How to Mix High and Low Fashion

Mixing high and low fashion isn’t just an intriguing headline, it’s a practical strategy to create a composed outfit within a budget and my preferred way to dress and shop. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but there are a few tips you can use to be most effective. Today, I’ll share my best advice to balance designer or better quality investment pieces, with budget-friendly, affordable items. Remember, the idea behind mixing high and low fashion is to create a complete outfit where no one can tell where you spent and where you saved.

How to Mix High and Low Fashion

 

Don’t buy knockoffs

Knockoffs are the best way to cheapen your look. Aside from the fact that trademark infringement is a serious issue and the counterfeit market fund some serious crimes rings, they dumb down your look. You’re not fooling anyone. Instead, opt for a lovely, better quality, ethical item for the cost of the counterfeit that will elevate your outfit. Sole Society is an excellent alternative if you are looking for an affordable, on trend, yet still timeless handbag.  Below are some of our current favorites:

 

Do keep your shoes and bags neutral

Whether you are splurging on a $600 pair of pumps or picking up something for $60, opt for the neutral, in the most classic shape and style possible. Both options will provide a better cost per wear because they will work with more looks and won’t go out of style any time soon. I wear a range of brands and price points, from Jimmy Choo to Sam Edelman. I love them both.  Below are some of my favorites:

 

Look for something similar with your bag. If you are going the designer route or picking up something under $100, skip the logo, avoid lots hardware and instead look for a go-with-everything color, you’ll want to use every day.

Do splurge on denim if you wear it a few times a week

I LIVE in my jeans so spending makes sense for me. The quality and fit are worth the expense because I get my moneys worth of wear. But if you’re only wearing jeans now and then, look for something under $100.  Brands like KUT from the Kloth and Wit and Wisdom give a similar look and lots of stretchy comfort for a great price.

 

Do Pick Your Five

Because everyones style and life is so different, there is no right or wrong category to spend when it comes to clothes.  Your best bet is to think about it in two layers.

First, what are the five items you wear all the time?

For me it’s jeans, a blazer, a dress, pumps, and boots.

Next, what are your fit issues? 

I’m tall and kind of curvy, so pocket placement and length on jeans is essential.  My height and shape make it more of a challenge to pull off an inexpensive dress or a blazer, so that’s where I’ll put the bulk of my budget.

I go either way with pumps and boots. I don’t have a specific fit issue, but because I know I wear my shoes hard, I’m open to spending more.

Knowing your top five gives you “permission” to spend when necessary.  It’s not to say I wouldn’t buy a less expensive dress (or jean or blazer) if it fits well … I sure will. I just know that most of the time I have to spend to get the fit and quality I need.

Because I know where spending makes sense, I can quickly eliminate other areas. I don’t spend on cotton tops, tees, and tanks. For most other categories I try to stay within a price point that seems reasonable for what I can afford.

Your five will look much different than mine.  Maybe you need a few great pairs of pants for work.  Perhaps you have a foot issue and require a specific, pricey brand. They would be part of your five. But your five aren’t written in stone. I’ll still spend on cashmere when I find the right piece, or I’ll stay under $50, it depends. Take some time to think about what you live in and what you need.  It helps take away some of the overwhelm.

Do Incorporate (At Least) One of Your Five Every Day

Because your five are where you are spending, these are also the pieces you want to use as the basis of your outfit.  By doing so, you are creating a solid foundation to mix in less expensive pieces. My five is a good example.  On casual days I am almost certainly in jeans, maybe a blazer if I’m meeting someone.  For work, especially when I speak, I’m always in a dress and pumps.  This formula helps insure I always look high quality and pulled together.

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Don’t Forget Accessories

Accessories will make an outfit, especially when you are crafting something out of a variety of resources.  Don’t wear too many, but wear enough to create the visual interest we always talk about.  Accessories are different than your “Five”. They are purely based on what you like.  Personally, I like a structured bag, simple jewelry and surprisingly, I like a good scarf in a sophisticated pattern.  You might like something totally different.  Whatever your preferences, know them, and then look for them in a range of prices.

Do Wear Your Special Pieces Every Day

Over the last decade, I’ve been the very fortunate recipient of some pretty fantastic jewelry, all of which were gifts from my husband. For our fifth wedding anniversary, he gave me a diamond ring that is still, to this day, the most exquisite thing I own.  We celebrate our 15th anniversary at the end of the month, and I’m getting a new washer and dryer as a bonus addition to our house remodel, and I’m just as excited. Times have changed for sure.

When I opened the ring, he said, “this for special occasions.”

“No”, I said, “I’m wearing it every day.”

And for the last ten years, I’ve worn it every single day, now, stacked with my engagement and wedding rings. Don’t save your special pieces for special occasions. Wear them all the time. Whether it’s a gorgeous piece of jewelry, or your grandmothers Hermes scarf, find ways to incorporate those pieces into your real life.

Don’t Be Afraid to Mix in Inexpensive Items

When you wear those better pieces every day, they some how make all your other pieces look that much better.  Go ahead and wear a $5 bracelet with the watch you bought for your 40th birthday. Or tie a $20 scarf around the handle of your Louis Vuitton.  The less expensive item will not devalue the investment piece, rather, it will add some interest and personality. And of course, we’re only ever complimented on the item that basically costs pennies!

 

Start with what you already have hanging in your closet, or buried in a jewelry box. Play around with layers, break out whatever you’re saving for a special occasion. You can’t make a mistake here, instead, pay attention to what feels great on and what feels a little off. Your instinct will be your best guide in figuring out how to pull off high low fashion.

 

 

Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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