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How to Dress Fashionably in Singapore Without Going Broke

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Joanne Poh

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Gone are the days when the Singaporean uniform of choice was shorts and flip flops. These days, more and more fashionistas ply our streets, with 80% of those under the age of 25 all dressed in hipsterish attire, and those over 25 dressed like OLs and yuppies.

You might be up against pretty stiff competition, but just because you don’t want to look like you were dressed by your mum doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire life savings on clothes. Here are some rules to live by when it comes to buying attire.

 

Spend on quality, but buy less

If all your clothes thus far have come from This Fashion or are composed exclusively of white singlets and Tai Sing slippers from HDB provision shops, the exhortation to spend on quality should come as a relief to you.

Yes, spending a little more money on quality clothing can save you money in the long run, because the clothes will last longer and you won’t have to keep replacing them. Case in point, I’ve been wearing the same pair of Havaianas flip flops since 2005 (true story). The $40 I spent on those rubber flip flops was $40 well spent.

Still, spending on quality doesn’t mean buying all your clothes at the designer boutiques at Paragon. The trick is to get good quality at a reasonable price. So you might want to spend $150 on a good tailored shirt for work instead of buying it off the rack at Giordano. But that doesn’t mean you should exaggerate and spend $1,000 on one at Hermes instead, as the difference in quality isn’t likely to justify the price increase.

However, in order to keep your clothes shopping strategy cost effective, the most important thing buying quality items lets you do is buy less clothes. Sorry, fashionistas, but when your clothes can last a longer time, that means you now buy less of them. That means owning one pair of good shoes instead of 20 cheap, uncomfortable pairs from Bugis Market or Far East Plaza.

 

Don’t follow trends that look too obvious

While most personal finance advice points at not following fashion trends, we understand that not everybody wants to dress like a 50 year old university professor.

Unless you have completely given up on your appearance, at some point in the year it’s likely you will want to update some pieces or invest in some new items.

But unless you want to be forced to constantly purchase new pieces each season, you should give up all hopes of looking as up-to-date as the models in fashion magazines. Just because wearing your underwear on the outside is this year’s Spring 2016 biggest trend doesn’t mean you should be spending $5,000 to adopt the look.

It’s okay to update your look now and then, but just make sure the trends you follow don’t look too obvious, and that you’ll be able to continue wearing the items long after the craze has died out.

Remember the gladiator sandal trend a few years back? If you had gotten a simple pair of Jesus sandals, you would still be able to wear it now. But if you had gotten one of those outrageous pairs of sandals that crawled all the way up your shins almost to the knees, the ones many ah lians at Far East Plaza were wearing, well, we hope you’re not still wearing them.

As a general rule of thumb, trends that look classic or vintage are a safer bet than those that look outlandish or futuristic, since the vintage look is pretty much considered stylish all the time, even if it’s not strictly in fashion at the moment.

 

Make sure it not only fits well but is also comfortable

If you were a secondary school kid in the late 90s or early 2000s, you already know that buying clothes 10 times too large for you is a bad idea.

When you take that pile of potential purchases with you into the changing room, don’t just fixate on whether the clothes fit and don’t make you look fat. One of the most important factors to consider is just how comfortable that stuff is.

Consider the texture of the fabric—whether it’s too scratchy, or so stiff you can’t raise your arms comfortably or body hugging enough to make you self-consciously suck in your stomach.

Just because an item of clothing isn’t necessarily uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s comfortable enough to wear on a regular basis. Ideally, you want to buy less clothes that aren’t comfortable enough to wear regularly.

Take those bandage dresses all the girls used to wear to clubs a few years back. Those were the sorts of dresses you would not be able to wear if you were going to a buffet, or to a place with freezing air con, or needed to move around a lot.

If you want to get better mileage out of the clothes you do buy, make sure they’re items you’ll actually want to wear even when there’s nobody to impress.

What other rules do you live by when you buy clothes? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.