How to Look Classy on Any Budget

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to fashion and style is that it costs a lot to look classy, but it’s far more important to dress in a way that is tasteful and flattering. I’ve rounded up 10 ways to look more polished without breaking the bank.

True confessions: It might have taken me longer to decide on a photo to use for this graphic than it did to write the post. It’s a lot of pressure!

How to Look Classy on Any Budget

#1. Get rid of worn, ill-fitting, and out-of -date clothing.

How to Purge Your Closet and Love Your Wardrobe Again

It’s far better to have a small, highly edited wardrobe of items you love and wear over and over, than a closet crammed full of everything you’ve purchased over the past 20 years. If you haven’t done a good closet edit in a while, this is the place to start. Getting rid of items that are worn, out of style, stained, ill-fitting, or too large or small should be the first step towards elevating your style.

Need help with that? Read my post: How to Purge Your Closet and Love Your Wardrobe Again.

#2. Learn how to dress your unique body and define your personal style.

The single best thing I ever did to elevate my personal style was to learn my body type and how to dress it properly. Since taking the Adore Your Wardrobe course offered by my friend Kelly Snyder, I now know how to discern if an item of clothing works for me or not, and I’m much better at putting outfits together that have the correct balance and proportion for my body. If you struggle with this, I highly recommend her course. (The next course starts on August 17th.)

As far as defining your personal style, you will find lots of tutorials if you google the topic. Putting a label on your unique style will help you clarify and define your look, and ultimately make shopping and outfit-building easier.

#3. Wear properly fitting undergarments. 

They’re called foundation garments for a reason. If the foundation of a house isn’t sound, the whole house will collapse… and the same is true for your outfits. Be sure to get regular bra fittings, and replace your bras and underwear regularly.

Also, be sure you are wearing your bra correctly and caring for it properly. I wash my bras on the delicate cycle using mesh laundry bags and hang them to dry. And it’s good to tighten the straps every few wears to make sure your “girls” are up where they belong.

#4. Have your clothes tailored.

Because of my job, I don’t have time for this, so fortunately I’m a pretty average size and shape. But most celebrities and others who always look so perfectly put together rarely wear clothes right off the rack. Tailoring is the best way to make sure your clothes fit and flatter your unique body.

If you find yourself needing a tailor often, it may pay to spend a bit more at stores like Nordstrom where they provide this service for free or at a discount… and have the tailoring done immediately, before even leaving the store.

#5. Know when to splurge and when to save.

It’s worth it to invest in quality pieces if you will wear them often over the course of many years; but if it’s a trendy item or something very memorable that you may only wear a handful of times, you probably don’t want to spend so much. Learn your labels and how to discern quality garments, and buy pricier products second-hand from consignment shops or online retailers like eBay, Poshmark, Thred-Up, etc.

I would also add, incorporating a trendy item from time to time that aligns with your personal style is a good way to keep your look current, but don’t over-do it with the trendy pieces. That’s a sure way to look like a slave to fashion.

#6. Know your fabrics.

The materials you wear can reflect poor taste. Some simply look cheap, plus, man-made fibers won’t hang properly on your body like natural wool or cotton fabrics. A while back, I wrote a post about What Makes A Garment Good Quality (or Not). You may find it helpful.

#7. Take care of your clothes, but don’t over-wash them.

Learn the proper way to care for different types of fabrics, and if in doubt, wash according to the instructions on the tag. Also, over-washing can break down fabrics over time, so don’t wash them unless they’re stained or dirty.

Get in the habit of hanging your clothes or folding them and putting them away when you take them off. Leaving them draped over the ironing board or in a heap on the floor will affect their shape and structure over time, plus it forces you to wash them more often.

Also, the condition of your shoes and handbag goes a long way towards presenting a polished appearance. And yes, I have a post for this too — Fight the Frump: Update Your Handbag.

Fight the Frump: Update Your Handbag

Whether you spent a lot or a little on an item of clothing, taking good care of it will extend the life of the garment and keep it looking its best.

#8. Wear tasteful accessories. 

Having some trendy fashion jewelry is a fun way to change up your look and create a focal point for a simple outfit, but investing in a few key pieces that are tasteful and understated that you can wear often will go a long way towards elevating your style. These do not have to be high end designer pieces that cost a lot; it’s more about discerning what looks cheap vs. what looks classy.

This extends to your eyewear as well. Make sure your eyeglasses and sunglasses are current and work for your personal style.

#9. Avoid big logos, and never buy fakes.

Wearing big logos and fake designer items looks try-hard and cheap. It’s far more tasteful to wear a quality piece from a generic designer.

#10. Practice good grooming habits.

Keep your nails and hair clean and groomed, take care of your skin and teeth, and learn to apply your makeup. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the salon. There are plenty of websites and YouTube tutorials that will teach you how to do these things at home on a budget.

The exception to this is your teeth, but this goes along with cost per wear. If you can afford to straighten crooked teeth or fix your dental work, it’s a worthwhile investment in your appearance that will last a lifetime.

What would you add to this list?

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28 thoughts on “How to Look Classy on Any Budget

  1. Very nicely written post, Jolynne! Now that I’m in my 50’s I really know who I am. I understand what looks good on my body and want to look classy not trendy. I still love following trends and curate from those I really like that will fit my body and style. I had to giggle when I read your comment about fakes! I recently read an article about ladies from the upper east side in NYC buying mirror image fake Birkin handbags. These were still expensive bag, but much less than the real thing, that one really couldn’t tell the difference between them. I played with the thought but finally came down to, for me, I would never feel good about it! I do own a few high end designer bags and love them. But have recently found some very nice lesser recognized designers that make very nice style and great quality bags for much less. These include Strathberry and DeMellier. Keep on keeping us classy!! Blessings! Krista

  2. I was just thinking the other day that I’d enjoy another “How to …” blog from you. Always enjoy these posts and your ideas. Reducing my closet to only my favorite pieces and just a few pair of shoes and accessories has made life so much easier. And I get more compliments on my style than ever before. Thanks for taking the time to help us look our best.

  3. Jolynne-I have been following you for several years because your clothes are classics and your tips are so good. I am 74 years old, but still “mostly” trim. I do steer away from sleeveless & short sleeves, due to flappy, crepey arms. My skin has become very thin, so my veins are prominent on hands and legs/feet. I stick with long jeans/pants.
    I am not complaining, just stating the facts. I purged my closet this spring when we moved, and I haven’t missed a thing!
    Thank you for inspiring me and many other senior ladies…we know we are not your “target audience”😃

  4. Thinking about taking that style class. I could definitely use the help! Is it worth the investment? It’s kinda spendy!

    1. I hate to be devils advocate but I took AYW and do not feel it was worth the money. It was good info but nothing you couldn’t find in a couple google searches (start with “dressing your body type” and “rule of thirds”). I truly hate to be negative but I really regret spending so much money on it when I only learned a few things I didn’t already know. Maybe my expectations were too high though.

  5. I’m so glad you added that last comment about restoring or caring for ones teeth. As a dental Hygienist myself it is something that I value but also notice right away in people. If your teeth are in good condition you look better, eat better and you definitely smile more. This is the best investment you can make in yourself!

    If cost is a concern and you have a dental school in your area that is certainly a place to get lower cost quality care.

  6. As always, you are so thorough in your posts! I’m a retired 63 year old still struggling with parting from my favorites (there are too many from my work wear) but this post especially hit on the target for me!
    THANK YOU! 😊

  7. What an excellent post! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! There is a 50 yr old in our extended family that dresses like her 23 yr old daughter, and it’s so obvious that that is what she is doing. And the outfits she puts together, look put together, and it’s obvious she is trying to look like a 20 something. So, while I say we need to dress our age, I’m not saying to dress like our grandma or great grandma, but wear clothes more suitable for your age group than someone way younger. It’d be like you wearing outfits that one of your daughters wears.

  8. Enjoyed this post like I do all of your posts – thank you! That said, has your body type changed since your surgery? Or, is it too early to know this yet?

    1. On paper I’m a pear but I don’t find that I’m changing how I dress. I just have more options because tops that used to be too tight or too low cut fit now. But I still don’t like tops or sleeves with extra volume. So I don’t think the style of clothing that works for me has changed.

  9. Great post. My mom taught us the power of a few classic quality pieces (which as a teenager is annoying!). She also always focused on shoes, bags, coats and blazers as well as classic jewelry like pearls, a good bangle bracelet/watch or diamond earrings. Her final rule was neutrals that matched your skin tones and were well cut along with great haircuts and mani pedis. She was right and you’ve summed it up beautifully.

  10. I agree with all of your tips. My addition would be ALWAYS ACT CLASSY. I have seen very classy looking women who revealed it was just a “look” by their behavior, whether it was the way they spoke(demeaningly to someone else), what they said( rude, unkind, or vulgar), or the way they treated someone else, they betrayed themselves as far less than classy.

  11. I would include micro blading for your eyebrows. It had quite a positive difference in my appearance and I no longer have to draw in my eyebrows every morning. A big time saver. I have gotten lots of positive comments on them!

  12. Thanks for all your hard work helping so many of us to look our best and stay classy and current. I need the advice! I’m going to have to get a new handbag!

  13. I agree with the logos– I have always disliked obvious logos. If you want me to wear your company name all over my outfit, you should be paying ME! I am not a walking billboard! 😄 Also, I have found quality items at stiff discounts on and eBay.

    I would only add to take care of your skin, as in dry skin, especially your feet. I’m horrified when someone’s cute sandals catch my eye and then I see her scaly, peeling heels. Blech!

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