How To Look Expensive Part 2
With 12 Blueprints
In Part One of this series was about using colour to look expensive, written by Christine Scaman of 12Blueprints – you can read it here. In this second part, I will discuss how to look expensive using body lines and proportion.
There is lots of advice out there on how to look expensive – videos, articles, blogs. I hadn’t paid it much attention – until I realized that I had no idea what they were talking about. But after checking out a couple of resources, I found that most of the advice is shockingly unimaginative. Some is mildly ridiculous. Consider this a ‘guide to the ‘how-to-look-expensive-guides’, so you won’t ever have to be fooled again.
Pick any two random people.
If they would dress to the same effect, they must wear different clothes.
What does it mean, to look expensive?
It’s quite hard to put into words. I’ll take it literally for a second, and say looking expensive is looking like you spent a lot on clothes. Going this route, all you need is to compare prices in the shop, pick the most expensive ones, swallow as you hand over your card, and you’ll look amazing automatically. If a little dizzy from your spending spree. Or as a variation of the same principle: wearing designer clothes as much as you can afford, either second hand or only in accessories like a purse or jewellery. Both of these methods are bound to have a similar effect: you’ll look random, not expensive.
I might gather that looking expensive means to look like a celebrity. Going by the number of red carpet fail videos that YouTube insists on sending my way, that’s not a foolproof method either. Celebrity looks strike me as random too, most of the time. I can see they spent a lot, yes. But the end result is mediocre, more often than not. Which makes this type of expensive is, well, a little bit wasteful. Expensive, but in all the wrong ways. And besides, a more practical concern: how many times do you appear on a red carpet? What celebrities wear at premieres and awards, has little bearing on real life.
Finally, I could think that it means to dress like the royal family – pick any European monarchy for this one. That doesn’t seem to work as well either. Royal families across Europe express varying degrees of conservativeness – and they dress the part. Going around in a twin set and a hat, or a tea length floral dress, is probably not what most of us had in mind. A little too proper.
So what does it mean to dress expensive? After looking at a lot of advice from all kinds of people, I think of it as a socio-economic issue. To dress expensive appears to mean you dress like a higher socio-economic class than where others think you would belong. I don’t feel that that’s negative. In fact, it’s normal. Sensible even. The chances offered to us are influenced by how we look, after all.
Let's look at the actual advice
Can it accomplish the goal of having people think you’re worthy their attention?
One of the cliches of dressing expensive. No matter its price point, that blazer can look expensive, fabulous, amazing on one person – and just plain awkward on another. At best, both people will look equally boring – but that’s not the same as expensive. Can you imagine the same blazer on Sandra Bullock and Rebel Wilson? Even if they are wearing their proper size and had it tailored to boot, one of them at least is going to look weird. Scale is the issue here: Sandra is tall. Rebel is not.
This makes me wonder if most of this advice is meant for large scale people. It is similar to the advice of ‘wear black, it looks good on everybody’ (it doesn’t). Winter is a large scale Season. This very large scale item will indeed look good on large scale body types. However, you’ll feel this coming: not everybody has a large scale body. The body that could successfully wear the tailored blazer from the above example, would be overwhelmed by such a coat – or even look like they’re trying too hard (a surefire way to not look expensive!). And smaller and more slender people will look like they are wearing their Dad’s dressing gown.
The next piece of advice I came across was a classy, structured handbag. Once again, we run into trouble with one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. Some would wear it well and indeed look expensive, but it could also look clunky on one person; boring on the next; and prim and old-lady-ish on yet another. There’s more at play than just scale. What is the nature of your body’s angles? Only if they are rectangular, will this purse suit you.
This I get. Wearing clothes that are made to fit you, does look better than wearing items that don’t quite fit well enough. But please mind: tailors are fantastic, but no miracle workers. They’re not meant to fix clothes that were never right for your body in the first place.
Don't ever believe someone that gives ones-size-fits-all appearance advice.
Here, we’re supposed to wear big enough pieces to have them be noticed. It’s good advice, in principle. Jewelry needs to be seen, else it will not serve its function as an accessory. Furthermore, jewelry is a classic sign of economic status, and has been throughout history. But now good quality imitations are so widely available – we know you’re not wearing real diamonds. My most expensive-looking pair of earrings were in fact the cheapest ones I ever bought. They cost me two euro and fifty cents, and I bought them at the drugstore.
I can see expensive jewellery done two ways: either in big enough pieces like the advice above, that look like you dedicated some budget to accessories; or as very minimal and understated pieces, which are easier to afford in higher quality (or easier to pretend that they are). Which is best? It depends on your body’s preference and tolerance for detail. Too much detail can look a little hysterical, yet too little or small can look like nothing’s there. Knowing your sweet spot makes all the difference.
For two possible reasons. First, going for solid colour items to create a minimal look devoid of detail… well, you can avoid prints as much as you like, but if your body prefers some level of detail, it can make you look that much more interesting. I’m very fond of scarves to add detail quickly. One source said to avoid prints, except leopard spots. Are you kidding me? Not all, but definitely most of the leopard printed items I’ve come across were on the cheaper-looking end.
The second reason to favour solid pieces that I came across (in a video from Justine Leconte here) is more convincing. Printed versions of the same clothing item are usually cheaper quality. Because items in printed fabric are more expensive to make (fabric in lower volume, more work in construction because of pattern matching, and more waste fabric) but retail at the same price as single coloured items do, something needs to go if the brand wants to keep the profit margin. That’s usually quality.
Neutral makeup or bold lip, depending on whom you read
Depending on your colouring and body type, this might do more harm than good. All good makeup is a balance between stealth and statement. Most of makeup is colour rather than lines, but I still find that scale has some effects. For example, smaller scale people look better in lighter colours, regardless of their colouring and Season – although Christine actually disagrees with me on that one.
Uhm, why? Looks fantastic on some, really horrible on others. Just picture a women that has large, wide feet in a shoe with pointed toes. The toe will be very wide, go on forever, and look like a conspicuous, awkward addition to the woman. You’d wonder ‘What’s that doing there?’ and forget to focus on what she has to say.
So what’s the general conclusion? Don’t ever believe someone that gives one-size-fits-all appearance advice. Most of the time, these people are usually just talking about what works for them. So unless the person talking is your identical twin, and actually has a successful look (some don’t), be mindful of how much their advice would apply to you.
Almost none of the sources I looked at mentioned body type, colouring, or even age, personal taste or occasion. As a certified personal colour analyst, and when I study body lines and proportions, I come across spectacular, fascinating differences between people in colouring and body types. Pick any two random people. If they would dress to the same effect (looking expensive, in our case), they must wear different clothes.
But I know that all that doesn't solve your problem. So what would be my advice for how to look expensive?
The trick is not spending a lot of money. It’s spending money intelligently. As usual, a little knowledge will go a long way. Besides the obvious (good quality, well-fitting clothes that are clean and undamaged), here are the points I work on with my clients:
Find out your colour palette.
Wearing clothes in your Season is a fantastic and easy way of looking expensive. Nothing beats a Personal Colour Analysis for finding your Season. A PCA practically pays for itself. The amount of shopping mistakes you can prevent is staggering, making this one way of looking expensive that will, in fact, save money! For those that live too far away, I wish I could give some advice to help you DIY at least a part of it. Some of my clients have a rudimentary grasp of their tempoerature level, like how cool or warm their reds, blues, greens etc are. Guessing your Season is next to impossible – when I remember my own colour journey, I got it so wrong so often! – but it’s worth experimenting with temperature level to get rid of the worst possible choices.
Find out your body type.
Again, this can be tricky. Like colour, another big part of looking expensive or indeed just good, is wearing clothes that enhance your figure. They can accentuate and open our view onto your beauty, instead of making you look heavy, short, squat, small, gaunt, wiry, wide or any other flavour of disproportion. The key is to know your body scale in horizontal and vertical directions, the character of your lines and angles, and your proportions. I’ve developed a high-precision system that incorporates all this and more, and which I’ll open to clients in the coming months. Stay tuned to this blog for more sneak peeks!
Find out your own preferences.
This final piece of advice may sound a little silly, but it is one of the key points that I work on with clients. There is no better antidote to adopting trends that you’re not completely sure about, when you know what you want and don’t want to express. The trick to finding out your own taste, is to distinguish between things you like – and things you love. Be critical, so you can sort through your preferences until you’re left with things that are completely YOU. As always, Pinterest is a very useful tool.
When you apply all this knowledge, of your colouring, your body type, and your taste, your style becomes the opposite of random. This level of self-awareness, expressed harmoniously through the way you look, is the single best way I know to look expensive.
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