How To Look Polished Without Breaking The Bank

As a frequent fashion forums reader I realised that, for years, the internet has been plagued with never-ending threads on the topic of how to look sophisticated on a budget.

At this point, it’s a bit like the sartorial version of the Saint Grail, and anyone trying to answer the question ends up trapped on a quest. Actually, I think we could change the title of this post to Indiana Jones And The Last Fashion Crusade and call it a day.

From my experience, I learned that looking at the big fashion magazines or the top influencers’ content will not help. These days, you can easily feel it all comes down to the latest IT bag, the thousand-pound shoes, or that super exclusive beauty treatment that will cost you the blood of your firstborn and can only be applied by seven fairy virgin maidens, under a blue full-moon… You get the idea, don’t you?

Fashion advice on how to look amazing on a budget.

But what happens to the average professional woman? Should we all throw a potato sack coat, hide our heads in a paper bag, and live unhappily ever after? As I wrote before, I don’t enjoy tragedies other than Shakespeare. So, I spent some time over the years looking at Pinterest, reading fashion bloggers, and small specialised publications, looking at high-end, high-street, and vintage stores. Eventually, I started drawing some conclusions. Then, I tried them all and I failed miserably. (Sorry to disappoint you but, with me being me, we all know chances of doing something successfully on the first attempt are… well, let’s go with minimal here). 

So I decided to start from scratch again by experimenting a lot and this is all I learned. These are my top tips on how to look polished without breaking the bank.

  1. Neutrals are the to-go formula for success. Guys, I love a colourful outfit. And by that, I mean I consider myself the human form of a sassy chameleon. But with that said, bold colours are not always the easier to pull. If you want to project confidence and a subtle aura of elegance, your best shot is going for neutrals. Cream, beige, camel, black, or grey are an easy way to look presentable without having to overthink it. If you still want to add a bit of interest to your outfit, play a bit with the accessories and pick a colorful bag or shoes. Believe me when I say it’s a fool-proof recipe style. Not even I can spoil it!

Tips to look elegant on a budget.

 2. Hair is far more important than makeup (and than any designer pieces, for the matter). A lesson I had to learn the hard way from my younger days is a good hair day is far more important than a good makeup day. On most occasions, you will be fine with a touch of concealer, mascara, and a natural-looking gloss. But bad hair, on the other hand? That will ruin even the most carefully curated outfit. Instead of investing in the hundredth red lipstick you don’t need, be sure you have got all the haircare and styling products you need. All I can say it’s Oraplex has made much more for my appearance than any of my designer bags…

3. Better quality materials (meaning natural fibers) will automatically elevate any outfit. Do you know what beautiful, fuchsia colour, fluffy jumper you got at Zara a couple of seasons ago and that got ruined after two washes? Please, make yourself a favour and throw it away. Even better, kill it with fire (but in an open space or you will suffocate with the toxic polyester fume). Yes, sister: I’ve been there. And that’s the reason why I am telling you this from the bottom of my heart. You do NOT need another mindless shopping spree on the sales. What you need though, it’s investing in a few good-quality pieces (think natural cotton, linen, silk, alpaca, or cashmere). Those fabrics will make you look effortlessly chic and they will be good for your wallet in the long run too.

4. Take care of the details. When was the last time you polished your shoes? And what about your manicure? The way we present ourselves is sometimes not as much about the lavish brands like the way we take care of ourselves. Keep yourself hydrated and nourished from the inside for glowy skin (and yes, this comes from someone who spent her university years feeding on pizza up to a point my husband started calling me Supermario. So I do know, what I’m speaking about here). Sleep enough, make some exercise. Fix those loose buttons from your favourite blouse. It’s about the small things, mostly.

5. A good quality bag doesn’t have to cost the Earth. Ideally, we should all have at least two good-quality handbags—one for winter, one for summer—,three if we have another one for work. I am not going to be that picky here. Forget about the four thousand pound designer bag. It’s great if you can get that one, of course, but I can tell you it’s not always about the big name on the tag. Let me illustrate with an example. In the last year or so, I fell in love with a Scottish brand called Strathberry. They produce luxury craftmanship leather bags for a fraction of the price you will pay at the big names (and you know what? when you compare quality, you can tell no difference). So my advice here is, make a bit of research, find a brand you like that makes long-lasting bags and you will never regret it. 

And these are my top tips on how to look polished without breaking the bank. Now tell me, what are your tips for me? Any advice you wish to share with our lovely community over here? (Scroll down for my outfit details.)

How to dress elegantly in an affordable way.


Jumper, Coat, and Trousers (Zara) | Sunglasses (Chloe) | Shoes (Dorothy Perkins)

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3 thoughts on “How To Look Polished Without Breaking The Bank

  1. Very little to add, but taking a good care of our wardrobe. Starting for cleaning and polishing purses and shoes before storing it, always analyzing any new clothing in search of loose threads, small wearing marks, fitting it to your leg length and after wearing them always make sure they look like new. Washing carefully , taking to especific laundry service and being very careful when storing them from season to season. I really love this post, greetings Allegra from Spain.

    1. That’s a fair point, indeed. Maintaining our closet contents in mint condition can make us save a lot of money too, since we are elongating the life of the clothes. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment.

  2. I don’t have any other advice to add, but these are all great tips! I definitely agree it’s better to spend the money on quality pieces that will last for many years instead of buying something cheap that will only last a month

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