Dressing Like a Princess on a Working Girl's Budget

You can have a budget and still dress like a princess, here's how

Not "to the manner born," but itching to put on some airs? Maybe as a member of the aristocracy, or rock 'n' roll royalty? Luckily for you, we've discovered that having the best doesn't mean (heaven forbid!) having to pay for it. Here are 10 ways to dress like a princess on a working woman's budget.

Go for Quality, Not Quantity

You don't need a lot of pieces to dress rich, only five or six that are interchangeable and of superior quality. A structured jacket like this solid black blazer with double button closure, a pair of beautifully tailored trousers, a little cap-sleeved pleated top or a cashmere sweater will do.

Make It Fit

People who know fashion wear pieces that drape gracefully, creating that telltale elegant silhouette. Seams should lie smoothly, collars should be pristine, and pleats should be crisp, even and smooth. Skirts will have a pretty swing to them. Everything should fit the contours of your body just right.

Shop in Vintage and Secondhand Stores

Vintage stores rock for unearthing expensively made, gently worn pieces. Look for items such as '70s Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg, which were impeccably designed and have remained virtually timeless. One of our favorites in New York is Beaconscloset.com.

Look for Luxury Fabrics

Designer Lauren Moffatt believes dressing well means surrounding yourself in only the finest fabric. "Aside from the fact that better-quality fabric feels amazing against your skin," she said, "it retains its shape and symmetry and won't bunch up or cling to your body in odd ways." So embrace those cashmeres, merino wools, silks and fine cottons.

Find Those Seasonal Sales

When the seasons change, you can buy high-end, quality designs at a fraction of their original cost, so go to your favorite "dream" haunts and put your name on their mailing list for private sales or warehouse sales. You may also want to check iVillage's listings or postings such as Daily Candy and New York magazine's Best Bets.

Go eBaying

Because of folks who splurge, then change their minds, or those who wear designer fashions for a season and resolve to move on, high-end labels continue to be auctioned off on eBay. Look for items that are "gently worn" or "new with labels," and reap the goodies! Remember, bidding can get tricky; you may think you've won an item, only for it to be grabbed out from under your nose a minute before the auction ends. The trick is to bid the highest you're willing to pay, and stay online towards the end of bidding to monitor it.

Host a Clothing Swap

Kerri Hensley has to watch her pennies, loves swapping with friends. "It's a great opportunity to get all of your girlfriends together and refresh your wardrobe at the same time," she said. "Everybody has at least a few items that they no longer like or that no longer fit. Tell your friends to put those items in a bag and come over to swap them."

Be Creative and Recycle

If you own a high-quality piece from seasons past that just needs a bit of tweaking, don't toss it, recycle it. For example, you can remove bows or other "too-last-year" flourishes such as extravagant ruffles, take up a hem or remove those exaggerated shoulder pads; just be creative!

Browse Your Local Consignment Shops

Consignment shops are another goldmine for discovering valuable, modern items at a fraction of the cost, and unlike with eBay, you can try them on. Look for well-constructed pieces made from wool, silk, cotton and linen.

Shoes and Bag Speak Volumes

The benchmark of dressing rich has to be the shoes and handbag, so pay special attention with your choices: no ragged heels or dirty scruffs on shoes, and no busted zippers or ripped seams on bags. And FYI, you might want to think twice about carrying Louis Vuitton; imitations are so ubiquitous these days, everybody may assume it's a fake anyway.

Classic Black Coat One

"Don't forget that quintessential tailored black wool coat," said Jennifer Meyer, former public relations director for Club Monaco. "You can wear it with everything from jeans and a tank top to an elegant cocktail dress and look smashing."

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