I have a slight girl crush on author and illustrator Kerrie Hess.
Not only does this gorgeous Australian-born mum now live in Paris but she has had an incredibly stylish career – centred to date around her amazing fashion illustrations, which have appeared everywhere from US department store, Neiman Marcus to Vogue and Tatler.
But the real heart of this crush is Kerrie’s incredible eye for style, on any budget – a personal skill she’s developed throughout her whole fashion-obsessed life and created into a book that is a must-read for any beer budget fashionista like myself.
Having read and absorbed all 101 gems of advice, I challenged Kerrie to narrow those fabulously awesome tips down to five … just for you dear Stylers.
Read and recite after me:
1) The cheap and cheerful rule of thumb
The good news for bargain hunters is that it’s not always wrong to buy cheap clothing. But, the general rule is that cheap duds in bright colors will usually look, well, even cheaper than they were, whereas clothes bought for a song in neutral colors will look more expensive than their actual price. (And tend to blend in well with higher quality items.) The trick is to not wear all of your bargain basics at once. For example, that $10 white singlet that you picked up from Target will fit in just nicely with a wonderfully tailored pair of quality palazzo pants. Or basic black footless tights with a fabulous print dress and black flats are a winning combination for a simple but chic look.
2) Go vintage
When in need of a fabulous new outfit for an event, if you can’t go straight to fashion Mecca (Chanel or Dior) with a black Amex, then vintage might be your next best bet. Finding a vintage dress that fits perfectly and looks wonderful is usually more thrilling than splurging on an equally charming dress with the price tag of a small car in a high end boutique.
Plus, you know that your vintage piece is practically now a one-of-a-kind. That almost no one but you will have. And aside from the odd ’70s polyester number (read, highly flammable), most real vintage garments will make their modern department store equivalents pale in comparison in terms of craftsmanship and quality.
If you have time, start looking in thrift shops near you or when you travel, or just go straight to vintage re-sellers, where you will pay a little bit more, but essentially all of the hard hunting work has been done for you.
3) Mix it up
When you really believe that you have nothing to wear, it’s time to get creative. Could you give that pastel party dress a whole new look by adding a biker jacket and ankle boots? What about trying some over the top gold jewelery with navy and white stripes? Or mixing fierce gladiator heels with a feminine skirt? Try pairing vintage with modern, department store with designer, neutrals with bright colors.
Add a belt and scarf to a shapeless black knit dress. Borrow your partner’s white shirt, and add it to black leggings and a wide belt. And don’t be afraid to try prints with prints, such as stripes with florals, argyle with dots. Some of the most unexpected combinations can result in your best looks yet, and tapping into your adventurous side may just double your wardrobe possibilities.
4) Think Parisian
Damn. Those French lasses, with their sharp tailoring and their little espressos, just always look so chic. And their secret? My theory anyway: Parisian apartments are smaller than the average maximum security prison cell. (Although admittedly they usually have a better view, framed by pretty red flower pots.) Hence most women in the city have unbelievably small wardrobes. Just enough room for one Chanel jacket, one YSL trench, one fabulous pair of denims and the perfect cocktail dress. No wiggle room for error in this closet ma cherie! Or for average discount odds and ends in strange colors. The Parisian woman may end up re-hashing the same look many times, but the result will always be chic. French femmes usually prefer a well-worn Dior to a new but quickly forgotten department store find every time.
We with the bigger closets can really learn something from this theory of controlled selection. Edit your wardrobe like a Parisian woman, and you will only have your absolute best and chic choices left. And probably a little more money to spend per item.
(Post script – As fate would have it, I am now a Parisian myself, contending with a very very small wardrobe! And said closet has indeed stopped me buying anything that I don’t absolutely love.)
5) All in the details
Nine times out of ten if your handbag and shoes are chic, then the rest of your ensemble will likely look reasonably chic too. However on the opposite scale, a great dress with plastic shoes and a pleather handbag can’t usually be revived. So much of a chic look is all in the accessories. So think about spending a little more on the bag you will be carrying all season long, the shoes you will be zipping around in most of the time, as well as the other accessory staples. A great watch, if you wear one, and a chic wallet are worth splurging on as you likely use and have to look at them every day.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these tips. Especially no.4: “Edit your wardrobe like a Parisian”. My wardrobe is a long way from Paris but seriously needs to be treated the same way. And something is only given a slice of that valuable wardrobe real estate if I feel fully fabulous in it.
What do you think? Keen to learn more? Suffer from champagne tastes on beer budget syndrome like moi?