How to Dress Classy on a Budget

For some women, the concept of dressing classy without spending much money seems impossible. Many equate Designer clothing and accessories with the look of class. You can still achieve the wardrobe you see in magazines and on the runway without emptying your wallet. It is a great feeling to get a bargain when an item looks much richer than what the price tag indicates.

Here are some simple tips to achieve a classy look whether you’re heading to the office, the gym, or for a night on the town.

1. Basics for Work. Keep good basics in your wardrobe that are truly timeless and will last the test of time and fashion trends. Key basics include black dress pants. Have about 3 good quality pairs. You will want at least one pair to have a pin stripe which will give your body some length and add variety, as well as one pair with a cuff on the bottom, and one without. All pairs should have a crease running down the leg for that dressy look. Avoid anything with pleats which is currently outdated and tends to make you appear larger in the frontal area anyhow. DO invest in good quality, but inexpensive tops such as short sleeved and ¾ length tops with Lycra (to keep their shape) in both v-neck and round neck styles. I recommend black, white and red, if you cannot wear red, perhaps gray. These are key for under blazers with pants and can also be worn with jeans on a casual Friday.

You will about 3 nice black skirts, a pencil skirt, or slight A-line, one with a tasteful print and one that is more airy, flowing and fun. Dress shirts for women are more popular than ever. You will want to have some variety here. I recommend buying shirts that fit your shoulders and arm length properly and have a bit of Lycra or stretch fabric so you can move freely. Make sure the buttons across the chest don’t gape open. These can be bought anywhere such as Winners, Ross for Less or department stores. Keep winter and summer colors.

Important to any business wardrobe is the suit. You will need a black, navy and lighter color suit such as camel or a paler gray for summer. You can wear your blazer with your skirts too, no need to buy a skirt suit. When buying shoes keep the same in mind, find at least 3 comfortable pairs of shoes, perhaps a pair of flats, and 2 pairs of heels, one lower and the other a higher pump style. I don’t believe in having all the colors of the rainbow on my shoe rack, especially when on a budget. Black and brown always work, throw in a pair of camel or red in for fun. The overall idea here is to have classic pieces that won’t go out of style that last for years as to not constantly be buying clothes. I firmly believe in investing in these basic pieces so they’ll last a long time. Look for sales, clearances and wander through thrift stores to find what you need to build your basic wardrobe. Be selective though-buy quality bargain pieces and have them taken in by a seamstress if they aren’t a perfect fit vs. buying cheaper items that happen to fit you.

2. Make Accessories Work for You- Whether they are shoes, sunglasses, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, belts, scarves, or handbags find the ones that you love best and buy many at low cost shops. The key is to dress up a wardrobe many different ways without blowing your budget on pumps and expensive handbags. The best thing to do is buy all sorts of accessories for as little as you can. These keep your wardrobe interesting by adding color, texture, shape, and bling! A couple shops I love for this are Le Chateau, H&M and Aldo. I find the best inexpensive jewelry, trendy shoes and hair clips. Buy a purple or red handbag from Payless Shoe store for $20 and pump up your black suit for work, or jeans and a t-shirt. Hollywood stars use the same tricks just on a different budget.

The best tip is to wear a great outfit with one or two accessories maximum that pop! My mother used to dress extremely well because she picked out accessories and clothing that looked great but cost next to nothing. This is because she looked in stores like K-Mart as she couldn’t afford designer or even mall store prices being a single mom for many years. Put on a Blazer. fitted tee and jeans with a pair of cute flats and have one significant piece like a great necklace to really make your neckline pop. When hair is done up, this is the best time to show off shoulders and your neckline, so draw attention with some great earrings and a necklace. Even a funky watch or belt can jazz up an otherwise low-key outfit.

3.Scarves are so Versatile- Scarves have so many uses that it is hard not to have any in your wardrobe. Scarves can act as a tie around your hair in a ponytail or used as a handband style, tied around your neck, used as a belt around your waist or simply tie to the shoulder strap of your handbag for a flirty look. It is good to have variety. Black and Red are my favorites however I have some softer colors such as pale pink, and patterns like houndstooth, polka-dots, and tasteful florals are very ‘in’ right now also. The scarf belt goes great with a sexy top and pair of jeans. When you are bored with the pattern or color, trade with your friends for variety.

4.Focus on your Face- Even if you don’t feel like your wardrobe looks like a million bucks, put on a smile. It goes a long way and brightens your face! A little makeup really makes a difference. The 3 essentials I would recommend are Mascara, Lipstick (or a great gloss) and some blush. This will add color to your face and make your features pop. I have never bought into the notion that Designer or expensive makeup is best. I’ve used mainstream brands and organic/natural makeup my whole life and have always had compliments. These products are ¼ the price of department store and I can buy them anywhere. The key is to keep the makeup simple and light. Don’t wear heavy foundation and loose powers with bright lipstick and heavy eyeliner. The idea is to look natural and elegant with the right shade and application of blush and lipstick and a black/brown or black shade of mascara. Spend less money on makeup but spend more time on mastering a natural look that enhances your natural beauty and allows you to look radiant.

5. Buy Quality Shoes that Last- Always buy quality shoes that can last you at least 2-3 years. Ensure that they are simple in color and style, are made of leather, but that they have a good sole and heel lifts. Shoes aren’t made the way they used to be. I find myself having to replace my lifts on most of my shoes since they are plastic vs. high quality rubber or leather. They wear down quickly causing potential accidents as you glide across floors in those heels. The shoe repair shop will put great quality lifts on and it is inexpensive. Replace these every year or as needed with wear so that the heels of your shoes stay looking new. In addition, shine your shoes regularly and buy scuff removing solution. A great pair of shoes can look like trash when they have not been taken care of.

If you really do crave something trendy then let it be for a particular outfit, or dress say for a wedding, where the shoes will not be frequently worn, if ever again. Why not get the knock-off style at Payless Shoe store or another discount shoe store? Then you’ll get the style and price you want and don’t have to worry so much about the durability.

6.No Tattered Undergarments- Many women focus on their outer wardrobe and forget what is hiding underneath. It is important to frequently wash your bras as well as camisoles etc on delicate cycle. It is very unappealing to see a well dressed woman with a frayed, dirty bra strap peeking out of her top. Likewise, underwear and socks need to be replaced when stained, they start to look thin or have holes or elastic coming apart. This is not sexy for your partner or for yourself! You can typically buy a bunch of inexpensive clearance rack panties that look like designer knock-offs with all the lacy styles. You’ll pay around $2-$5 per pair and they look great! If they get ruined in the washing machine or wear with time you can just toss them without thinking twice. While we are on the subject, ladies do buy bras that fit your cup and your body properly and are seamless. Bras aren’t meant to cut into your skin and cause a ripple effect. There is nothing worse than a great top with seam lines, back fat or nipples showing!

7. Accessorize but don’t overdo it- Classy women look classy because they don’t overdo it. Wearing a great dress or outfit with a single ring, pair of small earrings and a small necklace is fine. Wearing a suit with a ring on every finger, watch, bracelet, heavy makeup, hair in an elaborate clip, a belt, a scarf around the neck and bright shoes is overkill. Nobody knows what to look at first! When you get ready to leave the house, look into a full length mirror with your entire outfit including a hat or handbag if included. You will often slowly start to strip a couple accessories away or tone down bold shoes and handbags. Remember, simple is best. Add one or two killer pieces that will have you feeling great and getting compliments along the way.

8.Don’t be Afraid to Shop in Thrift Stores- I can’t tell you how many things I’ve been able to snag there. The key is to go into an area that is more well-to-do or exclusive. Often people with a lot of money can discard things faster for new items such as great sweaters, blazers, handbags, you name it! My last purchase there was actually a set of hot rollers that retail at $70 that I picked up for $16! I bought an $80 pair of great brown boots that were never worn for $6!! I’ll admit, you have to make some time to sift through a lot of duds till you find a few keepers, but it is well worth it. Buy items that have their original bold color, no fading! Make sure there are no holes, or stains. If there is a small area that is inconspicuous and the item is a steal, by all means grab the item if you can fix it. You can also find some fun handbags, belts and jewelry there too!

9. Wear clothes that Fit You Properly- There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful woman in skin tight dress pants, breasts hanging out, and the visible appearance of flab around the waist or back due to tight clothing. Looking slimmer is not about wearing super fitted clothing, clothing with breathing room and comfort will not only make you look better but feel better too. Classy women don’t let it all hang out! If something in your wardrobe is too small but you love it, keep it until it does fit (maybe use it as motivation, or donate it to someone who can use it now) and find something new to wear in the meantime.

10.You Don’t Need Designer Labels to Dress Well- Today with so many great knock-offs and fun styles to choose from, there is no need to spend $450 on a pair of designer sunglasses. I have a $17 pair of Gucci knocks-offs that I bought in the airport, and have got more compliments on those than a real pair of Ralph Lauren shades that I spent over $100 on. Likewise, people see how well your outfit is put together moreso than they do what brand you are wearing. I see a lot of wealthy people wearing brand name overkill and they don’t look classy at all, they just look tacky. Don’t be a walking billboard for a brand name, just be an original and wear what fits you and what you feel good in.

This post was inspired by many women that I have worked with, spent time with, seen walking in the streets, and those that have told me that they simply don’t have the money to dress well. You need an objective eye and patience to find what looks great on you. So, give your charge card a break and find out how fun it is to buy a couple items with a $20 bill! One of the most important things to remember to wear is your smile! Walk confidently and have a positive attitude, this is a makeover in and of itself!