After months of celebrating the holidays, most of us put ourselves on a budget for the new year. But what if we could still “feel” rich and dress like it, too? What a concept! That's the idea behind fashion expert Anna Johnson's latest book, “Savvy Chic, The Art of More for Less,” (HarperCollins, 18.99).
“It's the ultimate savvy chic,” Johnson says. “And the secret with that is simple: Dress a little plainer than you'd like. Chic, as we all know, is a restrained rather than a flashy art.”
So, if your pocketbook is feeling poor these days, take a few tips from Johnson, who has lots of “shortcuts to putting on the Ritz for pennies.”
Think big. Go with “big” jewelry rather than small, she says. “A big watch, an even bigger cocktail ring, a big (I'm talking huge like a tarantula!) brooch, big chunky necklace, and yes, big earrings, all look more glamorous than fiddly, fragile clusters of ornament.” There is a trick, however: Only wear one gold, burnished or bejeweled statement per outfit.
Show off a great handbag. Johnson suggests you “rent” a designer bag if you have a job interview. Choose one in a solid color without logos, heavy hardware, or trimmings dangling off. “There's not much faking for a great handbag.”
Go natural with your hair. Skip the “raccoon-stripy” highlights and go for a more natural look a la Lauren Hutton. “Her hair always had a flyaway grace,” Johnson says. “Poker-straight blowouts look very cheap, especially when the ends look like fried, pointy rattail. Banish the straightening iron!”
Beware the bold tan. Instead, Johnson advises a “very, very light tan.” She uses Jergens for her “St. Barts-in-a-bottle” effect. “But exfoliate first, because you don't want zebra-striped latte legs.”
Wear sleek shiny shoes with a low heel in a neutral color. Steer clear of platforms, says the fashion writer. “Angelina Jolie wears black ballet flats and tan patent leather pumps all the time. It's not as if she needs to look more beautiful, but somehow the elegance and restraint of those shoes makes her look even more appallingly rich.”
If you wear vintage, make sure it fits perfectly. “My ‘rich girl' dress is the plainest thing in the world,” admits Johnson. “A vintage A-line dress to the knee in oatmeal linen. It looks as classic as an Oleg Cassini or as modern as Prada, and it costs me $30.”
Find a statement dress and wear it with “really modern shoes.” Graphic prints are Johnson's favorite. “If you wear an eye-popping dress, it conveys a high level of social and professional confidence.” Then add the shoes: “Teamed with a slightly outrageous shoe, you are downright arrogant.”
Add a personal touch. This can be anything, whether “soft, eccentric, or a little bit shocking to make you look more comfortable in your skin,” she says. “I have a beat-up old Missoni scarf that I wear with a very formal suit jacket. It makes me look less try-hard and adds a glamorous patina to formal tailoring.”
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association.