How to Look Timeless on a Shoestring Budget

Do you know what's better than being on-trend? Looking timeless. But in all honesty, it's certainly harder to achieve. These days it's far easier to keep up with fast-paced fashion movements than to slow things right now and define a personal look that works season after season, year after year, decade after decade, with every item in your repetoire being put to constant use.

I too am guilty of indulging in the impulses that take hold after a scroll through Instagram (I don't have anything to wear! I need to buy something! I hate my style!), and it's all too rare that we really take a moment to pause, think about what's working for the good of our wardrobes and how we want to carry our own unique styles into the future. 

Women famed for their timeless appearance all have one thing in common: They established their aesthetic early on and remained true to it through their lives. No fad could make them falter in their dedication to what they liked to wear. Jackie Onassis, Jane Birkin and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy are often referenced as icons in this realm, but having an enduring look doesn't mean you have to be a minimalist—I would argue that other more adventurous dressers like Iris Apfel, Diana Vreeland or Bianca Jagger could all be considered timeless as the items they chose in their early years could easily fit into their more mature wardrobes too.

So with January prompting us to take both the state of our closets and bank accounts more seriously, below, I have charted some moves you can make towards finding your version of timeless style. It's a long-term project rather than a fast fix, but I guarantee you'll have a more reliable and enjoyable collection of clothes and accessories for putting a bit of hard work in.

DON'T OVERLOOK QUALITY BASICS

The term "basics" can divide a fashionable crowd: some love them and can see the value in them, others find them too boring to be considered an exciting purchase. But whether your style is really quite outré or the most minimal you'll find that most days there will be a use for a top-notch staple or two. I think that whilst you don't have to spend a fortune on these (it's something the high street really has licked) it's worth holding out for the perfect fit, colour and finish before investing, even if you're shopping on a budget. A few worthwhile quality basics I'd recommend getting started with:

Tailored Trousers
Simple Knits
Blazer
Gold Chain Necklace
White Shirt and T-Shirt
Plain Midi Skirt
Ankle Boots
Sneakers
Wool Coat
Crossbody Bag

You can find our full, definitive list of fashion basics and the best places to buy each one right here

CHOOSE YOUR TRENDS WISELY

Looking timeless doesn't mean ignoring trends entirely, but it is about choosing the right ones for you. If you'd never normally go near sportswear, for example, but suddenly feel drawn to a pair of joggers just take a moment to think about whether you'll genuinely get a decent amount of wear from them, and whether you'll still like them in six months' or a years' time. Below are some more affordable trend-driven purchases that still feel like they have staying power. 

INVEST IN SECONDHAND AND VINTAGE DESIGNER PIECES

So depending on your luck and where you search for secondhand goods your shoestring may have to be, er, stretched a little here. It's not easy to pick up good-condition designer goods at a fraction of the price but it's certainly easier than it once was—even charity shops like Oxfam have online stores now. Try Depop (top tip: set your location to Italy as you'll see all of the best luxury designer stuff first), Vestiaire Collective, Etsy and following a selection of Instagram-only vintage stores. The best things to look out for are leather goods, suiting, coats and smaller accessories like belts, earrings, sunglasses and so on. 

REMEMBER CLASSICS ARE CLASSIC FOR A REASON

Classics, such as a camel coat, have stood the test of time and therefore are at the very top of the timeless fashion tree. You can find iterations and updates to suit your personal style for any one of these given stalwarts so don't assume that classic equals boring. Just camel coats alone can be shopped out as a crombie, double-breasted, belted, faux fur, shearling, cropped, duvet… See? Below are some classic items I'd always recommend having in one's armoury.

LOOK OUT FOR NATURAL FABRICS

Although there are some amazing developments happening in the world of synthetic textiles (Tencel, Lyocell and recycled polyester are three that you'll see popping up online at the moment), in general, most synthetic fabrics are cheaper to buy than natural ones and of lesser quality. They can be prone to not wearing well and looking older more quickly, which means you'll only end up buying something else sooner. They can also be less breathable and release water-polluting microfibres through your washing machine, so all in all, it's a good idea to opt for natural (and even better if organic) fibres—think cotton, linen, silk and wool.  

UPDATE YOUR STYLING, NOT YOUR ENTIRE WARDROBE

Sometimes it's simply a case of keeping your eyes open in order to see how classic wardrobe items are being restyled to look more of-the-moment. One great example? Right now you'll see plenty of well-dressed women tucking their jeans and trousers into knee-high boots rather than opting for ankle boots. It's a subtle tweak that makes a great difference.

TREAT YOUR CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES WITH RESPECT

Perhaps most of all, for you to look great without spending heaps on money on new clothes every single month, it's about caring for what you do have. Hanging items up properly—no more floordrobe, please. Fold your knitwear rather than hang it. Use a steamer rather than an iron and you'll be less likely to damage items. Use a de-bobbler to refresh all of your knits each winter rather than buying new ones. Make sure you've got moth-repellents in your closets! Some of these will require a more expensive purchase but the cost per use and the money saved in the long run will be worth it.

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