Fashion is doing some strange things lately. On one hand prices are skyrocketing,with Maison Valentino sneakers selling for almost $2000, while on the other you can buy a perfectly respectable $10 cotton shirt at Kmart.
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Having worked in fashion for so many years, I feel like I’ve made enough expensive mistakes in my time (the orange leather Max Mara mid-calf skirt springs to mind. I looked like a phone box).
I am very careful about what I buy now, and I most definitely don’t want to shop from the bargain bin. I’m a person who doesn’t like sales (if someone else didn’t want it desperately at the beginning of the season, why would I now?) but I have gleaned some clues along the way as to how to look expensive, on a realistic budget.
First and foremost, it is about good grooming. Gleaming healthy skin, neat nails, a pedicure, clean, shiny hair, a great haircut that’s not fried and full of goop. With all these, you can be in jeans and a t-shirt and look like a million bucks.
It doesn’t have to mean expensive facials, contouring clown makeup, hair extensions and fake nails. It just has to be you, fresh and simple. No one wants to look like they need a bath.
2. A men’s-style shirt
Always a winner and always appropriate. Be sure to launder them after each wear, as grubby collars are the worst.
For women, the best place to look for shirts is the men’s department. Buy them slightly oversized, as this makes a white shirt look more expensive. I love the men’s linen shirts at Uniqlo that retail for less than $40 – I also buy them in beige, navy blue and black.
There are so many great things about denim – it is long-lasting, it washes well, it does not require ironing for the most part, and it looks good at any age. I have a Helmut Lang denim jean jacket from the nineties, an Acne denim trench from 2006, and a Marc Jacobs denim A-line skirt from 2000 that I still pull out.
Even if a denim piece is pricey, it will last the distance. Denim is always a good buy, designer or not.
4. Buy less, choose well
Spending more money on a well-made, classic piece that you will then wear for many years is far better economy than an $80 outfit at a fast fashion chain that you will wear once or twice and bin.
At last look, I have designer leather jackets, trench coats and tailored blazers that I have had for more than 10 years. Chain store pieces that are more than one year old? None.
5. Don’t wear, or carry, fakes
Designer knock offs are not stylish. No, they did not come from the same factory as the original. So what if it was significantly cheaper? It’s still not the real deal, which is what you really want to be.
They are just nasty ripoffs. Don’t buy the fake Celine bag in Bali. Carry a really cool straw basket instead.
6. White jeans
For some reason, maybe that “I just got off a yacht” vibe they subtly send, white jeans manage to ramp up the style factor, for men and women.
7. A great piece of jewellery
Lots of cheap jewellery and piles of wrist junk make a certain statement, but nothing is better than one fantastic piece. Whether it’s your mother’s cocktail ring, huge pair of silver hoops, a tribal cuff, or a glittery designer necklace, one well-chosen piece, the best you can afford, is always better than piles of junk.
The takeaway message…
All the money in the world doesn’t mean you can buy style, but there is one sure route to instant disaster: not dressing to please yourself. Oh, and Crocs.