Monday, July 21, 2008

How To Look Expensive In An Uncertain Economy

When people would compliment me on my clothes, I used to say, "Imagine what I would look like if money were no object." But, of course, I am not one of those billionaires out there who can spend that way--and chances are, you are, too. And unlike most celebrities, who wear designer duds off the runway, we have to be creative to look like a million bucks. But in a Bear market, how does one look the part without spending one's yearly mortgage to do so?

1. THE FOUNDATION: Choose simple shapes and silhouettes in bold colors and substantial fabrics (silk, wool, cotton, thick jersey; avoid linen, which wrinkles easily, and synthetic fabrics like polyester). Banana Republic, JCrew, and Ann Taylor are great stores for simple sheaths, pencil skirts, and white blouses. Take this gorgeous merlot-colored sheath with subtle origami details from Banana Republic--it's a shockingly low $150 for the quality. Avoid anything that is too intricate--when the item is cheaply made, most of the time that comes through in the tailoring.

2. THE JEWELRY: You're in luck--fashion's current craze is with costume jewelry, which means more freedom with one's look. You don't need the latest Van Cleef and Arpels piece to complete your look, but you do need to be choosy. Avoid thinning jewelry--the weak kind with sparse gems and fragile silver strands: that looks cheap. Choose a bold piece, like chunky beads in wood or even glass beads. Crystals are fine, as long as they are NOT trying to look like diamonds (it's obvious that those 3 carat studs are made out of cubic zirconia). Choose crystals that create an interesting shape, like a rosebud. Take this bright yellow starburst necklace ($228) from JCrew--they're refreshingly fun without trying to look like anything else:

Also avoid wearing too much jewelry at a time--one statement piece is all you need.

3. THE SHOES AND BAG: Unfortunately, it's hard to find an inexpensive pair of shoes that doesn't look cheap, unless you buy designer shoes ON SALE. Saks and Bergdorf's have marked down their shoes 70%. And while it may still pain you to spend $150-200 on a pair of Prada's, remember that quality shoes last longer and are worth the investment. As for the bag, choose one that has clean lines and impeccable stitching. If you really want a designer handbag, either a) buy one on sale; b) go to a high-end consignment shop that sells last season's designer bag; c) choose a non-logo, mid-end designer bag brand, like Botkier, Furla, Kate Spade, or Cole Haan. And nothing looks cheaper than a knock-off.

Botkier Gladiator Small Shoulder Bag, on sale for $315 at

4. OTHER ACCESSORIES: Belts can do wonders for your look, and it's easy to find one that is crocodile or python-embossed these days. Choose a thin or medium-width size; most women look awful with oversized ones. As for stockings, they are another inexpensive way to look chic in the colder months. Choose a simple dark hue (brown, black, or navy), and avoid nylons. Nobody will know if your tights are from Wolford or Old Navy.

5. THINGS THAT LOOK CHEAP no matter the cost of the item:

a. Ill-fitting clothes or shoes (too tight, too loose)

b. Too many accessories at once

c. Ill-fitting or visible undergarments

d. Too many fads at once (choose only one item that adheres to the trend)

e. Frowns, slouching, constant picking at one's clothes, too much makeup


Anonymous said...

The love affair continues

Olaf van Cleef’s latest collection of paintings literally tell sparkling tales about India

COLOURFUL MOSAIC One of Olaf van Cleef’s works

They shimmer and sparkle in a joyful celebration of Indian mythology and royalty. ‘Sparkling Stories,’ Olaf van Cleef’s latest collection of paintings at Artworld, is a beautifully coloured, bejewelled mosaic of Indian imagery lovin gly put together by the man who has self-professedly been inspired by the country’s multicultural heritage.

In his second exhibition in Chennai, Olaf, who is a counsellor on high range jewellery with Cartier since 1982, branches out with a collection of figurative paintings, a change from his trademark abstracts. In doing so, he reveals his jeweller’s touch to a greater extent than before. Every one of his delicate drawings of Indian Gods and Goddesses, rajas and ranis, royal elephants and palaces is adorned with Swarovski crystals of all shades. Olaf may not be working with the rubies or emeralds he’s accustomed to, but you can see the legacy of the van Cleef dynasty of jewellers in the beautiful detailing of the necklaces, ornaments, crowns and saris with glittering crystals.

Intricate workmanship

But to focus only on the ‘jewels’ would be to do the paintings a disservice — the intricate workmanship on the canvases goes beyond crystals. There’s the painstaking use of tiny dabs of plaster of Paris that provides wonderful texturing to the open spaces of the paintings. There are the miniscule squares of metallic chocolate wrappers that he uses together with squares of paint to compose a shimmering mosaic all over the canvases. And there’s the soft pastel water colours he uses as a base for each of the paintings. Each of these elements give his works a distinctive look — this is Indian mythology and royalty re-interpreted, as seen through the eyes of a man who has visited the country 55 times since the age of seven, according to Manob Tagore of Cottage Industries, an associate of Olaf’s.

The exhibition also displays some of his brilliantly coloured abstracts, making for an interesting contrast. Where the figurative paintings are done more in pastels and contain a suggestion of tentativeness in the lines of the drawings, the abstracts pulse with energy and confidence. The colours are bolder and more arresting, with snaking lines of black and white strongly delineating the patchwork of hues, and his signature stick figures introduce movement on the canvases in a way that’s missing in the figurative works.

Put together, this is a one-of-a-kind exhibit in terms of colour, content, composition and style. All that’s left to say is — Olaf van Cleef’s love affair with India continues, and thank God for that. The exhibition ends on February 2.


Anonymous said...

Great post- very on target with the times...

WendyB said...

I must disagree, I think one should wear lots of statement jewelry all at once ;-P