5 Ways to Look Elegant on a Budget

BY Anna Bey TIMEApril 12, 2022 PRINT

Elegance is not necessarily synonymous with a high price tag. After all, looking cheap can be incredibly expensive! With a few high-quality anchor pieces, you can look totally elevated without breaking the bank.

Knowing how to identify timeless pieces, however, is an art that’s tricky to master. When I was first starting out, I would spend hundreds of dollars on statement dresses that were impossible to repeatedly wear or style for different occasions. Today, I’ve adopted a different approach that has saved me a lot of time and money: priming my wardrobe with elegant essentials. Here are the five versatile, low-cost pieces every woman should invest in to look effortlessly chic.

The Silk Scarf

Donned by Hollywood starlets in the 1950s, the silk scarf is a piece that has forever stayed in fashion. From headscarves to neckties, this elegant accessory is an example of an investment piece that can be styled in various ways. In recent years, the silk scarf has mostly been used as a handbag accessory, hair tie, or even a chic halter top à la summer in Saint-Tropez. Pick scarves with colors you often wear and that suit your complexion.

The Ballet Flat

Fabulous footwear is a staple in every elegant woman’s capsule wardrobe. While we might adore a pair of Manolo Blahniks, practical shoes are a must—and they don’t have to be sneakers. Though deemed too “boring” by some, ballet flats are an undeniably chic and versatile shoe that can truly be dressed up, or dressed down, for most occasions. They can also be worn year-round, with tights during winter and with linen dresses during summer.

The Multi-Way Bag

Who doesn’t want two bags for the price of one? A well-constructed leather handbag that can transition from day to night is a must. And it doesn’t have to be designer. There are plenty of excellent unbranded bags out there, and it’s best to get one with a removable crossbody strap. If your bag has a removable strap, you might want to invest in various types of straps to create multiple looks out of one bag. The right type of leather will also contribute to your bag’s longevity. For example, caviar leather is much more durable than lambskin, and a croc-effect bag tends to look more expensive, since exotic leathers are associated with rarity and higher price tags.

The Trench Coat

Created for practicality during World War I, the trench coat is the ultimate example of clothing that transcends seasons, generations, and even personal taste. Whether you’re a minimalist or a flamboyant fashionista, the trench coat is an undeniable wardrobe staple. The different possible ways of styling this feminine, tailored coat are endless; it looks particularly elegant when styled with a monochrome outfit, and coupled with the chic silk scarf mentioned above.

The Silk Camisole

One dainty garment that has a treasured spot in my capsule wardrobe is the silk camisole. Contrary to popular belief, this garment can actually be worn year-round, as silk is both a cooling and warming fabric. It’s an item that can be layered to create different looks, like under a blazer or with a pair of tailored trousers. Pair it with a silk midi-skirt and a long wool coat, and you can totally channel your inner Kennedy! Sticking with garments made of natural fibers will always guarantee an expensive look. Remember: Elegance is achievable at any price—once you learn its foundations.

 This article was originally published in Radiant Life Magazine.

Anna Bey
Anna Bey is an elegance coach and entrepreneur based in Geneva, Switzerland. She teaches women how to become the best and most elegant versions of themselves through her online finishing school and YouTube channel. You can sign up for Anna's courses, free master classes, and webinars by visiting her website, 
You May Also Like