They say not to judge a book by its cover, but a well-designed cover is not only worth more than 1,000 words: it’s the gate on which the decision to engage hinges on. Like it or not, how we dress is not so different. As I wrote about in a previous blog post, our appearance reflects our identity and tells a story—all before we have the chance to say a word! As such, fashion is a great way to be expressive, matching the outer-you with the inner-self.
For some people, this means wearing designer clothing all the time. If you look expensive, the thought goes, then you have value. Well, I’ll tell you what: this thought is sorely misguided! The price tag of a dress may dazzle, but it does not correlate with self-worth a bit. Being a good and interesting person has nothing to do with what you wear. That said, what you wear can add dimension to who you are, no matter the size of your paycheck.
You may have heard of something called “high-low” in fashion, and no, I don’t mean high-low skirts and dresses that have had a moment recently. High-low is the combination of high-end designer items with less expensive apparel or accessories. When Angelina Jolie stepped on the red carpet in a $26 dress and $600+ heels, it was a prime example of high-low in action. A decade later, the concept has only expanded.
So, how does it work, and what are the benefits? Blending high with low allows for greater variability in day-to-day outfits, and is, in aggregate, far less expensive than limiting yourself to luxury designs. The fashion world is rich and beautiful, and not just in a “rich and beautiful people” kind of way — there’s a wide variability in price, design, and style out there if you know what to look for and where. There is room for luxury, sure, but also plenty of room for a bargain.
If you have a tight budget, you may think: why even bother with the high? Depending on your situation, it’s a fair question, but one that has a fairly straightforward answer: quality. Spending money on high-end boots is worth it in the long-run because they will last longer. The same goes for purses, jackets, and jewelry. Statement items like these are wonderful to pull out on special occasions at least, but in the day-to-day too. You can pair them with lower-cost staples for a higher-end look that doesn’t break the bank.
The reverse works, too! And by that I mean pairing higher-end basics with lower-cost statement pieces. Remember when the First Lady of Singapore rocked a fabulous dinosaur clutch at a White House event last year? The $11 pouch was made by a student at Pathlight, a Singaporean school for autistic children. There are so many emerging, independent artists and designers with affordable items for sale. Adding a few to your fashion rotation is a lovely way to show support for their work!
A blog post on the 10 commandments of high-low contains some great bits of wisdom on creating high-fashion looks. One notable “don’t” that I have to agree with is the purchase of knock-offs. This may seem like a good way to achieve a high-end look without the cost, but these imitation products look cheap and give themselves away immediately—not to mention disparaging the integrity of the original. It also helps to understand what facsimile silhouettes and prints are responsible, and which are obviously derivative. When in doubt, lows are best when simple, replaceable, or treasure-trove finds through thoughtful thrifting. Highs should, above all, be timeless.
Whether you want to dress to impress on the regular, just for special occasions, or put together a whole new signature style, I believe that the magic of high-low is an achievable and game-changing tactic in the world of fashion. Most importantly, it will help you feel confident in your look and more comfortable in your skin to have put investment and thought into your wardrobe. It’s worked for me—and for Angelina Jolie. It’s definitely worth a try, even if it means starting with just one fabulous pair of shoes.