Dress Up! If not now, when?

You don’t actually have to have a million bucks to look like a million bucks. Sure, a Chanel Jacket, a Kelly and red soled shoes help, but if designer-wear is not an option, there are other ways…

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When you are dressed well, you get more of the right kind of attention, better service in stores, restaurants, and are taken more seriously at work. You also feel more confident, and this boosts your self-esteem. And as we know, anything that can be done to boost our self-esteem, must be done!

The only thing wrong with updating your wardrobe,  is when you go overboard and spend money you don’t have. Don’t do that! You can look super chic with Just a few tweaks to your wardrobe. Here’s how you can do it, without breaking the bank.

Invest in one designer handbag

A good, high-quality handbag should be right up there on your wardrobe list. A well-made one will last years. High-end designers use the best quality leather and hardware, and their workmanship is excellent. Designer bags don’t start falling apart after a season. They hold their shape, and often look good as new decades later. Women have inherited Chanel handbags from their mothers, grandmothers even, and they  look as classy today as they did half a century ago. Needless to say, you don’t have to splurge on a Chanel. There are many designer handbags that are extremely durable and available at a lower price-range. So if money is tight, save up, buy one handbag, and carry it until it lasts –  very possibly a decade or two. The price per wear will whittle down over time, and this one accessory can upgrade your look like nothing else can.

Consider opting for a mid-size handbag that could transition from day to night, in which case black with  gold hardware would be an elegant and classy choice. Handheld handbags look very chic, so get one with a detachable strap, which can be removed for a formal event, and clipped on during the day.

Chain straps look fancier than leather ones, and are an easy way to sharpen your look. I’d do a gold chain strap, thus reducing the need for jewellery. The Falabella Stella McCartney Foldover Tote has chunky gold chains and is a great option as it can be carried three ways – folded over as a clutch, as a smaller shoulder bag and as a large tote, making it extremely versatile and obliterating the need for a second bag. It is not as expensive as other designer bags and retails for around 1100 USD. If you wait for the sales, you may luck out and get it even cheaper.

Sure you can get cheap faux-leather bags for a lot less, but quality shows. They will not look as nice, and will need to be replaced within a year.

Jewellery

While diamond solitaires look great, there’s no need to fret if they don’t fit into your budget. Stick to a single metal, gold, to match the chain on your handbag. If you get a thin gold chain,  you can hang a chunky pendant as a dressier option. Two pairs of gold hoops, one big and thin and the other small and chunky, will work for all events. Remember to ease up on the bling – you’re already getting a lot of it from the handbag.

Colour

Wear everything in one colour or in shades of the same colour. Instant chic.

Fabric

Stay a mile away from polyester. Other fabrics mixed with some polyester is fine, but if the entire garment is a 100 percent polyester, don’t, unless you’re in your teens or probably early twenties. Invest in a fewer clothes, of better quality, and look after them. Remove them as soon as you reach home so dry-cleaning bills don’t skyrocket. If the fabric is washable, then at times you could get away by simply washing the underarm area instead of throwing it in for a wash, to get more wear out of each outfit. Always wear an anti-persiperant, aluminium-free if possible, so you don’t stain your underarms or cause odour.

Undergarments

Try and match the colour of your bra to your outfit, and never wear a white bra with a black top. You could do away with white bras completely and wear nude bras with white and most light colours, black with black, and red with red. Lace bras look very pretty hanging in the stores, but not so much under slinky clothes.

Shoes

Minimise your shoe collection! Get a few, good pairs, made with leather or material built to last. Gold sandals for parties that require bling, black wedges or flats for daily wear, a pair of well-polished (always) black boots and nude heels are all the shoes you need. Stick to the same formula – less items of better quality. You will accumulate less clutter, discard less, create less trash, be more environment-friendly, and will make better use of the items you do have.

And, you will look better.

Win-win!

Shop Smart

chain-beltEveryone goes shopping. Everyone spends money, but few make great additions to their wardrobe.

Dressing well is an art, and it is much harder than it looks. Easy access to a ton of cash helps of course, but not every one with a ton of money dresses well. Similarly, there are many on a tight budget, who dress better than their friends who may have more money to splurge.

Dressing well is important. It makes you feel better about yourself, that contributes to mental well-being and a higher sense of self-esteem.

It makes others look at you with greater admiration and respect. Remember Pretty Woman? The bitchy salesgirls were falling all over themselves to serve a posh Vivian, who they had treated like crap a short while ago because she was dressed trashy. Yes, it DOES happen. Few of us are such extremes though, but still, in general the rule of thumb is, the better you dress, the better you will be treated, whether you go to the bank, an insurance company, or to a shop, a restaurant, a hotel… etc etc.

If you dress sharp at work, your bosses will treat you better, and so will your colleagues. They may hate you though, ‘coz you’re so cool!

So how do you become a better dresser?

I have a friend who dresses horribly. She goes to cheapy stores and picks up a ton of t-shirty lycra tops. She’s in her mid-thirties, and will wear jeans and a t-shirt with a chunky necklace for formal parties. It doesn’t work.

Stop buying a dozen similar-type tops. Instead, buy accessories.

Belt

Buy a fabulous belt. A belt can add a great finishing touch to any outfit. Everyone should have a thin chain belt that sits prettily on the hips. Instead of wearing your (longer) shirt tucked inside your jeans all the time, leave it out, don a pair of jeggings or skinny jeans, and clasp that belt around your hips. It gives the same shirt a whole new, and better look.

Another belt that is a must-have is an elastic belt. They can be worn around your jeans like a regular belt, or around any dress to dress it up, or even to cinch in the waist of your cover-up.

Shoes

Do not underestimate the power of shoes. You do not have to own hundreds of pairs, but just because you have a pair of black shoes doesn’t mean it will work for every item in your wardrobe. Buy another one! You need black stilettos, black casual shoes that are not too clunky, black boots, black slippers, again for casual days. None of these will go very well with formal work trousers, for which you need a pair of black pumps. Do not EVER buy shoes with fat elastic straps. They look horrifying.

Get a gold pair and a silver pair of stilettos. These should see you through most dressy events.  Cut down on buying another t-shirt the next time, and opt for a pair of shoes.

Bag

Get one large sequined or glittery clutch bag that has a gold chain attached, and you’re good to go.  While some drop multiple thousands and even lakhs of rupees on bags, needless to say, it is not necessary to spend that much. Check out the bags at Mango and Zara.

Shrug

A long summer shrug is a great buy. You can wear it day or night, especially if you get a colour like red, grey or even white, which will look good at night if you wear it with a black singlet or an LBD. Wear your shrug with an elastic belt around it for yet another look. Crochet shrugs are also cute and extremely versatile.

Vests

Marks and Spencer has some totally awesome vest tops in stock right now. They fit great, are just the right length, and have a lace border. You get them in a number of colours, so check them out. They can be worn under a cover-up at night, or with jeans during the day for a casual look. Like most vests, they can be worn under any top with a deep neck. That lace peeking out looks tres cute.

Hoops

A pair of gold and silver hoops will see you through a ton of outfits. Invest in a couple of pairs. Also, check out Anokhi for fairly reasonable, wonderful earrings that can be worn daily and will pump up any outfit. I like Anokhi earrings because that they use pure silver, which doesn’t irritate my ears.

So there you have it. Build up your accessory base, and before you know it, you’ll rock!

Zara Highs

Now that Zara has opened up in Bangalore, I’m thrilled to bits. That’s not to say that I find something gorgeous in the store every time I visit, but at the very least, its opening up more and more chances for one to be better dressed in this city, which is good news.

When I first moved to Bangalore 8 years ago, I suffered a culture shock. No, I didn’t head here straight from NYC. I spent the latter part of my single years shuttling between Bombay and Delhi, and as anyone who has spent time in the capital knows, Delhiites Dress Up. And how! So much so that Bombayites seemed sloppy to me, and then, when I stepped into Bangalore, my heart sank.

Now, 8 years down the road, its a different story. Finally, some good clothing stores are making inroads into India’s Silicon Valley, and things are lookin’ good.

For most of our lives when we Indians went on holiday out of the country, we’d return with bags exploding at the seams, while amused onlookers sniggered. But the problem was, honestly, it was darn near impossible to find good western wear. The only girls who dressed well were those with relatives abroad, who would supply them with a steady stream of to-die-for outfits – ie, walmart and tj maxx tops and denim skirts.

Now, when we’re older and wiser, we attack stores like Banana Republic and Zara on foreign trips. But all that’s about to change. As Zara enters India, suddenly the Indian shopper realises that they don’t need to spend their entire holiday scouring malls.

Me, I love my red jeans! And my blue ones… both from Zara. And every single top I got from there. I’m dressing up so much better, and my husband is loving it. Buy more clothes from Zara baby, he says.

Sure, baby.