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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

Spruce up your look: Do more with less

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, The Juggle, Uncategorized, do more with less


I’ve noticed that I’ve been wearing the same work clothes over and over again, and with the economy the way it is, I feel timid about trying to break out of my fashion rut. Yesterday, I slipped my feet into my favorite brown heels and noticed how worn-out the shoes were; they made everything else I was wearing look worn-out as well.

As my children ransacked my closet, thrilled by what they thought was a last minute game of “Let’s Try On All of Mama’s Shoes,” I spied a small tin on my husband’s bedside table. And with that, another “Do more with less” idea was born. Here are five fast ways to spruce up your look while spending little or no money:

1.) Polish your shoes. I’ve been known to use a permanent marker to color in the scuff marks on a pair of black shoes in a pinch; then again, I’ve also stapled a ripped hem while at work, so I’m not that elegant when it comes to repair. But polishing your shoes is a simple way to quickly make them look better, and you don’t have to keep a boxful of goops or dyes on hand to do it. Dr. Marten’s Neutral Shoe Polish works on all types of leather shoes to hide imperfections and revive tired uppers. It buffs quickly to a soft shine and, at $4.99, you can probably afford an extra tin to keep in your desk.

2.) Rotate your jewelry. Most women have a few favorite pieces that they wear all the time. Take a look at the rest of your stash, and put some of those rarely seen items back into rotation. Use an antique brooch or a single enormous drop earring as a funky pendent, wear a beaded necklace wrapped around your wrist instead, or eschew earrings in favor of a big bunch of necklaces.

3.) Tie one on. A cute scarf, that is. You don’t have to run out and buy a gorgeous silk Hermes creation (though, really, if you can afford to, be my guest). Any interesting pattern will do, and even a fluffy winter version will add visual interest (and keep you warm if your office is an icebox, like mine). Have scarves, but don’t know how to tie them? We’ll teach you — surf over to The Working Closet’s scarf tying 101.

4.) Inexpensive T-shirts to the rescue. For $10 apiece, it’s worth investing in a few brightly colored, inexpensive shirts to wear under your trusty black blazer. Instant new outfit!

5.) New lipstick. Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estee Lauder Companies, noticed that lipstick sales go up when the economy goes down. According to a New York Times article, “sales increase as women boost their mood with inexpensive lipstick purchases instead of $500 slingbacks.” You don’t have to splurge on a $40 department store color; a simple gloss from your local store will have the same mood-enhancing effect.

How do you spruce up your look without blowing your budget?

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3 comments so far...

  • [...] The 36-Hour Day created an interesting post today on Spruce up your look: Do more with lessHere’s a short outline [...]

    Fashion News » Blog Archive » Spruce up your look: Do more with less  |  November 12th, 2008 at 12:29 am

  • Wow…cool tips. I recently did the lone-earning transformation although i turned it into an embellishment for a dark colored blouse. And yes, I wear my brightest lipstick on days I’m feeling down. So that Estee Lauder guy knows his color cosmetics!

    ALostWriter  |  November 12th, 2008 at 11:19 am

  • Incidentally, I think you make a good argument for assuring that any work clothes that you buy be high quality, classic pieces that will look good for a long LONG time. I’ve always had to shop on a pretty tight budget despite having luxury tastes and my solution has been to save up, wait for the sales, and then snap up the item at the lowest possible price (which is sometimes still scarily expensive…) But when I realize that after 9 years I am still excited when I slip on my Sonia Rykiel suit, or when I get compliments on my 11 year old (second hand!) Yves St Laurent suit, I realize that it was money well spent. Of course, your point about doing upkeep on those items that need to last is a good one. To make things last and still look good, they need to be regularly cleaned and repaired. I think the guy who fixes my shoes charges crazy prices, but I only have to remind myself of the price of a new pair of shoes to realize that I am better off replacing the heels than heading to the mall. Its the sort of frugality that our grandparents grew up with and our generation is suddenly needing to develope.

    Nicole  |  November 25th, 2008 at 3:10 am

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