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Saturday, April 20, 2024

I want to tell you a secret.

It's about immaculately dressed girls that seem to have it all- perfectly fitted blazers, platform booties, silk maxi dresses - an entire wardrobe straight off the latest Parisian runway.

You might look at her and think - "Yeah, she's loaded. I'd look like that too if I could blow $500 on a dress."

She probably wants you to think that, but here is where I have to blow the cover. If she's smart, it probably cost less than $50.

The truth is, to have style, and I mean real style, what you need is imagination, not a trust fund.

I spent my fall 2007 semester as a fashion intern in New York, where everyone around me had plenty of money to invest in clothes - Marni sweaters, Christian Louboutin pumps, Hogan bags.

Living on what FASFA deemed a reasonable amount to send me on a New York internship with, I had to get creative.

Trust me, if I could find a way to blend in and even score some fashion compliments along the way, you can too.

First let's look at what style is. The dictionary defines style as "a quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one's actions and tastes."

Having great personal style is about wearing clothes that you love and represent who you are, not about owning all the latest trends.

As the legendary designer Yves Saint Laurent said, "Fashions fades, style is eternal."

Don't spend even $10 on a leopard-print sweater just because you saw a similar piece in Glamour.

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If you don't love it you can't expect to wear it. I predict you will wear it once or twice before it hangs in your closet for the next year.

Buy only what you love. This ensures you will adore everything in your closet and never suffer a "What was I thinking?" moment.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment. If you love the way Kate Moss looks in gladiator sandals and vests, try it out by all means. But try it on before you swipe your debit card.

A trend that looks great on someone else might not be comfortable for you. Thus, it will end up a waste of money.

Now that you will never misspend another dollar, we can move on to the second lesson.

Don't pay full price.

You do this by carefully perusing off-price stores like T.J. Maxx and Loehmann's, outlet stores and consignment shops. Take Urband Thread for example. You can find an Anthropologie dress, normally $200, for 80.

Off-price and outlet shops sell brand-name clothes for 20 percent to 50 percent off retail price. They constantly run sales as well, which can knock off another 50 percent.

A perk of shopping at these stores versus inexpensive department stores like Forever 21 is that clothes are good quality.

Why would you buy a $22 jacket if it will look faded and linty after one wash?

Since the clothes at outlet and off-price stores are name brand, they also come with the security provided by quality fabrics and workmanship labels.

Consignment shops are great places to get basics and funky jewelry. Stores such as Sandy's and Flashbacks operate on the basis of "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

Not only can you get money for selling clothes you no longer want, but then you can turn around and buy gently used clothes at unbelievable prices. A BCBG dress for $12? Unheard of.

You can walk out with a entire week's worth of outfits for $30.

In the event you simply must shop at the mall, bypass all the pretty displays and fly to the sales sign like a moth to light. With the drab economic situation, stores hold sales regularly.

Chances are if you buy a shirt today for $39.99, you will find it's 50 percent off within a week.

What a disappointment to watch someone buy a piece on sale when you bought it full price.

Why spend more than you have to?

Some people might tell you to invest in key pieces. I disagree.

Sure, I could have bought my Marc Jacobs bag full price ($400) at Saks, but instead I got it for $198 at an outlet store. I ended up with an extra $200 to buy more accessories. Take that, overpriced retail stores!

Which brings me to my last tip: Befriend accessories.

Hats, bangles, earrings - anything you want can be bought for the price of lunch at stores like For Love 21 and consignment stores.

Take advantage of this because personal style is all about accessorizing. You can be wearing head-to-toe black, but with the right accessories, you will look original and fresh.

There you have it - the whole bag of tricks laid out for you to look like a million bucks without having to spend it.

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