More Dash Than Cash

January 17, 2014 Updated: January 15, 2014

This is a continuation of my last column on mixing the expensive with the inexpensive.

Today, if you know where to shop and have a discerning eye, it’s fairly easy to be well dressed for less. Explore vintage shops, consignment shops, and second-hand. Keep an eye out for special sales, seconds, and outlets.

In many fashion magazines you see “Lust or Must,” showing an expensive designer bag, for example, and then something similar for much less.

It used to be that women never mixed low-end with high-end pieces, but that is no longer the case. Nowadays, many women who can afford the best also enjoy finding a cheaper substitute. Perhaps it’s the thrill of the hunt.

Years ago I bought a beautiful white leather skirt that was so inexpensive I had to grab it. Everyone assumes that it must be very expensive, especially when worn with a silk blouse or cashmere sweater, good jewelry, and high-end shoes and purse. But, it’s all about how you put yourself together.

A few months ago the Lighthouse on East 59th had a sale. I took a chance and stopped by. There was not much in my size, but I did buy a beautiful white cotton blouse with ruffled sleeves—a Paris import for a mere $10! I also snatched up a pink leather purse for $17.

Wander around a $1 shop—you never know what you might find. Go with an open mind and plenty of time to spare.

A shawl might have a second life as a knotted skirt. Just because a skirt comes with a jacket as part of a suit, doesn’t mean it always has to be worn that way. Mix them up. You could wear the jacket with jeans and the skirt as part of another outfit.

I sometimes come across photos of very chic women walking in the street and when they’re asked what they’re wearing, describe a rather expensive suit or coat with a thrift shop dress or blouse. Alternatively, it might be a “good” suit with an inexpensive belt that doesn’t look it and paired with masses of costume jewelry. After all, if Mlle. Chanel was able to wear costume jewelry, why shouldn’t we?

Don’t be afraid to mix and match. Most people are not going to look at us so carefully that they can tell whether your pants are Oscar de la Renta or a pretty pair you picked up for $100. Mixed with a lovely cashmere sweater or silky blouse and good accessories, you’ll look much more high-end than the actual cost.

Remember, it takes patience and time to get your signature look just right. Work on your appearance in increments and always keep an eye out for bargain gems that serendipity might make available to you.

What’s important is the end result, not so much how you got there, (excluding anything on the shady side of legal, of course)!

Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan. She may be reached at silverbergm@mindspring.com.

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