Military Spouse Style…on a Budget!

One of the best things about military life is that there is always something going on–from unit barbecues or dining outs, training school graduations, promotion ceremonies, military balls, and (like it or not) holiday party season isn’t too far away. There’s always some social event to get dressed for! Never mind that we still need to dress ourselves for work and everyday life! Military members get a clothing allowance, but there’s no clothing allowance for spouses (maybe there should be!). On a military salary, can you afford to stock your wardrobe for all of these events we’re expected to attend?

Here are several tips for stretching your clothing budget:

Subscription Services
These are great for women who work in a professional setting or attend a lot of business dress or casual events. It’s like Netflix for clothes! Go through what they have to offer and build your online closet. You will be sent garments through the mail, which you can wear once, or as many times as you like, and return the items when you are finished. You can get an unlimited amount of items in a month depending on how fast you return items; shipping time is also a facator. If you really like something, you can typically purchase it based on the original retail cost of the garment, and keep in mind, the price is prorated by how many times that specific item has been rented out. Several clothing subscription services that I like include:

Gwynnie Bee: Monthly plans from $35 per month for 1 garment at a time. With plans ranging up to $99 a month for 3 garments at a time; no contract/cancel at any time. Gwynnie Bee caters to plus-sized ladies.

LeTote: There are two monthly plan options $39 per month for 2 garments and 1 accessory at a time, or $59 per month for either 3 garments and 2 accessories or 4 garments and no accessories; no contract/cancel at any time. LeTote sizing runs up to XL/US 16.

Stitch Fix: This works a little differently than the other two. For $20, you are sent a box with 5 things your Stitch Fix “stylist” thinks you will like based on a style quiz you take at sign-up. You get to try on your items, keep what you like, and send the rest back. The $20 fee is deducted from the cost of what you keep and you pay the remainder. If you keep everything, you get a 25% discount on the cost of your items. You choose your delivery date, and average price point of items in your box is $55. Stitch Fix does not allow you to send back items that you’ve worn.

Dress Rental
Fashion designer Donna Karan said “There is nothing special about wearing a dress twice.” Now with rental services, you don’t have to!  Rental services allow you to borrow a designer dress, wear it for your event, and send it back. Most of the time, the rental fee is equal or less than what you would pay to purchase a dress that you might only wear once, so it’s a win-win situation! Here’s a popular site I love:

Rent the Runway: They rent out designer dresses for either a 4-day or 8-day window, and even allow you to rent a “back up size” (typically one size larger/smaller than what you think you need) just in case. Your dress is delivered via UPS on the day you choose (they recommend 1-2 days prior to your planned event), you wear the dress, put everything back in the duffel bag it was sent in and drop it off at a UPS location. You can also rent jewelry and accessories. Rent the Runway does not have an option for you to purchase items you have rented, but dresses start at about $30 and range to about $400 depending on the formality and designer of the dress for an 8-day rental.

Consignment Stores
Consignment stores have been around for ages; typically a cut above a thrift store, consignment stores resell used clothing. The difference from a thrift store is that consignment stores do not take donations, but rather, they employ buyers who accept or decline items brought in to them based on condition, what they have in stock, and other factors. Some stores will pay the previous owner when they take the items and then turn them around to be sold and some will take their profit and give you the rest once the item has sold. *Tip: Consignment stores can also be a good “quick cash” option for military spouses looking to make some extra money, downsize before a PCS, or free up some closet space!

And finally…

Thrift Stores
Macklemore said it best, “One man’s trash is another man’s come-up!” Thrift stores should not be discounted when looking for a bargain. They’re typically stocked by donation and many turn their proceeds to fund a nonprofit or other charitable organization, so when you purchase from them, you are also making a donation to that organization, which is a win-win! Thrift stores require a little more effort to look for the ‘diamonds in the rough,’ but often you will find next-to-new items that people either didn’t know the value of, or didn’t take the time to take to a consignment store. My personal success story was finding a cardigan from New York & Company with original tags for $30 still attached that I snagged for $2! Many thrift stores have a military day or a “stuff the bag” day where you can make a haul.

Hopefully these tips will help you be a stylish spouse and rock those social events!

Do you have any stylish secrets to share with other military spouses? Add them in the comments!

Posted by Jennifer Burns, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer, Dover AFB, DE

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