We all scoffed when “Real Housewives of New York” star LuAnn de Lesseps released a single in 2010 called “Money Can’t Buy You Class.” While the song was, to be sure, utterly laughable (if a teeny-tiny bit catchy), it turns out the countess might have been onto something—especially when it comes to fashion. We hate to break it to you ladies, but money can’t buy you style either.
Obviously, anyone with a credit card can look fashionable. Very few people though—credit cards or not—can be considered women of genuine style. Take someone like Kim Kardashian. The reality star has gone from no style to constantly stepping out in high-fashion outfits that even top editors are itching to copy. She looks good, sure, but there’s something about her transformation that screams “I understand fashion now, everyone!” as opposed to an organic shift in how she—and she alone—wants to present herself to the world.
Similarly—thanks to today’s rampant street style and Instagram culture—we’re inundated with young women whose sources of income are dubious, but always seem to be in possession of up-to-the-minute items from Céline, Stella McCartney, Givenchy, Chanel, and other top-level labels, which often causes us to wonder whether many of these women would be considered inherently stylish without the pricey swag.
Look, don’t get us wrong: We love nice things, and we’re all for releasing your inner sybarite from time to time. There’s nothing better than treating yourself to a piece by a designer you truly love, that you know you’re going to proudly use for years to come. The problems arise, however, when you start feeling less-than because you can’t participate in the more-more-more cycle of having the new “It” items season after season.
Well, guess what? You don’t really require them to look amazing. To convince you, here are 7 reasons why you don’t need money to be stylish.
1. Because there are so many untapped stores to check out.
Here’s a little secret: They might not broadcast it, but truly stylish women will troll any—and we mean any—store or site with zero snob factor and probably always emerge with something they can seamlessly incorporate into their wardrobes. We’re not talking about regular “acceptable” fast fashion stores (we’ll get to those later), but rather teenybopper-seeming mall stores, dusty Salvation Army outposts, cheap departments stores, even dollar stores, which are heaven for cool accessories like bandanas, canvas totes, and pool slides.
Stylish women also seek out off-price havens like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Century 21 for quality designer items (we’re talking Marc Jacobs, Prada, and Chloe, and J. Brand) at lower prices. In some cities, those types of items are hit or miss, but that’s part of the fun.
2. Because eBay and Etsy are a fashion dream.
Quick story: A StyleCaster editor recently almost spent over $400 on a pair of cowboy-inspired boots from a top designer. Before doing it, she took to eBay and found loads of similar vintage styles she actually liked better, and scored a killer pair of brown lizard shoe boots for $10, plus shipping.
Stylish women know that you can pretty much find anything on sites like eBay and Etsy, including high-end labels like vintage Chanel (just do your research so as to avoid getting duped), and collectors items such as Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga.
3. Because you know how to accessorize.
Even old clothes can be elevated with the right accessories—none of which have to cost a lot of money. Try juxtaposing your accessories with the nature your outfit for a really stylish twist. For example, pair blue jeans and an old gray tee with glittery statement earrings or a blingy necklace. Conversely, try more casual accessories like a slouchy hat or an armload of bracelets with inherently dressy pieces like a cocktail dress or a full skirt and heels.
4. Because fast fashion.
You don’t need us to tell you that between H&M, ASOS, Forever 21, Zara, and now COS, the sleek European favorite that just started shipping to the U.S., you can pretty much build a solid wardrobe that looks like it came from any number of high-end labels or boutiques. You also don’t need us to tell you that “fast fashion” also has become something of a dirty phrase lately, but the fact remains that these stores are a panacea for women looking to try out a trend without foolishly spending half her paycheck to do it.
The trick, however, is using fast fashion to your advantage by choosing pieces you genuinely like and know that you’ll wear, as opposed to loading up on every little trend because it’s inexpensive.
5. Because you pay attention to beauty.
Think of the coolest girls you know—they probably have great hair, right? They also probably know what color lipstick looks best on them, too. In some ways, the right haircut and the right makeup can do more to elevate your style and send a message than the clothes you’re wearing.
Plus, chopping your hair, snagging a notice-me lipstick, or going for a color consultation is a hell of a lot easier on your wallet than being a slave to fashion.
6. Because tailors exist.
Fit is everything when it comes to style. Even if stylish women are wearing something purposefully oversize or shrunken, it’s still in proportion to their body. It’s for this reason that finding a good tailor is absolutely key. Not only can a tailor customize pieces to fit you better, but they can also transform almost any garment, making them look totally different. Those wide-leg pants you bought last year that don’t feel so modern anymore can be turned into chic wide-leg culottes to wear this spring, or a maxi skirt that never looked that great can be transformed into a spring-ready mini.
7. Because you understand labels don’t make you cooler.
This is the big one, ladies. The most stylish people in the world are the ones who understand that they don’t need the $700 sweatshirt or $2,000 handbag to make themselves look or feel cool. When it comes down to it, what’s the point of buying the same stuff everyone else has or wants? To show how much you spent? Doesn’t that seem a little silly?
Instead, seek out things that you authentically like, things you can afford, and things that look great on you. It’s as simple as that.
You might not get 200,000 Instagram likes every time you post a photo, but you will seem self-possessed and a little above the fray, which is—pardon the cliché—priceless.