How To Achieve Fashion Nirvana (Without Spending Money On Clothes)

Illustration by Mallory Heyer.
The idea that you need to spend a lot of money on a big closet in order to be fashionable is one that has meddled with people's heads (and wallets) for time immemorial. And, in many cases, it's turned people off from the fashion scene altogether. With brands selling $500 T-shirts and luxury handbags that easily cost several months' rent, it's easy to believe that the more you consume, the more style you've got. But a recent study by professors at Cornell University shows that you get prolonged happiness if you spend your money on buying experiences, not things.

The study found that the more we invest our time and energy into activities that don't result in acquiring a physical object, the longer our happiness will last and the more stories we'll have to tell. Makes sense, right? After all, what is a fashion experience beyond the sheer joy of celebrating the purchase of next season’s It bag?

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while," says Thomas Gilovich, Ph.D., a psychologist. "New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” The adrenaline rush of the entire shopping experience — from the keyboard to the checkout counter — may not ever die down for you, but even the fashion obsessive can see there’s another layer of depth to the journey.

While searching for some sort of higher power in the fashion realm, embark on your own journey to fashion nirvana. Below are just a few tactics that will satisfy your yen for something more when it comes to your clothes and how you style them. Happiness is easy to come by when you shop, but knowing such things as where your clothes come from, how they were made, and what you can do with them if they were to fall apart will not only inform how you spend tomorrow but also how much you invest in your future fashion experiences, not things.
Illustration by Mallory Heyer.
The do-it-yourself mentality — recently regaining popularity via Pinterest — can be more than just a once-in-a-while pursuit. DIY is an art form, but more important, it's a way to build a deeper relationship with your clothes. Much like retelling the story of, say, that time you got lost in the city and found your way home again, you can just as proudly announce, "See that embroidery? I did that." Plus, you'll learn how difficult, complicated, and technical the modern-day clothing manufacturing process is. You know how hard it is to make just a pair of cut-offs? Imaging creating the entire jean.

Try these: For those of you on the West Coast, we've already laid it out for you here. And for those of you in the rest of the world, begin with our DIY denim cut-off tricks.
Illustration by Mallory Heyer.
For a select few, fashion blogging is a full-time job. But success wasn't instantaneous. Starting — and maintaining — a style blog takes work, and the payoff isn't just in freebies like trips to Ibiza or next season's clothes. Writing about what you love, even on a superficial level, can inspire you to think about fashion in more nuanced ways. It'll let you experience fashion firsthand, connect you with like-minded creatives, and give you the kind of context and knowledge that creates a lifelong obsession with a subject.

Try this: Independent Fashion Bloggers is an online resource that covers all your blogging needs. From what it takes to create meaningful content your readers will love to what's going on in the blogosphere today, this is an invaluable reference to guide you from the ground up.
Illustration by Mallory Heyer.
It's no secret that traveling can be incredibly enriching. And if fashion is really something that interests you, consider planning your trips around around places that have inspired the collections of some of the greatest designers du jour. When Riccardo Tisci introduced the world to South Africa's strelitzia (the birds of paradise) flower, the world of street style went berserk, and every fast-fashion brand was copying it left and right. Immersing yourself in the streets and scenes of Cuba might help you understand why designers are so drawn toward it these days. And Coco Chanel filled her apartment (which you can visit!) with the sources of her innovation, which even now show up in Chanel products. So why not actually go to these places IRL to see what inspired them? Putting yourself in their element brings the designs to life.

Try these: Fashion writer Lynn Yaeger once toured all of Coco Chanel's old Parisian haunts, so use this as your map, in case of a future visit to the City of Lights. Or if you find yourself in the North of France, head up to Valentino's museum, Château de Wideville.
Illustration by Mallory Heyer.
We know this isn't precisely about shopping, but we think that hunting for vintage is a skill that lots of people with extensive fashion pedigrees don't have, which is a shame. Being able to see the potential in a product without the distractions of store displays, doting attendants, and clues about how valuable something is (via labels and price tags) is a skill that people who have a real, personal love of clothing possess.

Try these: All it takes is simply googling to figure out where to go thrifting for the best vintage finds. But if you find yourself in NYC or L.A., check out our expertly curated lists.
Illustration by Mallory Heyer.
Furthering your fashion education has zero drawbacks. Whether that's in the form of night classes at your local fashion university or watching sewing tutorials on YouTube within the confines of your own bedroom, it doesn't hurt to learn the tools of the trade to enhance your perspective or your admiration. There are a lot of fun facts to be found, and for those of you who work in the industry, it helps to know what you're talking about.

Try these: Course Horse is your one-stop shop for finding every type of fashion course, such as trend forecasting, building your own portfolio, and even fashion design.

Like this post? There's more. Get tons of style secrets, insider shopping dish, fashion news, and more on the Refinery29 Fashion Facebook page!
Illustration by Mallory Heyer.

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