of the looks you’re in love with now will be in bargain bins with small tears or in goodwill with a few holes within a year.

As Ari Cohen of the fashion blog Advanced Style which focuses on street fashion writes, “I can’t stress enough that style is not about how much money you have, but how you put yourself together. These women may look like they spend a lot of money on clothes, but most of them recycle what is in their wardrobes or shop at vintage and thrift stores. The key to their style is presentation.”

I have two rules for glamorous style, smile and act confident and carry a sewing kit. One of the best skills a fashionable women can have is the ability to do minor clothing repairs, I don’t mean that you should be darning socks or sewing up all of your own clothes, although that is impressive. I mean the ability to replace buttons, fix a busted hem of a whole in a knit sweater, that way when you do find the perfect cashmere jumper in goodwill you can bring it home knowing that in a few minutes it will look good as new.

Another thing that is important in the same vein is to follow care instructions, although it is so much easier to just throw all of your laundry in the same machine, don’t do it. By caring for you’re clothing properly you increase its life dramatically. Not only do you increase the life but you keep your clothing looking like its meant to, especially with the silks and flowing fabrics found in the spring lines that I, at least, am pining over.

Contact Mary Kate Patterson at with any questions or comments.

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