From Trash to Treasure — a College Girl’s Guide to Discovering Her Style

From a young age, I would reverie of my dream closet and considered myself a fashion enthusiast. Using the rare opportunities which I came across money to satisfy my obvious calling as a style martyr was commonplace.

My middle school years consisted of wearing my mother’s oversized sweaters in a candid attempt to look vintage and begging her to get me another pair of Chuck Taylor's as the old ones had let out and I had a Avril-Lavigne's-Best-Friend-Next-Door style to keep up with.

I was penny-pinching and scurrying for savings to obtain the right accessories, and that amazing knit sweater I just HAD to have to complete my closet, until one day something happened. I got a job, and everything changed, for the worse.

I had an excess amount of money to spend on my fashionista crave, but I wasn't shopping right, or smart for that matter. While I was under the illusion that I was building the closet that the little girl in me had always wanted, I was truly wasting my money. Sure I was satisfied with a lot of my purchases, but for the most part, they were not what I wanted. I found myself not knowing what to wear about 50% of the time.

Through all my mistakes and moments of reflection, I learned a couple of valuable lessons. If you're starting to build your wardrobe or rebuilding it like me, here are a couple of tips to turn your wardrobe around!

Accessories make a world of difference

We all have fashion inspirations. I know I do. Be it an Instagram model, celebrity, or that cool girl from your English class who always has on the sickest outfits. Do you ever wonder how even when these people are wearing what seems to be the most basic outfit they still manage to appear light years more stylish than everyone around them? The answer is – yes you got it – accessories!

Through all my past Instagram stalking and appreciation of fashion, I've come to realize that the right accessory can make an outfit completely transform. Whether it's a pair of cool funky feather earrings, a bag from your favorite designer, or even that slouchy hat that you wear everyday that gives you the total skater look you're going for, accessories define your style more than you think!

Figure out what your key accessories are and invest in some good ones. Mine are fishnets, hooped earrings, and hats. So while you're fishing for quality clothing items and shoes, don't forget to look into a stylish baseball cap or two.

Opt for quality over quantity

Growing up I was never a fan of major brand names, and this led me to believe that spending so much money on one item of clothing was a lost cause. Today I’ve learned that investing money in the right item can make a world of difference. The amount of times I've stopped myself from getting a certain pair of shoes or a jacket I was in love with just because I thought it was ridiculous to spend that much on one item is countless. I needed variety, I needed to have all the latest trends at once; I needed more more more.

I soon came to realize that I was devoting a bunch of money to three to four items that I kind of liked, rather than taking the money that it costed to buy these items and pursuing that extremely amazing item I'd been dreaming of. I always tell people to not settle when it comes to life, friendships, and matters of the heart, so why shouldn't your wardrobe be the same?! Go on and buy the Dr. Martens you've been pining for years, you'll thank yourself later.

Don’t snooze on shoes

Everyone loves a good statement piece. I find mine in the form of sweaters, jackets, and of course, shoes! If food is the way to someone's heart, and eyes are the windows to the soul, then shoes are the key to an amazing wardrobe. I find that even if I am wearing an outfit that I personally find subpar, as soon as I put on a pair of amazing, eye-catching shoes, my outfit goes from ‘what could have been’ to ‘the love of my life’.

Once again, you don't need 50 pairs of shoes, but you do need good ones that you actually want to wear. When buying shoes start with basic colors like blacks, whites, browns and nudes so you can pair them with any outfit. Overtime broaden your range of colors if you'd like. It doesn't matter if you're obsessed with high heels or like to collect sneakers. The right pair of shoes will help you better coordinate outfits in your wardrobe and make you look and feel like a million bucks.

Focus on overall fit

When your clothes fit you well, how much you spent on them becomes secondary. You're going to look amazing no matter what. That $100 pair of jeans that just doesn't seem to hug your legs right has nothing on the $30 pair that seem like they were made specifically for you.

My friends and I go thrifting and bargain hunting a lot. Something I’ve noticed is that we tend to settle for ill-fitting clothes when the price is right. Whether it be clothes that you literally have to get a friend to help you squeeze into or a sweater that you’re swimming in, never settle for an item that you don't like the overall fit of just because it's in your budget. Just like me, you'll later find that you don't opt for that item when you're getting dressed in the morning.

Remember, you gravitate towards things that you know look good on you.

If you have a lot of clothes that you find don't fit well and you feel them weighing you down, give them to a sibling who could put them to use, sell them online on websites like Mercari, Depop and Poshmark to name a few (my personal faves), or in store at places like Plato's Closet and Buffalo Exchange.

Avoid sales and impulse buys

If you're anything like me, Black Friday is your kryptonite. Some sales are amazing, as you can score some really cool good quality items from them. As great as sales are, sometimes when we shop sales we buy things we would’ve never bought without the promise of a good amount of dollars off.

A majority of the time while surfing my favorite clothing websites, I'm in the sales section. I end up buying items that I would have never even looked towards without the sweet promise of up to 60% off. Yes, I am a big advocator of saving money, but it is only productive when buying something that you already had in mind. For example, if you're trying to get the latest Adidas for a bargain hop on Poshmark and get a pair that are basically brand new for a low-price!

Stop buying the same thing

If your closet is filled to the brim with black T-Shirts and you’re standing in the middle of TJMaxx trying to convince yourself that this black T-Shirt is the master of all black T-Shirts: LET. IT. GO! I get it, the other ones are black. But this one is really black.

Try minimizing your wardrobe like I suggested earlier. Keep five out of your favorite 10 black T-Shirts. Take a moment to figure out what it is about these T-Shirts that made the cut. Once you figure that out, when you’re in the line at the mall it will be easier to identify whether or not you’ll actually reach for that item you’re debating about when you get dressed in the morning and if it has qualities that your other clothing already doesn’t.

Repeat this process for jean jackets, hoodies, flannels and anything your little heart can’t seem to get enough of. For me it’s definitely jean jackets. Once you do this enough you’ll learn to love the items you already have dearly, save money and find it way easier to decide what to wear now that you don’t have to sort through repeat items you picked because they gave you comfort like an ex you can’t seem to shake.

Let statement pieces be statement pieces

Really. We all want to stand out, be different, and try new things. The thing is, when you get a bunch of outlandish items and forget to rack up the basics, it becomes extremely difficult to put them together. Trust me, I’ve been there.

We all like to think that we’re the fabulous exception sent from the style gods themselves, but the thing is, without a solid foundation your outfit will crumble. This doesn’t in any way mean stop being daring and give up your individualistic eye. Instead, make sure you have a couple of basic items and allow your red and white checkered pants to steal the show.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past I went in my closet and sifted through clothes I thought I was going to wear at some point but never found a way to because I didn’t have items to pair them with. Never underestimate the power of some basic white kicks, a basic hoodie, or some leggings – because yes, leggings do count as pants.

With these tips in mind, go curate your fantasy wardrobe, and don’t forget to save some money while you’re at it!