Holiday Fashions on a Tight Budget

You probably already have plenty of clothes to see you through the season, so just dust off your creativity and give the plastic a rest. It’s easier than you think.

One of the best things about the holiday season is that you get to break out of your regular routine to take time with family and friends. From traveling and parties to sightseeing and just “hanging out,” it’s a fun, memory-building time of year.

But it can also be very expensive — particularly if you want to add to your holiday wardrobe ON TOP of everything else.

If your gift list and social calendar have your available credit balances quivering, DON’T stress them further by adding to your closet. You probably already have plenty of clothes to see you through the season, so just dust off your creativity and give the plastic a rest. It’s easier than you think.

Here’s how:

1. Make A List Of All Your Upcoming Events

With pen in hand and your calendar handy, jot down all the social functions you’ll be attending over the next few weeks. Dinner at Aunt Thelma’s, your daughter’s “Nutcracker” performance, the annual office Christmas party, dancing in the New Year – mark it all down so you know what’s coming.

2. Take An Inventory of Your Holiday Clothes

Now, instead of driving to the mall in a panic or clicking away online after perusing your list, take a few minutes to pull out everything you own that qualifies as holiday clothing, from your Santa sweatshirt to your rhinestone-studded pumps. If you haven’t looked in the back of your closet (or in your spare closet) in a while, you’re going to be surprised by what you already have. “Out of sight, out of mind” will make you think you have nothing to wear. Chances are, you have plenty.

3. Try Different Combinations

Start by grouping all of your clothes by type. Hang all your holiday dresses together, all your pants together, all your long skirts together, all your evening blouses together, all your jackets together, etc.

Don’t automatically pair the long black skirt and its matching jacket, or the palazzo pants with the satin blouse you bought to go with them. Why not? Because you won’t be able to see the other possible ways you can wear those pieces. Instead, pretend that you’re going shopping, and try to match each garment with other items you already have.

For example:

Let’s say you have 4 dresses, 2 pants, 5 blouses, and 3 jackets that would be appropriate for your upcoming events. How you can mix and match these separates to arrive at different combinations?

– Can you put a jacket over a dress?

– Can you pair one of the dresses with a silk blouse that you wear as a jacket?

– How about wearing the pants with a jacket and no blouse?

– How about pairing the pants with one blouse that you wear tucked in and one that you wear as a jacket?

The combinations are only limited by your imagination.

Play around with them for a few minutes, and you’ll be surprised by what you can come up with.

4. Accessorize Differently

Never underestimate the power of accessories or forget that they, like your clothes, can be worn in a variety of ways.

If your five-year-old little black dress must pull duty again this year, for example, wear it in a different way than you have in years past. Add a dramatic scarf or an oversized pin, for example. Or wear textured hose or a different pair of shoes. They may be the same old things you’ve had for ages, but they don’t have to look old OR the same. It’s all in the presentation.

5. Beg, Borrow, or Buy Cheap

If you honestly don’t have anything in your closet that will fit the bill appropriately, like you’re pregnant and need a formal gown, or you’ll be in a big fashion city on New Year’s (New York, London, Paris) with your small town wardrobe, borrow as much as you can from others. For all its glitter, special occasion apparel usually spends very little time in the spotlight, and most women are more than happy to lend out their gowns, wraps, and evening bags so that at least SOMEONE can enjoy the pretty pieces. Hit up friends, family, and co-workers for their baubles and return everything in pristine condition.

Still no luck at finding something appropriate? Look on eBay or try consignment shops, charitable organizations, and even garage sales to see if you can find something that works, cheap. Mix an inexpensive gown with expensive jewels or high-end shoes and no one will be the wiser — except you, of course.

Whatever you do, DON’T spend a lot of money for something you only plan to wear once, particularly if your budget’s tight. The only thing worse than an alcohol-induced hangover this time of year is suffering through the spending hangover that usually arrives with your credit card bills in January.

So don’t invite one by buying a new holiday wardrobe. Instead, put the plastic away, inventory what you have, and see what you can mix and match to create a new look from your old clothes. You’ll be amazed by what you can come up with.


Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic,” an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at

Photo © Dmitriy Shironosov