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How to create high fashion with a low budget

Ah, style. The elite fashion gurus and runway queens let you know what is “in” for the season ~ what colors you should wear, how short your skirt should be, what type of jeans are the way to go, and what shoes will make a statement. In most of the style magazines featuring these hot trends, there will be a beautiful model donning it all and a tiny little box in the corner of the page letting you know what she is wearing and how much it costs. Soon, “Oh my God I am SO buying that” turns into “Whoa…$450, are you joking?!”

Fact is, you don’t have to spend hundreds to look like a million, and you just need to know how to pull it off. This is where do-it-yourself fashion comes into play. It may not have the designer tag, but neither did theirs until they sewed it on. If you use your imagination like all fashion designers do, you can be a trend-setter yourself. Here are some ideas to get the “look” without breaking the bank.

DIY Ripped Jeans

Ripped/Torn/Worn Jeans
OK, so jeans are the staple in any wardrobe. If you are like me, you have come to realize that it’s simply not possible to go to just any store on the map and pick up a pair of jeans that fits perfectly. I am convinced that most women’s jeans are made to fit a 12-year-old boy. I am a woman, and I have some junk in my trunk, as it were. That being said, there are a few stores where I know they have the right jeans for my body type, but what if they don’t have the style I want?

Tip: Distress your own jeans! Get a pair of scissors and sandpaper or a pumice stone. Lay the jeans out flat and decide where you want to rip them. Use the sandpaper to sand the spot where you want to cut until it’s thin and fraying. Cut a small slit in the area with scissors, and rip the rest to the size you want. Pull some of the fibers out until you get the look you want. Want a little more texture? Wear white lace tights underneath. Also, if you like a particular brand of jeans, check local consignment shops. Sometimes designer jeans can be had for bargain prices.

Layered LookLayered Look
This is one of those trends that is always in fashion for fall and winter, but you have to do it right. I’ll let you in on a little secret ~ anything goes (for the most part). Clearly, you don’t want to combine colors and weird prints that clash.

Tip: Check out some thrift stores for vintage blouses and shirts, skirts and short denim or military-style jackets. Though some of these things might seem outdated and tacky all alone, they can be stunning in a layered ensemble. Think I’m nuts? Try pairing an ’80s leather pencil skirt with a chic ruffled blouse and a cropped jacket or combining a skinny jean with a drop-shoulder shirt, three contrasting belts wrapped loosely on the hips and a cute scarf.

Picture 1Cable-Knit/Crochet Sweaters
This is a super-popular fall and winter trend, especially when paired with leggings and boots. If you’re crafty, you could learn how to make one yourself. There is a wealth of YouTube videos with step-by-step instructions on how to crochet and knit, and from what I understand, it’s a de-stresser, too.

Tip: Check out for ideas and how-to information. The website offers classes online for everything from knitting and crocheting to cake decorating.

I am so happy that this trend is coming back that I could do cartwheels. I love this look. Problem is, if not worn right, ponchos can look frumpy or make you look larger than you are. So only wear them with fitted, not flowy, bottoms and make sure they don’t cover your hips in the front.

Tip: Make your own. This is amazingly easy, and by doing it, you can get the exact color or pattern you want for that perfect outfit, even if you can’t find one in the store. This is completely customizable and can be cut and sewn from any fabric, including a blanket you like.

Textured Accessories
Accessories can make or break any outfit. This year, it is all about texture and repurposing. One of my favorite DIY accessories is the beer bottle cap belt I made a few years back. A leather belt, bottle caps and a hot glue gun = FABULOUS. The possibilities are endless. From belts to handbags, jewelry to shoes, you can make simple and plain into stylish and one-of-a-kind in minutes.


Tip: Go on Pintrest. If you don’t have an account, get one. The ideas here are inspirational. Also, get some plain black or white pumps, glue, ribbon, mini flowers, beads, etc., and have a shoe decorating day with friends. I made my New Year’s shoes a few years back this way and was asked where I got them all night long.

By Jennifer Russo