save money on fashion
Saving Money

Save Money on Fashion: 5 Steps I Use to Optimise My Clothing Budget

Many of the tips revolving fashion on a budget are fairly predictable:

  • Buy them on sale/off the sales rack
  • Make sure the article of clothing can be matched with the rest of the wardrobe
  • Get cashback on purchases – use cashback credit card and/or (note: referral link; 4% for existing Zalora customers, 12% for new ones. Other online shops available too)
  • Buy from thrift shops – what I already do
  • Pick quality over quantity so they last longer – RM100 top worn 100 times is better than a RM10 top worn once

But one advice in particular was surprisingly helpful in a very unexpected way: Know what you have in your wardrobe. Advocates say that this hack will help you re-understand your fashion style and make you more conscious of your future purchases. Apparently, we only wear 20% of our wardrobe.  Why would I want to pay for the remaining 80% if I don’t wear them?

There are a few steps to this. I’ll list how I did it. I need help from you guys who are more fashion-savvy than me (so, like, all of you). How can I improve my wardrobe without spending too much on it?

Step 1: Decide on a style

I really like minimalist fashion: clean, classic, Parisian chic. Earth and natural tones. I like the smart casual style, they are easy to dress up and down. Practical-ish fashion, I guess. Something that implies, ‘I look this good and don’t even try’ (lol).

Step 2: KonMari my wardrobe

KonMari, the Japanese decluttering expert and author of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ and ‘Spark Joy’ is a big inspiration here. The ‘Spark Joy’ methodology is simple – if an item no longer gives you happiness, get it out of your life.

So I went through my entire wardrobe. If an item no longer makes me happy, they are donated, re-purposed or thrown away. I got rid of:

  • Clothes that don’t fit well
  • Clothes with tears (the ones I can’t be bothered to mend)
  • ‘In-case’ clothes that never get worn (ie my old jackets and coats)
  • Clothes in styles that I no longer like
  • Clothes that are obviously ‘unfashionable’
  • Well-loved but worn out clothes that are past their due dates

Throwing out all my plus-size clothes was seriously therapeutic. I’m fairly tall for an Asian girl (5’7), so I could only buy things from the plus size shops when I was growing up, nothing else fits.

Step 3: List down all the clothes I own

After I got rid of what I don’t want, I re-assessed what I choose to keep. I now own:


  • 2 x turtlenecks
  • 2 x long-sleeve tops
  • 1 x sleeveless collared shirt
  • 6 x three-quarter tops (casual)
  • 6 x normal sleeve tops (casual)
  • 5 x work-appropriate tops
  • 5 x t-shirts
  • 2 x black spaghetti tops
  • 3 x tank tops
  • 3 x black tops
  • 1 x black cardigan
  • 1 x sleeveless fun top

Total: 37 tops. Might have missed some (counted this on laundry day), so rounding this up to 40.


  • 4 x skirts
  • 3 x jeans
  • 1 x trackpants
  • 2 x fitness leggings

Total: 10 bottoms.


  • 1 x nice sandals
  • 1 x sports shoes
  • 2 x flip flops
  • 1 x closed-toe heels
  • 1 x open-toe heels
  • 2 x black flats
  • 3 x socks

Total: 8 pairs of shoes (not counting socks). Except for flip-flops, everything is black.


  • 2 x baju kurung
  • 1 x dress
  • 4 x scarves
  • 5 x pyjamas/night dresses
  • 2 x sports bra
  • Underwear
  • Box of earrings, necklaces, bangles, etc

All in all, I have less than 100 clothing items I think (not counting underwear la). I have no idea if the above is considered too small a wardrobe or just nice, but if I compare them to my sisters’ wardrobes, I know they have at least 5 x as much. To be fair they do sell fashion for a living. One sister is the founder of Marquise Collection, she specialises in dope fashion that happens to be Muslimah-friendly.

while another is the founder of MalaysiaPlusSize. She specialises in plus size fashion that also happens to be Muslimah-friendly. We Melei ma.

We’re all ladybosses, I love it 😀 Support them! Check out their pages and see their original pictures and photoshoot. The prices are good and the quality is great. #thesupportivebigsis

Step 4: Know what I shouldn’t buy any more

Looking at my list, I see that I have quite a lot of casual, long sleeve tops. So I shouldn’t get any more of those. Ditto on black tops and spaghetti straps. Ditto on sleepwear.

About half of what I own is black/navy/grey.  I don’t need to add on to that.

This step is important because when I go window-shop, I am naturally drawn to some these colours/styles and tend to buy them, even though its similar to what I already own. So now I know I have more than enough. Not buying saves money.

Step 5: Only look for pieces that’ll work with what I already have

I’m at this step now and actively paying more attention to new styles, prints and colours when I go window-shopping. I’d love to get:

  • Tops in these colours: moss green, beige, dark red, brown
  • Printed skirts and pants
  • Cardigans and things that can be layered with what I have
  • White sneakers or print loafers for more casual days
  • Am considering a printed bag too – it’ll go well with the majority of my plain outfits

Ultimately, I’d love for each of the items can be paired with different things for different looks. Easy to mix-and-match

So I guess my strategy now is to keep an eye out for the items I want. If I chance on a good sale – and it better be a good deal or I won’t buy it – then only I’ll consider it.

How do you save money on fashion in Malaysia?

I’m new at this fashion thing. What are other tricks and tips you picked up? What advice can you give me – someone who merely wants to stop being called ‘Auntie’? What type of fabric is long-lasting, easy to care for, and looks good?

Also, what’s your rule of thumb when it comes to prices? I have a preference for RM5-10 tops and under-RM100 bottoms, but thinking of paying more attention to quality this time around.

Please share in comments 🙂

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  1. I have started buying preloved items. Its a change of perspective.
    * I lost a bit of weight and also loss of income due to illness.

    I am much better now and in need of wardrobe update for the upcoming job. 🙂

    Here’s what I do
    1. Make a list of stuff I need n also wants.. you know some date worthy or dressy stuff tht looks fab on self
    2. Scour preloved stuff
    3. Let my friends in on the grapevine – swap clothes… kinda like musical clothes round up
    (Whats app is really cool for this – I keep an album for stuff I want to give away or sell cheapo n another one as wishlist) so if any takers on our next meet up we jus pass the clothes etc.

    Online bet: carousell, preloved in fb, mudah(can be a bit difficult)

    *once or twice I got a bunch of clothes n I only picked 2 items. Rest I gave away n some donated to that box by the road.

    1. Sorry about the illness, hope you’re feeling better now 🙁 Good luck on that job search Juju!

      I like the idea about swapping clothes. Can turn into a fun girls night in also haha

    1. Hi peachcaffeine (nice username!) Oh hey it’s a selling platform as well? Do you know if the Sg Wang branch will have this too? I have shit to sell!

  2. I learnt that Mark Zuckerberg & Steve Jobs wore the same t-shirt & jeans all the time. They have multiple pieces of the same tees & jeans even brand themselves with it. The reason behind their fashion decision is it puts their minds at ease for not having to decide daily on what to wear, thus allowing them to focus on important matters.

    I believe this idea would work like a charm for geeks but a big No-No for a fashionistas.

    1. Hey StazOne!

      I think they’re brilliant for adopting that philosophy. It’s true though, one less decision a day is better for overall productivity. My aim is to make my wardrobe small and still easy to mix and match 🙂

    1. Hi Intan!

      Oh nice, I just googled it. I’m down with this idea. Definitely doable with my wardrobe. Is there a 3-year version 😛

      (for the rest, Project 333 is a challenge to wear only 33 articles of clothing for 3 months).

  3. Well, currently I’m experimenting what I call the ‘4-days-outfit’ system (started early last year). The less extreme version of Mark & Steve’s system I guess.

    It works like this; from Mon – Thu, there are 4 sets of office outfits – pants+shirt/blouse+tudung. Its fixed for each day. It means, you can see me wear same clothes every Monday from top to bottom. Wear this until I can’t wear it anymore (1 year is a good timeframe). Wash it all on Friday after work and iron it all on Sunday.

    This system really works for me, a non-fashionista. Its a peace of mind, minimalist and budget friendly.

    The only pieces changed from last year’s ‘4-days-outfit’ collection was the blouses/shirts. A bit more extreme this year, I opted for black shirts only (all from Uniqlo but different styles, length and texture). Still continue to wear same tudung and pants.

    Fri-Sun – usually jeans and t-shirt.

    1. That’s a really cool system! Plus you can’t really go wrong with Uniqlo hahah

      Nice one Karima, I’ll keep this in mind!

    1. No experience if for guys! I barely have enough fashion sense for myself rofl

      Won’t the 5 steps here be applicable for guys too? I hope so. Wish you the best, future-fashionista!

  4. How about semi formal clothes that don’t need ironing (save time and electricity) and can be worn on casual outings?

    1. You’re absolutely right. Anything that don’t need ironing is +1 😛 They also encourage you to wear it more – because you’re not too lazy to iron them!

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