Fashion-industry experts Sophie Barker and Annie Carroll launched their online fashion directory, Homeroom, earlier this year.

The site highlights the best in Australian fashion while helping you to shop – and style yourself – better. You can explore curated edits such as slouchy bags and white tees, for example, or browse with filters like “emerging designer”, “size 18+” and “First Nations designers”.

Who better, then, than Barker and Carroll to be our new fashion agony aunts. In their second monthly column for Broadsheet (you can find the first one here), the pair solve the age-old dilemma of creating an event-ready outfit without smashing into your savings account. It’s all about styling the items you have with statement accessories, or making underwear your hero piece for a festival-ready fit. Say hello to sheer shirting and metallic silver bangles. This time it’s all about confident assemblage.

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Hey homeroom, I’m a woman with an event-packed summer ahead of me but I don’t have endless cash to buy new outfits for each one. What are some ideas that won’t break the bank? – Booked & Budgeting

Dear Booked & Budgeting,

We’re not accountants, but we do know our way around extracting every last cent of value from the clothes you already own. We’ll call this “advanced girl maths” – the act of planning a series of outfits that you actually want to wear without having to spend more than you can afford. Here’s how.

Play dress-ups with your current wardrobe
Try on what you own, but in combinations you wouldn’t normally wear. Take your nicest bra and make this a feature of your look under a sheer top, or take a silk scarf you’ve never been game enough to wear and pair it with a silk slip dress. Try it and see what sticks.

If you want to buy something new
A statement blouse is more affordable than a dress and will become a wardrobe workhorse in no time. Accessories are a potent and powerful ally, too: a statement glove or brooch can transform lacklustre neutrals. And, if you want to invest in a new dress, look for something minimal and sharp – that way you can wear it repeatedly. Labels like Henne, Venroy and Elka Collective have great options.

When it’s your end-of-year work party, but not yet payday
Opt for neutral pieces you already own and then add pops of red or silver. Flower corsages are having a moment. Take this fluffy red flower brooch and pin it to the lapel of a light-toned blazer, like this single-breasted pinstriped number, worn over a plain white tank and a pair of straight-cut blue jeans. Black accessories – like this shoulder bag and a classic black belt – will ground the look, while metallic mules and sculptural mini hoops bring a dash of festive cheer.

Or tuck a slim-fitting white tee into a pair of tailored trousers, like these navy pinstripe pants, and accessorise with a pair of cherry-red heels, a statement silver bangle, a disco-ready bag and an unexpectedly feminine rosette choker. Or take a crisp white shirt and layer over this fun red bandeau top and a pair of longline black shorts. Finish the look with crystal earrings, a small silver pouch and some very party-appropriate heels.

When you want to feel good in your Xmas outfit all day long
First thing’s first: comfort is the number one priority on a day when you’re likely to not only be eating a lot, but also wrangling a lot of physical (and emotional?) baggage. Keep it loose, breezy and simple. This sleeveless linen swing dress or this black A-line mini look perfect with simple black sandals and silver earrings. Not into black? Take this easy-wearing mini or try polka dots. For a more low-key affair, this white cotton tiered maxi dress is a no-brainer (with bonus pockets), while this peasant-style black maxi dress is both beautiful and on sale right now.

When you want an NYE fit without the exxy price tag
The easiest way to up the ante, without buying a whole new outfit, is to invest in a simple but impactful top and pair it with bottoms you already own and love. (Yes, it’s the return of jeans and a nice top). This regal textured cream strapless top would be perfect paired with a boyfriend-style jean. Bring the combination up to speed with a pair of crystal waterfall earrings, not-too-high futuristic metallic heels and a geometric cream shoulder bag. Or lean into the silk-scarf-top look, which will be everywhere this summer. Take this minimalist version and team it with a pair of relaxed cream jeans, a tailored black blazer, and a low-heeled black sandal. Top the look off with a chunky silver necklace and mini silver hoops, and this vegan leather knot bag to cart around your polaroid for the night.

When the dress code is “cocktail” but you want repeat wear
For that wedding you forgot you RSVP’d to, it’s a good idea to look for a dress you will wear again a hundred different ways. Minimalist silhouettes and classic, neutral colours will serve you well. This beautifully cut black silk slip is handy now and for years to come. This casual, flattering cotton espresso dress offers you and your body longevity with its elastic waistband. For something more glam, this one-shouldered polka dot number feels very French Riviera. And for a bona-fide steal, this silk jacquard chocolate gown is currently marked down from $1200 to $300.

If neutrals aren’t your thing, pink is still everywhere this summer. This fairy-floss linen number and this ’60s-inspired mini are made to order in Melbourne. Or channel Betty Draper in this pleated sky-blue beauty or Megan Draper in this sky-blue mini. Our top pick? This off-the-shoulder green gown with its forgiving ruched waistline and timeless silhouette.

When you’re bouncing from headline act to afterparty
Festival fashion has officially entered chaos mode – there are no rules. Look to accessories to do all the heavy lifting: 2024 will be the year of the rosette. Try this bubblegum-pink silk-blend version and pin it to your T-shirt, or attach this charcoal-chocolate brooch to your bomber. A silk scarf wrapped around your neck or head will elevate a denim short-and-singlet combo. Or try a statement necklace, like this neon-green resin chain, or a pair of galactic earrings . And if there was ever a time to bust out your best bra and build an outfit around it, it’s the festival. This electric-pink bra would be perfect underneath an oversized button down, while a more subdued white mesh number or black bralette are begging to be flashed under a fine white tank. Kate Moss would approve.

For more style inspiration, visit or follow Homeroom on Instagram.

Sophie Barker is Homeroom’s creative director and resident maximalist. She’s also a renowned Australian fashion stylist, with clients and collaborators including Dior, David Jones, Vogue China, Elle France and more. She’s been wearing cowboy boots since she was nine.

Annie Carroll is Homeroom’s editor and resident minimalist. A public-relations advisor and communications strategist, Annie has worked with some of Australia’s most influential arts, fashion, design and lifestyle organisations. Annie has been searching for the perfect white shirt for three decades.