(Without relying on the thrift store!)

Hey y’all! I hope you are prepared to be inspired! I get asked ALL the time how to build a modest wardrobe from scratch on a budget, so I am here today to finally answer! Whether you feel like your already-modest wardrobe is missing something or you are looking to transition your conventional wardrobe into a more conservative one, I hope you find this post helpful.

Below, I assume that your house burned down and you’re starting a new wardrobe from scratch. I really hope that’s not anyone’s actual scenario, but this should be a way to get you started with modest basics. πŸ™‚

First, invest in some layering pieces that can help turn immodest tops into wearable ones. Camisoles and Halftees are perfect for this. I love Forever21’s Basic Scoop Neck Cami’s, especially because of their price.


1 white, 1 black, 1 brown, 1 gray, 1 of your favorite color
$1.80 from Forever21
x5 = ~$10 


I love the black Cap Sleeve Halftee as a starter because it’s just so versatile, especially with dresses. But if you wear a lot more brown than black, you should consider getting a brown one. πŸ™‚
$18.99 from Halftee.com (even cheaper if you use this link for 20% off your first purchase!)
x1 = $18.99


This is an often-forgotten-but-REALLY-essential item in the classy lady’s wardrobe. I recommend having a short above-the-knee slip and a long, maxi-skirt length one. If you wear a lot of skirts that are “tea” length, then you’ll need one that works with those. I have had great success finding slips at the thrift store for pennies, but if you’d like to buy them new, Sears seems to always have them. If you hit a sale, I think you could easily pick up two within this budget.
$6 from Sears
x2= $12


Perfect for layering under skirts for warmth and extra coverage for shorter skirts, I looove Capri length leggings. Black or Navy blue is my choice.
$4.50 from Forever 21
x1 =$4.50 


Depending on your body type, personal style, and location, these types of shirts are flexible. The styles listed are ones that I have found useful for my own wardrobe and are classic basics that allow for a lot of mixing and matching.

Striped T-Shirt:
These are so universally flattering and stylish. I personally go for one that doesn’t have a lot of contrast (aka not black and white or red and white) but if you have a more eccentric personality, go for it. πŸ™‚
~$7 on sale from JCPenny’s, Sears, Kohl’s, Target
If your budget allows, I HIGHLY recommend Sweet Salt Clothing’s Striped Half Sleeve. Best shirt ever, and honestly a great deal at $20.99

Solid Shirt in your Color:
Think about what colors you look really good in. Does blue bring out your eyes, or red your rosy cheeks? Select a shirt that fits you well and isn’t too flowy so that it works with skirts.
~$10 on sale from department stores

Ruffled Button-Up:
Three weeks ago I finally threw away the shirt that I wore at least once a week for all of my modest teenage years. (Click here for a super old post with pictures!) It was plaid, had a ribbon belt, and I felt awesome in it. It was fancy enough to wear to church, but also easily transitioned for casual wear. Everyone needs a shirt like that.
~$10 with clearance or sales

Tunic Top:
If you plan on continuing to wear jeans, I love tunic tops for feeling modest in them. My favorite tops are high-waisted and skim your hips without too much bulk. These are great for working in, because you don’t have to worry about your shirt coming up when you bend over. I didn’t include jeans in this list because I assume everyone, modest or not, has those. πŸ™‚ If you want to do outside work in this top, prints or durable knit is great for not showing dirt. But if you don’t do a lot of dirty work, there are some gorgeous feminine tunic tops in whites and creams and lovely light prints that would be adorable to wear with darkwash jeans.
~$15 from GroopDealz, department stores, or fabric to make your own (its in my dreams to create another ebook for this)

V-Neck T-Shirt:
Depending on the accessories, this piece can go from church to babysitting to shopping. If keeping white clean just isn’t your thing, I love a classic navy or black. Because you’ll be layering one of your camis underneath, pick a color that goes with multiple cami colors and you can easily switch up the look of it. πŸ™‚
~$5 on sale from Target, Walmart, or department stores

Plaid Button-Up:
Or striped, depending on if you are more “country” or “city”. I like button-ups with a little bit of print because they hide stains easier. These are the perfect for layering with camis open for a casual look, buttoned for a classier look, and tied at your waist for a cleaning-day look!
~$12 on sale at Kohl’s, JCPenny’s, or Forever21

One More Shirt of Choice:
It’s always good to leave a little bit of room in your budget for something to jump out at you from the rack. I always check clearance racks for t-shirts that have some designs on them,  dolman sleeve blouses, fun crochet tops, and other styles.
~$5 on clearance


I have found two styles of jackets to be really helpful for pairing with clothing to make it more modest.

Long Flowy Cardigan:
Paired with a t-shirt and skirt for warmth in church, or worn with jeans to cover your rear and make them modest, this piece is so useful. I also call these flutter cardigans.
~$15 from Forever21, Rue, Ross, Target, or other department stores

Black Half-Cardigan:
I don’t like the look of a bolero or shrug with tops/dresses, but a simple black cardigan that ends at your elbows and hits at a good spot on your waist is invaluable. The black one I wear in a toooon of posts here on Fresh Modesty was actually a handmedown and is missing some buttons, but my sisters and I wear it at least twice a week. What I especially like about it is that it doesn’t have to be buttoned to be slimming.
~$15 from Sears, Kohl’s, or Forever 21


These are the top 4 styles that I have found myself being super thankful I have in my closet lately.

Shorter, Slimming, Denim Skirt:
One of my favorites is from Ann Taylor that I found on ThredUP. This goes with all of the above tops (except the tunic) and is great for staying cool in the summer but looks great with boots for winter.
~$20 from Ann Taylor, Cato, or fabric to make your own

Long Denim Skirt with Pockets:
Have to plug my own design here and say I love the Errand #17 skirt!
$78.99 from FreshApparel.us (not yet available)

Knit Maxi Skirt:
Choose a print that suits you or stick with plain for more versatility. I love knit maxi skirts for summer or winter.
~$20 on sale

Long Black Dress Skirt:
I probably dress up for church and concerts and funerals more than the average 21 year old, but having a go-to skirt for these occasions takes so much stress off. I love light weight black fabric, but also love the black skirts I made that are twill. My skirt is a length that skims the floor when I wear heels, so you’ll want to remember to add footwear to your equation when buying one.
~$15 on sale from Sears, Ross, TJMaxx, Target, or Cato

Little Black Dress:

Every woman needs one of these, no ifs ands or buts. I like a knee length for my height, but if you’re taller you could probably pull off a tea-length. Longer than that might be a little too formal for most occasions. πŸ™‚
~$25, depending on what’s left of your budget. πŸ˜‰ Target, Kohl’s, and ThredUP have been my best sources for LBDs.

All of the prices and stores here are actual prices and locations that I have found these items at over the last several years. If you are up for the hunt and not in a hurry, you could probably get all of this for half the costs listed at thrift stores or on ThredUP. Although its sometimes crazy with all the people, I really recommend hitting stores around holidays and sales because you can get just so much more bang for your buck. πŸ™‚

So according to my calculations, the total for everything but the LBD is $273.48. 

I hope this has helped you see in real terms what it looks like to build a wardrobe that you can feel confident in. Knowing where to invest and where to look for cheaper items is a huge part of budgeting and being wise in our purchases, so let me know if this was a help!

Do you think this is a good place to start? What would you switch up to make this work for you? Have you had to build a wardrobe from scratch?

37 thoughts on “How To | Build A Modest Wardrobe for Under $300”

  1. Thank you ever so much for this encouraging post! Revamping my sadly inadequate wardrobe has been in the back of my mind for awhile now, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. Now I know!

  2. Hi Olivia, thanks for this very helpful post!

    Our house actually did burn down so I have had to rebuild my wardrobe from scratch. Unfortunately I did not do a good job. Our family dressed in clothes donated to us from countless families across the country, right down to our shoes! And even though we were immensely thankful for it at the time, and though it was a huge blessing, honestly it wasn't very stylish. Obviously a well put together wardrobe was not at the top of our list at the time. In addition to that I was fourteen and just beginning to figure out what modesty meant to me so the few clothes I did by were not the best choices. Inevitably, I went through that frumpy legalistic stage. It's been five years now but I still struggle with my clothing. I am trying to build a more mature, modest, wardrobe that I actually like and feel confident in, but its very difficult. That's why I like your blog so much, especially the outfit posts.

  3. Wow, that's awesome!! I should really get more tunics…jeans are my go-to for lower-body clothing, so I never really thought about covering my backside until I read your blog. And I need a black dress!

  4. Love this!! So awesome, very helpful!! I'll definitely keep this in mind!! Thanks heaps Olivia! Do you know where to get reasonably cheap Maxi Skirts and Dresses from? I love maxi skirts and that..but they're hard to come by! Thanks!

    1. Hi Riarna!
      Also making them is literally one of the easiest sewing projects that exist. There are countless tutorials on pinterest. my favorite is you basically take your cut off the bolt and sew the open ends (selvedges) together and then sew the top to elastic, and the bottom you hem. I did mine in 20 min. You can get a print or a solid and it works great if you have the right drape of fabric. Knit maxi skirts are almost as easy.
      They are also cost effective. I have made 5 different 30 min. or under maxi skirts and have gotten the fabric for $15 or less every time.
      I hope this is helpful for anyone who is interested in sewing their own. Seriously even if you are not an expert at sewing it is really easy and is well worth it. I wear mine all the time.

  5. This is so helpful as I thin out my summer cloths and get ready for winter! You had previously mentioned awhile back that you got your camisoles at Forever21, so my sister and mom purchased some for us. We love them! They were really affordable and it allows us to wear so many more shirts! I am excited to check out their leggings now! ~CB

  6. THIS…WAS…AWESOME!!!!! Thank you bunches, Olivia! I'm on a really tight budget, and this will help immensely in any future purchases. I shop second-hand and try for sales, but often feel lost in knowing what would be a good buy. Your tips on colors that work with anything was especially helpful. The last couple of winters I ended up buying mostly dark purple tops, which I'm getting really sick of. I love your ideas for classic colors and such. And you encouraged me to get out my LBD and wear it! It's a bit of a snug fit so I don't always feel comfortable wearing it, maybe I can layer for fall?! I really wish we had a Forever 21 store nearby, sounds like awesome deals!

  7. Great post! After reading your blog for several months now, I've been on the look-out for more casual skirts. I have quite a few church skirts, but until I started following your blog, I had NO casual skirts. I now have a mid-calf length black one (from Thredup, by the way!) and am looking forward to finding some more soon. Can't wait to receive my Errand #17 skirt! I'm sure I will be wearing it ALL the time. πŸ™‚
    Blessings! ~Abby

  8. This is a really great complication, Olivia! I appreciate that time and effort you put into this — it really shows.

    If I had to add anything to your list, I would probably say a just-below-the-knee OR long white skirt, preferably made out of a light, summer-y material. This is one staple I've had in my closet for several years now. A couple other items I might add would be some basic long-sleeved, solid, neutral-colored tops for layering in Fall and Winter, a maxi dress {solid or printed}, and a cream-colored cami/tank top.

    Also, to answer your question, I haven't had to build a wardrobe completely from scratch, but I have definitely had to really revamp mine over time. It takes work, and a willingness to spend money, but it's worth it when you have closet that works well for you and your lifestyle!

    I pray that many are helped and inspired by this post. πŸ™‚

  9. Olivia could you do a tutorial on how to lengthen dresses that are a little short. I would LOVE that! Thanks!


  10. This is cool! I don't have a LBD because I positively despise dresses….no offense. But I know that lots of girls love them.

  11. These are great suggestions! I found my slip that works pretty well at Kohl's, although it does have a slit that I could do without, so I'll have to check Sears out! And I need a full-length one. πŸ˜› I love Old Navy for t-shirts. On clearance they usually cost under $5 and are still good quality. I agree with you that Kohl's is wonderful for plaid button-ups; that's where I got mine. πŸ™‚ I also positively love Target for tops!

  12. Thank you so much, Olivia!!

    Right now, I have a fair amount of clothing, but much of it I don't like or is hard to wear. This is a great place to start! I really appreciate some kind of concrete template to work from. I'm going to use this as a way to assess what I have and make a list of what buy.

    I'm going to especially keep on the lookout for ones that have some detail to make them favorites, like a ruffle or flower (and the fit!). To me that's worth paying like $20 for. I've done the thing where I buy lots of cheaper shirts and end up hating them. (Plus, if I buy 10 shirts I hate, I've spent more money on something I'll keep avoiding! That's NOT a good deal!)
    And I'm definitely going to start looking for a Little Black Dress!

    The only thing I would add are some cute sweaters/long-sleeved knit shirts for fall and winter. I wear those all. the. time. in the colder months.

  13. I'd love to see a post on how many different outfits|combinations you could get out of this, Olivia! What accessories would you recommend having? (belts, scarves etc.)
    Great post! I loved it!
    Anne | joyfullyhisblog.blogspot.com

  14. WOW!! AMAZINLGY HELPFUL! thanks so much! I have one, teeny tiny question on modesty though (okay, its more of a fashion question.:->) can I wear a skirt with a tunic? and how about leggings for a too short dressskirt, to make it seem longer? thanks to anyone who can help also!-Abi

    1. Abi,
      Personally, I like wearing leggings under skirts, and not just because it's short. My skirt-length rule is somewhere between mid-thigh and knee; it has to pass the "bend over" test (am I still covered when I bend over). I like wearing leggings under skirts because where I live, it's cold and windy nine months of the year, and the leggings provide the extra warmth while still being classy, sassy, and cute, especially when worn with boots. Just don't do it under a fitted skirt; it'll bunch and cling. You may also want a can of anti-static spray (hairspray can work too) so your skirt doesn't static to your leggings. Does this help?
      ~Sheridan, http://www.beautyeternal.blogspot.com

    2. Hi Abi!!
      I'm no fashion expert- but I thought I could give my two-cents worth! I think a skirt would look fine with a tunic as long as the tunic isn't too long. Especially for a short skirt. I think tunics that are longer than mid-thigh-ish- or even a longer hi-low tunic wouldn't look as great with a skirt. But hey- you never know until you try! πŸ™‚
      As far as leggings go, I totally think that pairing them with a too-short dress/skirt can make them more modest, but I think there can be a point where the dress is too short- even with leggings. But that's really up to you.
      I hope this helped- this is all just my opinion so….. πŸ™‚

  15. Is that your dress? If so, where did you get it? Or have you posted about it before? I'm looking for a nice LBD.
    Thank you for this post!


  16. Sooo…how about revamping your wardrobe for under $30 dollars? πŸ˜‰ Actually, my wardrobe pretty much consists of several pair of jeans plus any number of t-shirts. This, plus my suit, my "stylish" dress (which I picked up at Goodwill for $7 to wear to sophmore homecoming and totally fell in love with), a couple of comfy sweaters, and some funky skirts. This was a cool post idea, though. Even though I literally could not survive with this kind of wardrobe–it feels WAAAY too impractical for the location and lifestyle I live–I like the idea of this post. It was very creative. Thanks so much for sharing, Olivia!
    ~Sheridan, http://www.beautyeternal.blogspot.com
    P.S. I don't have a little black dress. Sorry; I'm more of a little-red-dress-plus-classy-black-shrug-and-"hipster"-boots kind of girl. πŸ™‚

  17. Olivia, I have the worst time trying to find modest undershirts. I have tried the camis at Forever 21, but my shoulders are not even,wide and a lot of space between my chest and neck. So even tho it is high and covered it gives an illusion.. I have found that wearing tank tops from Target backwards works pretty great for me. you can't tell and they're long and comfy. Just thought some of your readers might be having the same problem.. ~ A very Loyal reader, Kayla~

  18. This was an awesome post! I have been thrifting every thing but im not done yet! I wish there was a good modest cami for large busts. I wear a 36H bra and sometimes wearing certain tops backwards doesn't cover it all! I'll have to check out Target tank tops though and see!

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