Getting the 'Devil Wears Prada' look for less

For the frugal fashionista, experts share secrets of haute-couture dressing without the hefty price tag

July 02, 2006|By TANIKA WHITE | TANIKA WHITE,SUN REPORTER

In the movie The Devil Wears Prada, viewers watch as our heroine Anne Hathaway goes from a style-less blah to a stylish beauty with clothes, shoes and accessories any woman would swoon for.

Chanel jackets. Gucci skirts. Giuseppe Zanotti pumps. Christian Louboutin calf-high boots.

But Hathaway's Andy Sachs has help -- in a big way. She's able to borrow the latest, most coveted designer clothes from the storage closet of a fictional, glossy fashion magazine.

Most of us aren't quite that lucky.

So what's a girl with Chanel dreams but Chico's money to do?

Take heart, fashion experts say, and shop smart.

"You can look like you're dressed like a million bucks and have it only be $99.99," says Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion editor-at-large for Glamour magazine. Her suggestions: finding fashion-forward shops, such as H&M, that carry trendy, quality clothes. Or shopping online discount sites, she says.

"It can be incredibly painful to spend $1,200 on a handbag, $500 on Manolo Blahniks and $3,000 on a Chanel couture jacket," Yalof Schwartz says. "If you want the look for less, there's certain stores you can get it from. One is called Zara. They do the trends really well. Another thing is eBay. If you want great luxury items, you can go to eBay.com."

Independent sellers often offer designer brands on eBay, the popular online auction site, for less than retail because they buy in bulk or from discount sales events. Another online site that sells designer looks is eDressMe.com.

You won't find Chanel, Prada or Gucci on these sites, but you can find big names such as Tracy Reese, Cynthia Rowley, Anna Sui and BCBG Max Azaria, many times at less than normal retail prices.

"I think the key is to shop the very strong, mid-tier contemporary brands, contemporary designers," says Joanne Stoner, founder and chief executive officer of eDressMe.com. "They create very fashionable, trendy and timeless pieces that look as sharp and as polished but for much less."

Brands such as ABS, Laundry by Shelli Segal or Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent smartly pull off the latest runway looks, minus the couture prices. And eDressMe, like the fashion Web site bluefly.com, often features incredible sales.

"Right now, we have a designer sale going on; we have a whole sale section where everything is 50 to 80 percent off," Stoner says.

Mix and match

If you would prefer something less hit-or-miss than searching for sale items online, many low-priced retail stores, such as Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Old Navy, are stocked daily with affordable, on-trend styles and fashionable looks.

Old Navy, for example, has classic trousers for $22.50, and feminine sweaters with flutter sleeves for $24. Beaded necklaces, all the rage this season, are just $14.50.

"If it's anywhere near being popular, somehow we have been able to make it available at Old Navy," says Andrea Lui, fashion spokeswoman for Old Navy. "If you are on a budget and you like to mix and match with a designer, you can [purchase] a pencil skirt at Old Navy -- which is $15 -- and that opens up your bank account to be able to purchase a little bit more expensive shoe or buy a nice piece of jewelry."

Mixing and matching is the best way for a frugal fashionista to shop. Splurge on a sexy pair of heels or a fabulous "It" bag, and, truthfully, who'll even notice where that black bubble skirt and fitted jacket came from?

"The other little trick [to economical stylish dressing] is head-to-toe black, because you can't put a price on that," says Yalof Schwartz, of Glamour. "If you stick with monochromatic clothes and just get one expensive bag or a great pair of shoes, you'll do just fine."

Secret of the dress

Another short cut to stylish dressing: actually wear a dress.

"This is the year of the dress," says Stoner, of eDressMe. "And the thing about dressing in a dress is you always look great. And you always look pulled together."

Yalof Schwartz's style idol, Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cynthia Leive, is rarely in pants.

"And she's always in heels, and she always looks amazing," Yalof Schwartz says.

Hathaway's character, Andy Sachs, tends to be in skirts and dresses when she's in the offices of the fashion magazine Runway. In her private time, she's in jeans and heels or slacks and stylish hats.

"So that's an easy rule. Always wear skirts and dresses for every day at the office," says Yalof Schwartz.

Andy Sachs' makeup also is flawless in the movie -- a major clue to the outside world that she is now a member of Club Fashionable. Her hair is sleek. Her lips, in many scenes, are of-the-moment red.

"Hair and makeup is very important, too," says Yalof Schwartz. "If you don't have time to do your hair, you can always pull it back into a bun and wear a skinny headband or a thick headband, but nothing in between. And most long ponytails can be really fresh too.

"Think of your outfit," she says, "as head to toe."

tanika.white@baltsun.com

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