How to look professional, no matter the budget

How do you look luxe when you really donít have the big bucks?  How do you look luxe when you really donít have the big bucks?

OK. So, you have secured your first job. The first thing to do is to get some decent clothes, which nowadays are probably sponsored by your parents or with some angpows from gracious aunts and uncles. But six months down the road, youíd probably be itching to get some new stuff, either for self-gratification or to impress clients, colleagues and bosses. For most of us not living out of inheritance, with an average salary of RM2,000 Ė RM3,000 per month, after deducting monthly expenses on petrol, rental, food, and other miscellaneous, it is still a stretch to get yourself a decent working suit. But with limited funds, you will still want to dress well and look good. So, how do you look luxe when you really donít have the big bucks?

1 Fabrics, fabrics, fabrics

Iím sure some of you might have the experience of making an online purchase as you were attracted to the style of the clothing, only to be disappointed later as the quality of the item wasnít as good as expected. Regardless of the cut and style of the clothing, if itís made from cheap fabric, it is noticeable. Therefore, avoid buying anything that has lint coming out easily, or anything that is too shiny. Menís shirts that are made of polyester will make the wearer look sloppy. Generally speaking, the thicker and the more textured the fabric is, the more expensive the garment will look.

2 Splurge on the outside, save on the inside

A good, well-cut working suit that cost you RM500 paired with a RM5 camisole will make you look chic and stylish, as compared with getting a RM200 suit and wearing it with a RM150 blouse. What is not visible is not important and will not make any impact. Similarly, if you have limited budget, this is not the time to spend on expensive lingerie.

3 Accessorise to hike up the price

Accessorising is the answer to all wardrobe malfunctions and clothing dilemmas! Just because you got your blouse from the market place, it doesnít mean you canít dress it up with great accessories. Paired with carefully selected pieces, you are indirectly allowing the cheap factor of your clothing to fade into the background. Example Ė a plain white T-shirt worn with an exclusive pendant necklace will instantly elevate the status of the T-shirt. So, make an impact with the accessories you choose.

4 Mix low-cost with posh

Hereís one great way to stretch your wardrobe choices. Mix cheaper items with pricier ones. The expensive ones will elevate the whole look. For instance, pairing a designer dress with a pair of inexpensive shoes, or carrying a stylish handbag when you are in your jeans and tees. The overall effect is then balanced. So, put your creativity to test and mix and match your way to a great style.

5 Only if it fits

You should wear your clothes, not let your clothes wear you. Just because you can get something over your head, it doesnít mean it actually fits you. The labels on the back donít mean anything if you have to hold your breath and squeeze into that tiny dress. Remember, anything that is too tight, too big, too short, will always cheapen your look.

6 Be your own MacGyver

Hem it, shorten it, taper it, nip it, hide it, change it! A little alteration can go a long way! One of the easiest ways to add a bit of glitz and glam is to replace tacky cheap buttons with contemporary alternatives. This helps add style and sophistication. Get rid of unnecessary embellishments that are no longer in trend like big bows or lace trimmings, and replace them with modern sequins. You will see the difference immediately!

7 Go with dark monochromes

It is easier to pull off an image of elegance with a dark outfit than if you are in sweet rainbow colours. With a dark jacket, you can easily add a brooch, necklace, scarf and accent colour with your camisole to glam up your looks. Besides, it is always perceived to be more value for money as the Cost Per Wear is relatively lower with a dark item. For example: the Cost Per Wear of your dark jacket = the price of the item / the number of times it is worn (RM600 / Six times ) = RM100. Compared with Fucshia Pink that you would probably only wear twice ( RM500 / Two times ) = RM 250.

8 Groom to perfection

One of the easiest ways to look expensive is to practise good grooming! You can go au naturale if you are blessed with good skin and nice features. Otherwise, exercise good skin care regime or add on a little makeup. It can lift your luxe level three notches up!

And here are 3 quick tips for the guys:

1 Taper and fit: Never allow your fabric to bunch up by the sides or to tuck excess fabrics on the back of your pants. Make sure your shirts taper with your body. Excess materials make you appear frumpy and disheveled, and cheapen your overall look.

2 Keep it simple:

It is easier to spot a cheap shirt if itís adorned with extras such as tacky collars, fussy cuffs, and fancy buttons. If these arenít done well, they will just draw attention for the wrong reasons. With limited budget, get a simple shirt, iron it and you will look like a million dollars.

3 Wear an undershirt:

To not only to protect your shirt from sweat, but it will also extend the lifespan of your shirt. The best part? Wearing and undershirt creates the illusion of thicker fabric and make your shirt look more expensive.

Remember, style is not a question of money. You cannot buy good taste. By just following the few rules above, you can look priceless even when you are cashless.

Wendy Lee is the president of MABIC (Malaysian Assoc. of Brand & Image Consultants) and a director at Brand Image International Institute (BII). She is a firm believer that with Style... there must be Substance!