How to Look Rich

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One of the most popular questions I receive as a personal stylist and fashion writer is how to look rich. How does one get champagne style on a beer budget? Below, I share my tried and true tips for looking rich when your wallet states otherwise.

Dress sharply and they'll remember the outfit; dress impeccably and they'll remember the woman.
– Coco Chanel

The other day, I was sitting on the subway across from an attractive woman. She was wearing a yellow sheath dress in a heavy textured/boucle weave – something I could see on a stylish, professional woman like Michelle Obama. In her lap were two pristine Louis Vuitton bags – one purse and one tote. She wore an expensive gold watch, a few gold rings, bracelets, and a pair of gold hoops. On her feet were black patent leather Tory Burch flats (a popular commuter shoe in Washington DC).

Her outfit probably cost in the thousands… yet she looked cheap. Why?

It’s all in the details.

Her hair was not fresh – she had obvious roots and split ends. She pulled it into a messy low ponytail with a cheap Goody elastic (you know, the ones with the gold threads through them?). Her shoes were scuffed and looked as though the backs sometimes were stepped down on, and they had their share of being stuffed into an overfull tote.

Her dress was a twinge too tight – puckered slightly at the bust, caught the bottom curve of her bum. You could see the outline of her undergarments through the dress and a peek of her bra through the neckline. All these details took expensive and lovely pieces, making it into a very ordinary and cheap-looking ensemble.

How to Look Rich

So what can a woman do to look like she is worth a million… whether she is or not?

I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.
– Coco Chanel

Start with Your Skin

Who cares who made your purse if your skin or hair is messy? The best investment is the body you have – no matter your dress, you will be wearing your hair, your face, and your skin.

Great skin doesn’t have to come from $200 bottles of potions and monthly spa treatments. Be sure to wash off your makeup before you go to bed. Don’t overwash your skin – your skin should never be tight after cleansing. Visit a dermatologist if you have skin concerns.

Take the time you use to peruse celebrity gossip and scroll through social media and read up on cosmetic ingredients – irritation, acne and redness can often be due to an allergic reaction in a product you use.

As for your body, keep it exfoliated, keep it hydrated inside and out, and love it no matter its shape. It is far easier to love the body you have if the skin is soft and happy. Again, see a dermatologist and read up on ingredients to be sure you are purchasing the right products.

Your Hair is Your Crowning Glory

Hair is the accessory you wear every single day – to work, to play, for formal events and trips to the market. Why is it that we will spend hundreds on jewelry, a pair of boots or a bag but will sacrifice our Crowning Glory to Great Clips and whatever box of Dark Golden Brown that was on sale at CVS?

If your budget cannot afford professional color treatments, research gentle and natural-looking brands. Invest in a highly recommended conditioner. Take vacations from the heating tools so you aren’t fried. Reconsider that champagne blonde/cherry red/blue-black hue – a softer shade may be much more flattering, require less maintenance, and look richer.

If it’s a bad hair day – no need to hide under a hat (or Goody elastic). There are ways to work the tresses without screaming to the world that you had no time for a shampoo or roots touch-up. Dry shampoos are back en vogue and can be found at many specialty retailers and online beauty boutiques. Colored ones not only are less obvious on darker shades, but they also help hide roots.

Thanks to Gossip Girl, even those over 21 can sport headbands and look chic. A skinny plastic one with teeth in black, blonde or tortoise can hold back too-short bangs and make a bit of slick look purposeful. A low ponytail right at the nape always looks chic – if you take a piece of your own hair from the bottom of the ponytail, you can wrap it around the elastic and secure it with one Bobby pin and make Goody look glam.

Finally, make time for your hair – get off the computer, get away from the TV, and wake up 15 minutes earlier. It is amazing how much more sunny your outlook is on life when you feel confident about your appearance.

Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.
– Coco Chanel

Shoes Make the Man and The Woman

Shoes make the man… and the woman. Shoes should be appropriate to the outfit first, then worry about quality, and brand name should be last on the list. The woman on the subway would have looked far more chic if she was wearing tan leather sandals. They could have been flat or with a slight chunky heel or wedge and been just as comfortable as the Tory Burch flats, but have coordinated with the outfit far better.

We live in a society right now that is very caught up in brand names; often those brand name items don’t serve us much of a purpose. Flats are great with a flowy dress, a pair of capris, your favorite jeans. But if you have curves and are wearing a straight-fitting dress, flats will make you look as though you were cut off at the ankle bone.

Once you have your shoe collection, no matter the price point, you should take care of them. Get them reheeled and resoled at a local cobbler. Keep them where they won’t get dusty or tripped over. Store them properly when out of season.

I had a pair of black boots I bought at Payless five years ago, and I just had to retire them a year ago. They had a chic narrow heel, an elongated toe, the pleather was soft and looked like a more expensive patent. They were less than $20 but looked perfect with certain trousers for nights out on the town. I babied them as much as I did my designer pumps, and in turn, they gave me many years of great use (and compliments!).

I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity. Vulgarity is the ugliest word in our language. I stay in the game to fight it.
– Coco Chanel

The Lower the Cost, the More Neutral the Color

If cheap, go neutral. Yellow, green, and pink are hot colors this season, but if the item is of cheap quality it will look it far faster than the same piece in black, tan, beige or gray. Those black boots from Payless that I owned also came in racy red and navy. One may think that the red would be fun with black trousers or neutrals, but the red LOOKED as though they were $14.99 pleather boots from Payless, while the black just looked like boots.

I have found many a great dress at Target, but the ones that survive to the next season are those in very neutral colors. Colors can easily fade, can easily look dated, and better show shoddy workmanship or lower-end fabric.

Fashion passes, style remains.
– Coco Chanel

Minimize Your Use of Trends

Minimize the trends. The rich are stylish; those who WANT to be rich are trendy. Steer clear from obvious logos, extreme trends and anything that is worn by Paris, Lauren, Lindsay or Britney. You don’t want the look of the moment – the rich and stylish never adhere to extreme trends (and if they DO adopt a trend, they do it small or in a neutral hue). Buy a cardigan in the hot color of the season, switch up your lip product, consider a statement necklace or cool bracelet in the popular metal of the moment. There are ways to update your look without making yourself look like a fashion victim.

In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.
– Coco Chanel

In turn, those who always have the latest look get lost in the shuffle. Your expensive Tory Burch flats are yet another pair hopping onto the subway or into a cab. That monogram Coach purse is so popular, every lower-end designer is making a knockoff of it. Let’s not even get into Ugg boots… point is – trends are not stylish, and they do not make you look wealthy or successful.

Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.
– Coco Chanel

Dress for the You Now, Not You Five Pounds from Now

Accept your size, and your budget. Sample sale items that are a size too small, hot designer shoes on sale that are an inch taller than you feel comfortable wearing, oversized sweaters because you haven’t come to terms with your new shape (and gosh that sweater is cashmere!)… these are not items that make you look stylish or rich.

When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.
– Coco Chanel

Simplify Your Styling

One less ring, one less chain, that cardigan around your shoulders, that anklet. The rich and stylish keep it simple. The woman on the subway would have been far more elegant if she had worn only that expensive watch, and not the five gold bracelets on the other wrist.

Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.
– Coco Chanel

There is nothing more appealing than a vibrant woman. Are you sitting down reading this? Well pretend you have a string coming from the top of your head that is lifting you gently from the ground. Sit up – you are a phenomenal woman. Good posture improves the fit of your clothing, how others perceive you, and how you end up feeling.

Every time you look at your reflection – find that one part of you that is unique and you love. Get off the computer and get into your community. Ask a neighbor or coworker for a book suggestion and try an author or genre you have never before experienced. Take five minutes every evening to think about your day – it may be in meditation, in prayer, with a journal or just as you doze off. Think about the positive things, how you impacted those around you, and how this world is different because of your interaction with it.

Who cares what or who you are wearing if you aren’t an interesting, involved and positive woman! Rich life equals the quickest way to look rich!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Very good points. I agree. Many people think that brand names will somehow make up for unkempt appearance. However, i often go with better brands simply because it is an easy way to know you are buying slightly better quality. I am also DONE buying non real leather. Leather lasts for along time. If you love a pair of fake shoes, it is just too annoying when they flake two years later.

  2. When you are in public, people will judge you. Wether they tell you about it or not is kind of irrelevant. That is what public means. Not private.

  3. Because that is how we learn. By looking. As the woman has been unnamed, this can not in any way affect her. Your attack on the author’s character is far more bitchy then her description of an unnamed, possibly non existant stranger.

  4. Okay the woman is likely fictional. Created to drive the point of the article that no matter how expensive your clothing and accessories are the well dressed person pays attention to the small details, i.e. fresh hair, clean brushed teeth, clean body, manicured hands, etc…This person is a writer. Images are created to make a point.

  5. Such good advice! And so refreshing to hear a fashion blogger say you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. I, too, have a pair of Payless boots that I’ve had for years. I love them and I’ve had many compliments about them. They are cheap pleather, in a neutral color, but still look good, because I store them carefully and frequently use a vinyl protectant/cleaner on them. I do the same for my vinyl handbags. It’s surprising how long even cheap items can last if they are well cared for.

  6. Polished shoes, well manicured fingernails, speaking with clear speech and a descriptive vocabulary, plus
    erect posture all = rich. ps: Oh and being kind to all whom you meet. 🙂

  7. Superb blog! You were on point regarding “style” verses wearing expensive or trendy clothes , thinking they “make the person”.
    Simplicity with style is what I strive for, and reading blogs like yours helps me to stay on track with my P333 and towards cleansing my possessions and my life. Blessings!

  8. What a great post! I just found your blog via “Already Pretty” and just love it – the outfits, the essays.  Can’t wait to see more!

  9. So true.  I found your blog today and just had to follow your posts. I love how confident you look.   I used to dress frumpy because of my weight but lately I have decided to show some curves.  

  10. because a tramp sticks out and a reader not wanting to look like one herself wants to know what not to do. likewise she’s going to want to know what TO do.

  11. Alli, you are great! I became addicted to your blog, I have learned and changed (for better) since I found it. Don’t stop!

  12. I kind of get what anonymous is saying here… I like the concept of the article but ripping this poor woman makes me really uncomfortable and takes the attention away from the points you were trying to make. I just kept thinking “that poor woman, she can’t ride the subway without someone judging her nail polish?”

  13. I don’t think criticizing another woman paints a good picture of yourself…
    If she was cheap, why did you take the time and all the effort to study every little detail, from the golden threads in her cheap elastic to the unflattering toe nail polish?

  14. I was sitting at the computer and imagined that string…I was sitting there quite erectly then the backpain kicked in…so now I have to do core strengthening exercises, which means I spend more time at the gym than on your blog…and I have met some great people…thanks for this. Sometimes a little goes a long way!

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