Budget buys: Everything in this fashion spread is from neighbourhood shops
Finding great-looking clothes without splurging takes shopping skills – but you can complete your entire ensemble for as low as S$20 and S$55.
Buying new clothes is a big part of prepping for the Chinese New Year festivities. But it can be quite a strain on the pocket, especially right after all that expenditure on Christmas gifting and gatherings.
However, it’s possible to procure stylish new clothes without spending too much money, and, more importantly, look like you spent a lot more on them than what you actually did. You’ll need to know where to shop, as well as how to pick out items that belie their origins.
Contrary to what many people think, shopping on a budget doesn’t mean that you’ll end up with clothes that look cheap and tacky. With so many options available out there these days, it’s not that difficult to find pieces that are affordable yet surprisingly chic.
CNA Lifestyle shows you how those hole-in-the-wall fashion outlets in your neighbourhood are some of the best places to score fancy outfits for next to nothing.
Scroll down for five complete looks assembled from the best of neighbourhood shopping – for as low as S$20 and S$55. Don’t forget to follow our shopping and styling tips to look razor sharp this Chinese New Year, too!
DO THE NECESSARY QC
While it may be true for the most part that quality standards are relative to the cost of a piece of clothing, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find a well-made garment at affordable prices. They are out there – you just need a good eye to spot them.
You need to be extra picky when it comes to shopping for clothes on the cheap because of their propensity to come with more imperfections. We aren’t looking for couture standards, of course, but they should be of a reasonable quality.
Avoid fabrics that tend to look tacky, such as satin, faux silk, lace or organza – you won’t find them in a good quality at lower prices. Also, unless you are very sure about what fits well on your figure, give shops that don’t allow you to try on clothes a miss.
Avoid fabrics that tend to look tacky, such as satin, faux silk, lace or organza.
Look out for loose threads sticking out or trailing all around the hems and seams, which are obvious signs of poor quality. We don’t expect a piece of budget clothing to rate high on longevity, but they shouldn’t be unravelling at the hems on the first or second wear.
Another issue with budget clothing is that prints may not always be executed perfectly on the fabric. Give the print a once-over before you purchase the garment: Are the outlines a little wonky? Is the print out of alignment at the seams? Put it back on the rack if you spot any of these problems.
MIX OLD WITH NEW
Some people take the custom of wearing new clothes for Chinese New Year very seriously, buying multiple new outfits – undergarments and sleepwear inclusive – to take them through the festivities. Others – particularly those who already have a closet that’s bursting at the seams – take a more practical and economical approach to their shopping and choose to pair their existing clothes with new separates.
Spend less, conserve your wealth, and make your new clothes go further by pairing them with the separates that are already in your wardrobe.
We are all for the latter strategy – spend less, conserve your wealth, and make your new clothes go further by pairing them with the separates that are already in your wardrobe. A fancy new blouse works well with basic bottoms, such as a simpler skirt or your favourite pair of jeans. Or perhaps you found the perfect pleated skirt in a dramatic print – buy it and pair it with a simple tank, shirt or tee (all three which you probably already own).
KNOW WHAT NOT TO BUY
There are many stylish, affordable fashion buys to be found at stores such as Zara, Mango, H&M and, at times, even Uniqlo. However, they do tend to be a little ubiquitous for our liking – you know how it’s like when you can immediately identify the source of a dress that someone on the street is wearing.
Avoid the flashy, statement-making designs that come in a very distinctive and recognisable cut or print.
Want to avoid the same situation or being seen wearing the same outfit as your relatives when doing your house-visiting? Avoid the flashy, statement-making designs (particularly one-piece outfits) that come in a very distinctive and recognisable cut or print. Anything else should be fairly safe, especially separates that can be paired with other items already in your wardrobe.
GO BOLDER THAN YOU USUALLY DO
With the above said, budget-shopping can also be a good way to experiment with styles that you typically wouldn’t buy at a higher price. Always wanted to try a strong colour or perhaps something in a print or with details like pleating, embellishments or ruffles? Here’s where you can afford to have a little fun with your wardrobe without breaking the bank on purchases that you’re not quite sure you’ll be wearing very often.
STYLE IT UP WITH ACCESSORIES
Accessories can instantly elevate a look – there are so many you can make use of and they should mostly already be part of your existing wardrobe. Make a basic outfit look chic and expensive with your best heels or handbag – provided they go with your look, of course.
Jewellery play a complementing role to your outfit or make a strong statement when matched with pared-down clothes.
Jewellery is an important component to any look, budget or not – depending on the rings, earrings, bracelets or necklaces you choose, it can play a complementing role to your outfit or make a strong statement when matched with pared-down clothes.
Photography by Aik Chen, photo assistance by Alvin Tan, styling by Lena Kamarudin, hair and makeup by Delanie Wong, model Jia/Mannequin, artistic direction by Jasper Loh, style editor Serene Seow.