5 Tips for Keeping Your Style Fresh Without Breaking the Budget

Okay, let’s be real here today – I am 41. I have three kids. I work full-time. At times, I travel around the world for my job. I am busy. I don’t have a lot of time for me unless it involves a headband, swimming cap, or bike helmet. But honestly, I try – I said try! – to avoid having a perpetual boring-old-mom-style. I try not to resort to stretchy pants every chance I get (hey, nothing wrong with stretchy pants, but not in every circumstance, right?). I try to keep my style fresh and fun. But I still want to stay true to ME and the fact that I’m not a 20-year-old any more. And here’s the really crazy thing – when you lose so much weight, you need all new clothes. I mean everythingfrom tops to underwear to pants to jackets to skirts to bras to pajamas – and I don’t just have thousands of dollars laying around to build a whole career wardrobe, PLUS a casual wardrobe, PLUS a fitness wardrobe from scratch. I have to be smart about it. I have to be creative.

I have this whole “new body” thing going on and it’s been fun to shop – clothes actually fit now and even look good! I know it’s hard to tell because I am mostly posting workout selfies and pictures with my crazy kids, but I have a few good tips that I’ve acquired for keeping my active (mom) style fresh without breaking the budget.

5 tips for keeping your style fresh without breaking the budget

First, there’s something you should understand. When given the chance, I will always default to a black v-neck shirt and jeans. It’s my standard, feel-good-about-myself outfit. It’s almost like my uniform.

Cynthia and daughter on bus to NYC

Top – EleVen by Venus. Use code “Team11CynthiaS” for a discount!

Nothing wrong with a good black v-neck shirt, but every day? Yes, I have been known to wear a black v-neck every day. But I’ve been trying to spruce it up and keep it fresh as I whiddle down the pants in my drawer from size 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, and now keep the sizes 4 and 6.

Another thing to understand – here’s me on a typical weeknight after work:

Working mom with 3 kids after work

Yes, that’s me buried under the pile of kids. I’m SO not fancy on your typical weeknight. So I need a style that can go from work to kids.

I used to bring clothes to the dry cleaner with a baby-oatmeal-handprint on the same spot on the shoulder every day. The woman would raise an eyebrow and I’d say – Hey, I’ve been gone all day long, I’m not going to say “don’t touch me!” when I walk in the door to my sweet kids.

But then there are other times where I have to don a formal black-tie gown, or a professional suit for work. I need lots of clothes in several genres.

But usually? Usually it’s every-day wear. And I tend to gravitate towards black, gray, and black & white patterns. To be fair, I work concerts and black is a great color to wear backstage – the audience doesn’t see you when you’re standing on the side of the stage and the conductor walks out to start the concert. But I’ve been trying to break out of my mold and freshen it up.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Style Fresh Without Breaking the Budget

1. Buy a new accessory. 

A new accessory can really brighten up your typical outfit. I’ve gotten into scarves lately, and am learning new ways to use them. I’ve even gone so far as to wear scarves that – gasp! – aren’t black!

Borelli Active Performance Scarf

Yep, I’m wearing it with a black v-neck shirt. But see how it adds a pop of color and freshens up the outfit?

2. Color your “uniform”.

Okay, this is going to sound really crazy, don’t fall off your chair, but I have a different color V-neck shirt. It’s pink. GASP! NOT BLACK!

Cherry Blossoms

If you have an article of clothing that you default to like a uniform, buy one in a different color. That way you’re still comfortable in your go-to style, and you can feel confident in it, but you’ve freshened up the color. And you don’t look the same as yesterday. And by changing just one piece in the ensemble, you’re not spending money on a whole outfit.

3. Have someone else pick your style.

Shop with a friend and have them pick out one article of clothing completely on their own. Walk away, let them go find something for you, and meet at the fitting rooms. Don’t wrinkle your nose at it when they hand it over at the dressing room door – try it on! You just might find that it’s the most compelling piece in your closet.

I’ve been doing Stitch Fix lately – so it’s like having a virtual stylist. Someone else picks 5 items for me and I can keep all or I can keep none. It’s definitely broken me out of my mold, and I wear the pieces more than other things in my closet. And hey, none are black v-neck shirts!

Stitch Fix

Wait, you got me. That shirt is black. Does this count as a black v-neck? It was in my second Stitch Fix box – it’s loose and flowy, and was a nice way to change up my favorites a bit. And I never would have picked out that color pants on my own, but they are my favorite pants now.

But you don’t have to do a styling service if it’s out of your budget – just take the first suggestion and have a friend pick out a piece for you! Be strong, you can break out of your mold!

4. Add patterned tights

It will come as no shock to you that my favorite dress is… yep, you guessed it – a black wrap dress. It’s like a v-neck since it wraps. Shocker! I have taken a cue from the younger ladies at work and started to wear patterned tights to spruce it up a bit so that it’s not as plain. It’s an inexpensive way to change the look.

5. Make a statement.

You can do a lot with your jewelry and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Add a “statement necklace” to your outfit and it will freshen up the look. These don’t have to be expensive to look nice.

So there you have it – style tips from me to you. I bet you never thought I had any sort of style beyond running clothes!

Do you default the same favorite top every time you go out? 

What’s your favorite accessory?

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This post was sponsored by Carefree, but all opinion are my own.

Cynthia @ You Signed Up For What?!

Cynthia @ You Signed Up For What?!

Cynthia Steele is a runner, triathlete, & working mom of 3 little kids. She has lost 50 pounds through fitness and healthy eating and writes about fitting in all this crazy stuff while juggling work and kids.
Cynthia @ You Signed Up For What?!

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  1. LisaLisa says

    GREAT POST!! I have to say I have stepped out of my comfort zone to allow my kids to pick some clothing for me and it worked out well! If I see a shirt I like and it comes in many other colors, oh I grab a few colors as well!

  2. says

    When it’s winter and freezing, or if I wake up early for a workout I get so lazy with my style. I’m often in leggings and sweaters but I definitely need to spice things up a bit and put in a bit more effort! haha I love the idea of having someone else pick for you. My sister is a little fashionista and I will often ask her to shop with me over the holidays. It’s amazing what she picks out. Things I would never have thought of but that are perfect on me.
    Ursula recently posted…Is there such thing as a Sports Gene?My Profile

  3. Christin says

    Earrings and a statement necklace can change the entire look! I love it. Even just piling your hair up on top for a messy but stylish top knot with some bold earrings. I do this often and my husband gets frustrated saying now he has to dress up 😉 Love your suggestions!

  4. says

    Cynthia, I am really bad about wearing a “uniform;” it’s just easy, right? But, like you, I have discovered scarves and find that they are a really fun, easy way to add some color to my boring usuals; now that I’ve cut all of my hair off again, I definitely have space for one – ha! Great post! I keep hearing everyone talk about Stitch Fix…guess I’m going to have to check it out!
    Tara @ Running ‘N’ Reading recently posted…Cycling EtiquetteMy Profile

  5. says

    Fantastic tips. I feel more comfortable when I wear black with just a pop of color – accessories/handbag/etc….but then there are days I’ll walk out in a vintage dress that looks freshly plucked out of a Brady’s closet. I love statement necklaces too! Thanks for the post! (PS…my horrible eyesight thought you had a really unique cow patterned footboard….then I saw it was actually your dog!)
    Gigi recently posted…Giveaway! 32 Pc Professional Makeup Brush Set with Case – US only – Ends 9/4My Profile

  6. says

    V-necks are everything for me. Throwing one on with a great pair of jeans or a pencil skirt can make my whole day. It’s so true that having three different wardrobes can be very expensive, not to mention having clothes that work during your in between stage during a weight loss journey. Oy!
    Patranila recently posted…Surf’s Up for Summer ~ #SurfsUpVoxBoxMy Profile

  7. says

    I love that you wrote this post! I think you look very stylish and put together all the time and I agree with you on the new body thing. I used to hate clothes shopping because I felt like nothing ever fit me correctly and now I want to buy all the things.

    I have to admit, I had heard so much about StitchFix before, but never really knew what it was. Cool concept! I’m going to check it out!

  8. says

    Looking great girl! As a fellow busy mama and blogger, I SO admire what you have done. Great tips, and great post! Thanks for sharing. :)

  9. says

    I love this, except my go to item is my black Wunder Unders from Lululemon, yes a black stretchy yoga pants. That’s what happens when you don’t work….and when you DO work, you wear scrubs. I used to be so good at dressing myself and now I”m terrible. I’ve done stitch fix 3 times now. 1st box was great, the last two sucked. Sent everything back. I’m really in a fashion rut, and it doesn’t help that I don’t feel good about my body right now. I only feel good in my workout clothes :/
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Wonder Mom Wedesday Link up: Back to SchoolMy Profile

  10. says

    Congrats on the weight loss! These are great tips! I just went down a couple dress sizes, I can still fit in my old clothes (and I do because…money) but I really do need to update my wardrobe because even though things fit they don’t fit right anymore. I love accessorizing though and another thing I love is belts! They really can make a baggier dress or top look pulled together.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Then and NowMy Profile

  11. says

    Really enjoyed your post. I definitely accessorize. Scarves yes, they are very big in France, but also bracelets, shoes, or just changing a sweater can change a whole outfit. I am busy and do not particularly like to shop. So now, when I see something that I like and I feel good when I put it on, I buy it. I prefer to buy fewer clothes and change the accessory. I stick with 2 brands which I know fit me. I would love to do a personal shopper one day, but have yet to try it !
    Karen – Fit in France recently posted…Time fliesMy Profile

  12. says

    Thanks for this post. I just found your blog and it was perfect timing because I was just thinking about my clothing situation the other day. I get so stuck in a rut as far as clothing!! And I’ve been hearing a lot about stitch fix lately so I think I’m going to try it!

  13. says

    OMGosh I LOVE your picture where the kids are on top of you. Looks familiar haha. And great tips. I think it’s fun to have someone else pick out an outfit for you – they always pick something you would normally never wear.