Recession Living 101: When looking chic, less is more

I remember as a kid going back to school meant my mom buying me new shoes, socks and underwear, and me begging her for the new clothes that I just had to have. Now my mother doesn’t buy me underwear anymore, and she sure isn’t buying me anything new to wear for the fall.

With tuition going up, books to buy and a parking permit to purchase, my part-time barista salary isn’t going to get me near anything designer. However being in a recession doesn’t mean I can’t still look good and not break the bank.

Take a look in your closet. Most of you own a couple pairs of jeans, t-shirts, and a few trendy items. Here’s the good news: You can maximize clothing you already own, have a wider range of looks to choose from and spend no more then $100-150 to do it. When shopping at inexpensive stores like Forever 21, Old Navy, Target and H&M you can find two or three pieces and a couple of accessories that will revolutionize your wardrobe and your wallet.

One of these altering items is a blazer in black or navy. Blazers look great paired with tank tops and shorts or skinny jeans. You can also get more use out of summer dresses by adding black tights and a blazer. Another layering item that works the same is a long cardigan. Pair them with v-neck tees or light summer tops for when the weather gets cold. Old Navy has several cardigan styles running from $19.99 to $26.50.

Tired of jeans and t-shirts? Nothing looks more polished and is as comfortable then a t-shirt tucked into a hight-waisted jersey pencil skirt. You can mix it up by adding a scarf, or layered necklaces. Want something flirtier? Try a short flowy skirt instead. Forever 21 has lots of flowy skirts in different colors and patterns with prices starting at $14.50. When the weather gets colder just throw on a blazer or cardigan.

The cheapest way to dress up your look is by adding bold accessories to your staple items. A bold colored scarf can upgrade almost any outfit, and even better they are cheap and easy to find. Both Target and Old Navy carry large selection scarves in different colors and prints that run from $10 to $12.

Another great piece is a layered necklace, or this season’s trend, the bib necklace. Forever 21 is the best place to find a large selection of jewelry like necklaces, bangles and earrings for less, with prices usually between $3 to $12. Another great accessory that Forever 21 also carries are headbands a la “Gossip Girl.”  Like scarves and necklaces, headbands are an easy and classy way to dress up a simple dress or even jeans and t-shirt.

Still itching for more? Try finding a friend who wears the same size as you and try trading outfits. You get the same rush of wearing something new without the stomach drop of reading your bank statement.

Another option is having your friend look at your wardrobe and letting them match new looks for you. Then you can sell the discards to shops like Buffalo Exchange, which will buy quality items that can be resold.  At Buffalo Exchange clothing and accessories are bought, sold and traded directly with store customers. Bring in your former favorites for trade or cash on the spot. Either way you’ll have a little extra currency to buy a cute top or two.

The important thing to do with limited funds is learning to make the most of what you have and remembering that you don’t need to have every trendy item to look stylish. After all, the most important rule about looking chic is less is more.