6 Budget-Friendly Tricks To Make Your Winter Wardrobe Feel Brand New

It is no secret on TFD that I love clothes and fashion — however, like all things, it is a hobby that has to come after all of my other adult responsibilities. I haven’t had the time or resources to dedicate a lot of time to outfitting recently, and for the past two mornings, I’ve found myself staring into my closet in the morning feeling stressed and uninspired.

Individually, I love everything I own. I definitely don’t need anything new — I have enough. (If we’re splitting hairs, I have more than enough.) But that doesn’t change the fact that I open my closet door and feel like each sweater looks “blah” with each pair of jeans, and none of my blouses feel as crisp as they used to, and none of my dresses feel like ones I can throw on and feel confident in without lots of fussing and styling.

I think that just happens sometimes, especially if you’re someone who spends a lot of time on the internet (*raises hand*) and is overwhelmed with images of women wearing the newest and trendiest clothes, making you suddenly wish you could trade your whole wardrobe in for a new one. That’s where I’m at right now. 

But this season, I don’t have the spare cash to go out and buy new scarves or sweaters or fun coats to make my winter wardrobe feel fresh and new. (It took every ounce of willpower to avoid buying everything during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, but I pulled through.) So, I’ve been spending a little extra time in my closet, carefully taking stock of what I own and figuring out how I can make it work for my new lifestyle (my day-to-day life looks a lot different than it was this time last year when I was still a full-time student) and update my winter wardrobe in a way that won’t cost me a ton of money, or send me running out on a shopping spree to buy trendy pieces I won’t even look at this time next year. Here are six ways I’ve figured out how to spice up my wardrobe, and how you can, too, if you’re feeling the same way I am right now.

1. Inject some color.

You probably already have a winter wardrobe full of neutrals — cream, black, gray, and camel are winter staples year after year, and it makes sense that our sweater collections are mostly in this neutral color palette that will last for seasons to come. But this year, color is ~in~, so you might want to consider swapping a few of those basic sweaters for a few in fun, flattering colors to bring some life to this dull gray season. The key when adding color to a colorless wardrobe is keeping it small at first, and working bigger once you’ve figured out which colors you like most and look best in. Start with something like a red bag, then see if you think you can handle a bright red sweater. Try a pair of blue velvet shoes, and see if you want to try and pull the color off with a blazer. If you still aren’t finding yourself too keen on brights, try colors that are more muted or darker, so they act as neutrals in your wardrobe — things like olive green, deep burgundy, and pale pink feel safe, but are more exciting than brown, black, or white.

Personally, I have a wardrobe of mostly dark gray, navy blue, and black sweaters — but I added a hot pink one (which I love throwing over sleek all-black looks) and a periwinkle blue one (that looks great with warm brown skirts and cable-knit tights) that bring some life to my boring, neutral cold-weather looks. 

This is an easy tip that can change up the feel of your entire wardrobe by simply adding one piece to offer you another option when you’re bored by your closet and looking to wear something a little different.

2. Try a sweater-swap.

Sweaters in various cuts, colors, and knits are obvious staples in any cold-weather wardrobe (especially if you live somewhere that gets wicked cold, like my beloved New England). If you’re like me, you’ve been collecting them for years, and you love them dearly — I have a stack of warm cashmere that I add to as I move through life, and it comes in handy when the weather starts to cool down. But something about wearing the same sweaters year after year feels boring and uninspiring — even though you don’t necessarily want to go throw away all of your perfectly warm and functional sweaters, you might just be getting sick of them and wanting something different than your yearly norm. The solution might not be to run out to H&M and grab 10 new knits that you don’t necessarily need — but a cheaper and more sustainable version of this might be organizing a sweater-swap with friends who might be feeling the same “blah” feeling when they look at their wardrobe that you are. My best friend and I will toss sweaters that we love, but are kind of sick of wearing repeatedly, at each other, and then swap them back at the end of the season. That way, we can still own our clothes, but get to borrow and wear a few new pieces that make our wardrobes feel a little new and exciting throughout the season.

3. Don’t pack away your summer style favorites.

When I pack away my clothes at the end of each season and switch over to a closet full of more seasonally-appropriate things, I often find myself missing the things I put away, and feeling like my wardrobe is lacking in items (therefore convincing myself I need a shopping trip — which I never do). My new thing: keeping out all of my clothes year-round. I’ll definitely put the summer-y dresses towards the back since I know I’ll be reaching for them less than my cashmere sweaters in January, but I leave them in there to open up the possibility of layering, and keep some extra options (that I already know I love, since they exist in my wardrobe already) in the closet. The very trendy “cami-dress-over-tee-shirt” trend from last year is updated now with the “knit-turtleneck-under-shift-dress” one, which I personally find chic and comfortable as hell for chilly weather. Other ideas: a lacey, satin cami from your summer wardrobe looks cozy and sophisticated with a lower-cut v-neck pullover sweater on top of it, or casual-cute with a chunky cardigan draped around your shoulders. A flowy spring mini dress in a darker floral pattern can be made over with a pair of opaque tights, a waist belt, and a pair of booties. Whatever made your heart sing during the warmer months can be reinvented and mixed with your cold-weather pieces to create looks you never knew you could out of items you already owned.

4. Experiment with a texture you don’t normally go for.

I love crazy clothes, but day-to-day, I tend to be a simple dresser — I go for simple dark-wash denim, sweaters that are fine-knit and close to my body (the oversize trend was never cute on my barely 5’2” frame), classic soft-knit cardigans and black blazers. So when I look for ways to update my wardrobe, I just think about recreating the outfits I already love (jeans, cashmere sweater, blazer; leggings, t-shirt, cardigan, scarf; casual dress with plain black tights) but using pieces with different textures and materials than the ones I’m used to.

Swapping my regular black denim for a pair of coated leather-look jeans makes it look much cooler. Wearing a thicker, cable-knit sweater with a little more volume adds more visual interest than my plain cashmere. Switching out the plain black tights for a sheer pair that shows my legs peeking out from under, or a textured knit pair, or a pair with a pattern or detail on them makes the outfit look like I put a lot more effort into it. Trading a regular knit scarf in and trying out a chic faux-fur one looks unexpected and trendy with a simple outfit. All of these things are pieces you’d normally wear, just made out of materials you normally wouldn’t (so you’re already halfway to loving it).

5. Use Pinterest to your advantage.

Chances are, you have something at least sort of similar to a piece of the outfit the flawless Pinterest girl you’re ogling is wearing — she’s probably just styling it in a way you never have, so it looks like something you don’t own (and wish you did). Make something real out of your Pinterest-perusing — light a candle in your bedroom, sip a cup of tea, and scroll through your Pinterest fashion boards with your closet doors open, picking out pieces you love on the models, but never feel quite right in when you wear them IRL. It is a fun (free) little solo activity that might actually help you fall back in love with your wardrobe and find new ways to wear the things you thought you were ~so over~.

6. Challenge yourself.

This is similar to the last tip, but still worth mentioning: Chelsea wrote a few weeks back that she was doing an outfit challenge, forcing herself to create a new outfit combination every day out of clothes she already owned. If you give yourself a similar challenge and really try to stick with it, you might find new and unique ways to pair your clothes and create new outfit combos that become regulars in your winter rotation. Making beloved old things feel new again is even sweeter when it doesn’t cost a dime.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

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  • These are such legit tips! Loving this article, especially the solo Pinterest date. Scrolling can be great when it’s *~InTeNtiOnaL~*

  • One thing that I’ve done is to invest a little time into the care my items. Get the heels of my boots redone, steam out knits, de-pill a few still nice sweaters, de-lint my coats. The cost is minimal, but when the things I own look more like they did when I bought them, I find them more appealing. Winter clothing in particular gets a beating and for much less than buying new, I’ll repair.

    • Summer

      Definitely all of this. Dropping a few things off at the dry cleaners can also make a huge difference in helping to restore that ~just bought~ feeling.