Over the years I've learned that you don't need to break the bank in order to look chic and stylish. Style, after all, is about individualism, self-expression and letting your personality shine through. Trends play a role but real style is achieved through how you put yourself together with the pieces you choose when building your wardrobe. Even if I could afford it, I would never choose to wear only expensive designer brands. In my opinion, a head-to-toe designer look lacks creativity and individuality. Mixing high-end designer pieces with affordable items is a secret weapon for every fashionista who's on a budget. Imagine pairing your Gucci bag with a $20 dress? Or your husband's gold signet ring with a Target bangle? Well, I'm here to tell you that it CAN be done!
I've always practiced high-low mixing but it really seems to be having a moment now. I think one reason for this is the surge in popularity of consignment and resale shopping. Now considered "smart shopping" consignment/resale/thrift/vintage offers a thrill-of-the hunt shopping experience where one-of-a-kind treasures meet affordable prices. And, you don't look like everyone else! There’s an art when it comes to mixing drastically different price points—how do you make your outfit seem cohesive, styled, and chic when the pieces come from such different backgrounds?
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
1. Invest in Long-Term
Be honest with yourself about your lifestyle, budget, and what is important to you. Then set your priorities and determine what YOU want to be your investment pieces. Are they your wardrobe staples such as jeans, a coat, shoes, or a handbag? Invest in the classics that you'll wear on repeat. Whatever you want those staples to be, make sure your investments can get you some long-term mileage and consider the cost per wear. Example: I purchased a Gucci belt 4 years ago that I have worn almost every week (sometimes multiple times a week) with everything from jeans to dresses. It's versatile, classic and I calculated the cost-per-wear to be around $2.00. I consider that a good investment.
These handbags are high quality, durable and make great everyday bags.
2: Don’t Spend on Trends
If you have a hankering for seasonally trending items (think neon, heavily embellished things, baker boy caps), look at a fast-fashion store like H&M, Zara, or Forever21. Don’t invest a ton of money in looks that might feel stale in six months to a year. Consider trying out these trends first with a low-cost item, and if you end up liking the trend and wearing it a lot, then invest in a higher quality item. I did exactly this when I purchased a pair of classic Chanel cap-toe slingbacks a year ago after "test driving" a similar-looking pair from a moderately priced mainstream brand. I loved the shoes and wore them a ton but they broke down fast. That convinced me that while I loved the style of the shoe, I wanted the better quality model so I saved and ponied up for the Chanel. The best part? You can mix these trend items with your high-end pieces, and it will be a great aesthetic balance.
3: Know When to Break the Rules
It’s OK to break the rules. You can mix an expensive dress with cheap trendy shoes, or an expensive coat with mid-tier shoes and a $10 bag—it’s all about mixing and matching items that coordinate and don’t stand out too much on their own and cheapen the entire look. Seek out "expensive looking" items with mostly natural fiber content and good clean lines. Again, this is where consignment and vintage shopping can offer unique items to supplement your wardrobe. I'm also a fan of the occasional "fast fashion find" that is surprisingly good quality for the money. I've found some wonderful gems at Zara and the WhoWhatWear collection at Target that I have paired with expensive accessories and received the most compliments on the outfit.
4: Make It Your Own
Remember that you’re not tied to the way an item looks when it comes from the store. You can take off the attachable belt, replace cheap plastic buttons, or have an item tailored. I can't stress this one enough; a tailor is your best friend and will make everything you wear look more expensive. The art of making a low-price item your own and more unique includes personalizing it and if it’s an item you think is worth it, reinvesting in it. It’s all about vision! Don't be afraid to add a quirky or sentimental element to your on trend look; it's what will make you stand out from the crowd.
5: No Knock-Offs
One final and most important suggestion: No knock-offs. Almost every fast-fashion or mass retailer makes designer dupes of bags, shoes, and more, and you can also buy wannabe designer items online or places like Chinatown. These items stand out and will cheapen your true high-end items. When in doubt, keep things simple, source unique items that can pass as high-end, avoid pieces with visible branded labels, and monochromatic outfits always win.