Wardrobe Update: 5 New Ways to Refresh Your Fall Look on the Cheap


Updated September 28, 2020

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When you’re short on cash, you could manage the style transition to fall by teaming last year’s jeans and puffer vest with your summer tops — but what’s the fun in that? It’s a passable strategy and certainly preferable to charging up new stuff you can’t afford. Though there are alternatives that could give your fall wardrobe the pop and flair you’re craving, without draining your bank account. I’ve got five of them below. Read on for five cheap wardrobe updates, perfect for this fall.

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5 cheap wardrobe updates for this fall

1. Swap out your sunglass lenses for $40

If you’re outside often and live in those sunnies, you can turn those glasses into a statement piece for less than $40. I’m talking about swapping out your lenses from their standard black, brown, or silver tints to a bold green, yellow, or blue. Companies like Sunglass Fix have a range of replacement lenses for all your favorite brands, including Ray Ban, Prada, and Maui Jim, priced from $30 to $40. And if you can’t find the exact lenses you want, you could have a custom set made. Just choose your specs, including the color, send in your sunglasses, and wait for your lens provider to do the rest.

Hand holding sunglasses with different colored lens

Now I’ll point out the obvious. You can buy a whole new pair of sunglasses for less than $40 if you’re willing to shop the racks at Target or TJ Maxx. That’s an option if you don’t adore the way your pricey, brand-name sunglasses flatter the shape of your face. In my humble opinion, buying sunglasses you don’t love for $20 is a bigger waste than spending $40 to get more wear out of the sunglasses you do love.

2. Switch up your belt buckles for $10+

Mother of pearl belt buckles as budget-friendly wardrobe update

T-shirts and jeans aren’t boring when you have fun accessories on hand. And one oft-overlooked accessory is the statement belt. You can create your own by pairing a scarf from last year with a cute buckle. Zip on over to Etsy to find chic, affordable buckles that will update your style this season. My pick is the round mother of pearl buckle that’s yours for $12.

update your style 1

I also love this hammered copper buckle that adds shine and texture to a plain, old leather belt. This piece is $35, so a bit splurgier than other options. But it’s sure to be a conversation piece.

3. Add chains to your boots or purse for $10

Chain accessories are trending this season and that gives you the chance to reinvest your old ankle boots, clutch bag, belt, or even a denim jacket. All you need is some cable chains of different styles colors, plus a few jewelry fasteners. Try this easy tutorial available on the Free People blog.

The beauty of looping chains around your ankle boots or clutch bag is that it’s temporary. Decide you don’t like the look or need to be less edgy on a given day? Unlatch and remove your chains, just like a necklace.  

4. Color pop your nails for $10

Nail polish may be my favorite cheap style update of all. You can find any color in the rainbow, but polish makers are very good at dialing into the season’s hottest color trends, too. For this fall, I like OPI’s shiny orange Have Your Pannettone and Eat it Too and Essie’s beautiful blue Waterfall in Love.

Either color alone is very now, but you could also combine the two. Paint four nails on each hand in the blue and use the orange on the nail remaining, for example. Or, if you want to get fancy, see our geometric manicure tutorial. Either approach is sure to earn style points (and also distract from the fact that your fall wardrobe consists of your summer clothes in layers).  

5. Dye jeans and tees for $10-20

A bottle of Rit liquid dye will cost you less than $20, and you can do so much with it! (Or save a few bucks by making dye out of stuff you already have in the house, like coins or avocado skins. This post at MSN explains how.

DIY dyeing is the perfect strategy to revive old garments this season, because everyone’s wearing bright colors in 2020. Want to dip your fav jeans brick red? You’ll be right on trend. Plus, dye is a low-cost way to experiment with new colors. Instead of buying a bright green blouse as an experiment, try dyeing a t-shirt you bought at Target. If you never feel like wearing that green top, you know that trendy green color just isn’t your thing this season.

You don’t have to go with a solid wash of color, either. Dip-dyeing creates an interesting ombre effect, which can be very flattering on tops. Try this easy-to-follow dip-dye tutorial from Online Fabric Store. Or, take a shot at tie-dyeing in patterns. Better Homes and Gardens shares some fun tie-dye techniques here. My favorite is the polka dot, which is both subtle and creative.

Wardrobe update on the cheap

With some spare time and creativity, you can reinvent your style to fall right in line with current trends — without actually buying any new clothes. This comes with a warning though: You might get hooked on DIY wardrobe updates. Just know that if you start buying clothes dye in bulk, you might need an intervention.

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By Catherine Brock

As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.