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18 May 2012

Austerity Chic: Spend, Spend, Spend, or Make Do and Mend? – guest post

You’ve scrimped all month, eaten soggy homemade sandwiches and attempted to grow tomatoes. You’ve put up with less-than-perfect knickers, only bought the nail polish that’s on offer and used your boyfriend’s razor instead of buying a new one. So, when the long month is over and that pay cheque finally gets cashed, splashing out on a new pair of designer shoes and effectively undoing all of your hard work only seems fair. After all, what’s the point in working if you can’t treat yourself once in a while?

And yet, no matter how many pairs of denial shoes you succumb to, there’s no hiding from the economic climate. As predicted, the UK has got back on board that rather demonic sounding rolling coaster, Double-Dip Recession, and the state of the economy is more dismal than ever. As the nation exhales a collective sigh of exhaustion, the worry weary turn, yet again, to their bank balances to assess the damage.

In times of economic downturn, is style still an achievable affliction? As the fashion-conscious girls of Austerity Britain proved, a little bit of imagination and care can dramatically improve a budget-nauseous wardrobe. Had it not been for the clothing and material rations after World War 2, hemlines would not have crept thigh-wards and women would not have been graced with the liberation of the miniskirt come the 60’s. So what sort of iconoclastic fashion statements can we garner from the financial collapse of our generation?

Sewing is sew cool

Whilst there will always be a time, a place and a little spare cash to shop the latest trends online, creativity and sequins can make old or second-hand clothes go a long way. In artistic circles, charity shops have proven quite a lucrative way to save a lot of money, as have vintage markets. Whilst it’s undeniably tempting to buy cheap, throw-away garments that last one season and fall to pieces in the wash, it makes more sense to buy something that has lasted a thousand washes and still maintains its colour, shape and style credentials.

Vintage clothing has proven its fashion longevity whereas that nasty maxi dress you’re taking to the till in Primark is only worth the price you’re paying for it, if that. And whilst charity shops don’t necessarily boast the most fashion forward selection, alterations at home do make all the difference. Join the revolution of women getting back into Home Economics and invest in a sewing machine. The money you’ll save on buying new clothes will soon cover the cost of the machine and you’ll be able to alter clothes forever more!

Dying to tie-dye

Tie-dying is an amazing way to transform clothes from drab, under-loved no-hopers into festival ready wardrobe staples. It’s easy, it’s cheap and, as many a tie-dyer will tell you, it’s completely addictive. As long as you don’t go overboard and start tie-dying the curtains or the cat, the rest is pretty much down to you. Grab some rubber bands, a selection of your favourite dyes and a big plastic bucket and you’re away. Throw a tie-dye party, tie-dye your bedspread, tie-dye your less-than-perfect knickers. Tie-dye an old, white band t-shirt and then add fringing, beads and tassels for a true homage to the Woodstock days of old. Just let yourself go, man.

Swap Shops

Since austerity measures gripped the country, Swap Shops have been popping up all over the place. How it works is this: rummage through your family’s wardrobe, remove anything you do not like or wear, take it along to a Swap Shop and, for a small entry fee, you can happily sift through clothes to your heart’s content. If you find anything you like it’s yours –for free! Not only is this fantastically kind to your budget but incredibly environmental and ethical, too. Just make sure your hands don’t clamp onto the same vintage Dior shrug as the lady opposite or things could well get ugly.

So there you have it. With a little innovation and a lot of creativity, you can end up looking like a confused hippy in someone else’s clothes. Or, provided you have the patience to develop some skill, you can bask in the glory of your own brilliance whenever someone gushes, ‘Oh my god, I love your t-shirt, where’s it from?’ What’s more, with all the money you save, you can shop summer styles on Zalando and treat yourself to something special. After all, what’s the point in Austerity Chic if you can’t reward your good behaviour?


  1. I can't sew. Well, don't want to.
    Hate tie-dye.

    LOVE second-hand. Especially ebaying it from my desk. Won't buy stuff made by slaves and small children in the Far East. OR go to a posh town and charity-shop there for quality jackets and smart gear. I live in a wealthy rural area with lots of prosperous market towns so I'm lucky.

    Get some simple togs and accessorise.

    Just don't buy cheap stuff. If it's cheap to buy then the people who made it were cheated. And that's not right.

  2. I have a sewing machine which was my grandmother's and you know who is using it? my OH in order to run up blackout blinds to stop the brightness of the 5.00am sunrise (of course the sun buggers off for the rest of the day!). This is a great post - some good ideas here, thankyou xx

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