5 fashionable ways to live a luxe life for less

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 31 Comments

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.

That book is called Shoestring Chic: 101 Ways to Live the Fashionably Luxe Life for Less (You can buy your hardcopy here.  I bought mine for my iPad kindle app here).

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.

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

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.

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

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.

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

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.)

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

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.

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

Illustration: Kerrie Hess

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? 

 

Comments 31

  1. Such great tips Nikki, and especially timely given I’ve been contemplating a spring clean of my wardrobe. I really need to focus on good old classics and easy to put together (read:quickly) outfits!
    Whoever the lucky winner of the Westfield styling session ends up being should use these tips as their guide.
    Have a great day 🙂

    1. Post
      Author
  2. Love the idea of the Parisian wardrobe where everything works well together and for you. That’s exactly what you do when pregnant and it makes it sooo easy to dress. Looks like I have something to add to my list for this weekend. Cheers!

    1. Post
      Author

      I hadn’t thought about that in relation to a pregnancy wardrobe but that’s so true, isn’t it? The same when you get a travel wardrobe just right. Everything works and you always have something to wear.

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
  3. Wow Nikki … these 5 tips are brilliant. I’ve always been a big fan of #5 regarding the ‘details’ … but of course I am with my fettish for beautifully made (habbot) shoes!!!! All the women in my family are now getting this book for Christmas!

    1. Post
      Author
  4. Shoestring Chic is what I aspire to be, in fact my domain name is Smart Savvy Chic just have to get my blog started. This afternnon Task 1 editing wardrobe. I have a Pasrisian sized wardrobe that I also have share with my husband, its in desperate need of a good cull. I secomd framing the illustrations they are just gorgeous. Ps caught up on this past weeks blog all wonderful as ever x

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
  5. Hi Nikki. Timely advice for me. I only said to my Mum on the weekend that I could’ve picked up my entire spring/summer wardrobe for less than $300 while shopping in Melbourne the other weekend with just a couple of pieces rather than impulse shopping like I do on many pieces. I have a voucher to spend at another department store and I was tempted to use it on some pretty deplorable summer fashion items the other day and I resisted. Why clutter up your closet? Thanks so much for the advice. I’ll try to track down a copy of that book. It sounds like a great read and sensible information.

    Anne xx

    Anne xx

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
  6. WOW those illustrations are to die for! I love that book, I have the hard copy on my shelf (and a few others about budget fashionista-ing). That is definitely a topic after my own heart (I blog about budget fashion finds HEAPS!!) being a poor uni student now, but moonlighting as a stylist, I still need to look chic and styling – Target has become my new best friend! There are some GREAT pieces there, but like Kerrie said, its not about wearing the whole look from Target.

    My other fave thing to do is wear a gorgeous Sacha Drake frock with some shoes from (guess where) Target and accessories from Diva or the like, no one knows where they are from (unless they have them too, and then it’s our little secret together!)

    The number one question from all this is though, can we still drink champagne even though we are on a beer budget?! 😉

    1. Post
      Author
  7. Love it. Great suggestions…most that I already do. Who’d have thought that I’m chic? 🙂 Loving your posts Nikki for the budget dictated amongst us…. Not that I wouldn’t love to be able to walk into a boutique, pick something up, try it on and not even look at the price tag…. Guess a girl can dream.

    1. Post
      Author
  8. Excellent advice. I too suffer from impulse buying but am trying to focus on buying classic pieces that will last and can be matched with some um… ‘cheaper’ basics. My new rule also is one piece in = one piece out.

    1. Post
      Author
  9. Some great tips. If I think of all the money wasted on impulse buys that end up leaving my wardrobe without ever being worn, there’s enough to have bought some awesome designer classics – so yes its all about making careful choices…

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.