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 shopbop.com
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