The Art of Style: High-Low Dressing
Fashion. It’s something that has consumed me my whole life. One of my earliest memories was my delight on Christmas Day, opening a box to learn that I was gifted a year’s subscription to Vogue. I was six. And beyond any Nintendo or other hot gifts of the era that I received that year—that one was my favorite. And I think that is where the love affair began.
Flipping through the pages many years ago, I wistfully dreamed of a sartorial life as perfect as those depicted in Vogue. I dreamed and became more inspired with every turn and thinking about the amazing lives these fashion icons must lead. I wanted to have every look on the pages—but at six—your income is pretty limited, no? I’d consider my childhood fairly privileged…but there was no way that I was going to get my mom to buy every item from Guess Kids. Then came the iconic Vogue cover of 1988… It was November and it featured the gorgeous Israeli model Michaela Bercu, photographed by Peter Lindbergh and styled by Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele. Michaela was wearing an haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket with a beaded cross, all very “Like a Prayer,” and stonewashed Guess jeans. Uptown met downtown.
I was in love. I knew that I had to find another way to achieve the look that I wanted. Being inspired by what I saw on Vogue’s glossy pages and the limitation of a budget seemed to still plague me into my twenties. I have always tried to interpret fashion in my own way and I discovered that the best way to do that was via “high-low” dressing. I would take my fashion inspo from media outlets and make a “look book” of sorts—today we call that Polyvore or Pinterest. From there I would focus my energies while shopping to recreate the looks that I desired that were within my budget. Where does one begin, you may ask?
Easy—start with the basics.
The key to any wardrobe is fit and quality. I don’t care if you spent $100 on your top, if the fit or quality is poor, so is your look. I have found some amazing pieces at stores ranging from Nordstrom’s, Macy’s to H&M. Brands do not necessarily matter so much as fit. Having core items like tanks, blazers, and pants in key chromes of black, navy and tan are a great start to building a versatile wardrobe. From this point, it is easy to add key trend items and accessories without looking dated and freshen your look.
Thrift and consignment stores are always an option; a major retail trend and for a good reason. With millions of pounds of perfectly good textiles going to waste every year, astute businesses have embraced the second-hand movement. They are an amazing resource of amazing fashion. Second-hand clothing and accessories have found their niche in the mainstream and I personally can attest that there are some gems out there of quality fashion items being sold at a fraction of the cost. Lots of times, the organizations are supporting a cause, with a percentage of the funds going to a charitable cause.
Trends—Like carbs—use sparingly
I am a connoisseur of all things fashion. Trust me when I say that I am just like all of you when you see the ‘it’ item of the moment and want to buy ALL. OF. THE. THINGS. in that vein. Here is the thing about trends—they are cyclical. One moment they are here—the next they are gone. A horrible investment. Don’t bog your wardrobe down with items that you are going to regret in maybe 2-3 years. Think ripped denim, ANYTHING with a high to low hemline, and cold shoulder looks. When your grandma is doing it, it’s time to move on. Basic fashion 101—Bell Curve all day. If you can find an inexpensive piece to fill this impulse—then, by all means, do it—we only live once, right? But at the same time, don’t make trendy items the core of your wardrobe.
Foundation—These truths we hold self-evident
Accessories are always the easiest go to when trying to up your fashion game. Statement jewelry, bag, and shoes are really the foundation for any wardrobe. Be it a classic watch, a statement necklace (my personal favorite is my 1960’s chandelier earrings that Edie Sedgewick would have worn) or a luxury bag a la Sac à dépêches (now known as the ‘Kelly’ bag from Hermès) can really “up” your fashion game. Investing in a few key statement accessories will really build your wardrobe, and if you choose wisely, it can last you for years.
Accessories don’t care if you have lost or gained weight, or if it is hot or cold. They are the perfect easement into bringing posh to a paltry closet. If you’re like me, you’re probably not able to walk into Hermès and drop $3,000 on a bag—consignment and thrift stores will be your best friend. You can find some amazing luxury goods at a fraction of the price—the best part? They are vintage—their patina already exudes awesomeness. Some of my favorite luxury pieces have come from upscale consignment stores. My recommendation is to invest into one major item a year.