(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. 🙂
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. 🙂
$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
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
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.
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. 🙂
~$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
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
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. 🙂 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)
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. 🙂
~$5 on sale from Target, Walmart, or department stores
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
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. 🙂
~$25, depending on what’s left of your budget. 😉 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. 🙂
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?