Orchids on Your Budget – Dress Sense

Practically every women believes in her heart that she cold look a million dollars if she had a million dollars to buy the latest designer label.  The truth is that the women that do a look a million dollars often do it on very little money. ( You only have to look at some of the celebrity disasters to know that money does not buy style!!)

It does take time but isn’t it worth spending a little time and energy after all you don’t get anything for nothing.

Fashion sense is a gift to a chosen few but anyone can learn what suits them and how to build a wardrobe of clothes that works for every occasion.  Basic rules for smart dressing on a budget are pretty much the same as they were in 1937 – the styles may have changed but the guidelines remain the same.

The main one about build a wardrobe around one or two colours at the most for instance, how many times have you bought something that doesn’t go with anything else you have?  Not good budgeting!

Buy your your staples in neutrals – black, brown, or navy (camel or cream in summer – this will also go with other neutrals).  Once you have your basics in neutrals make shore that your shoes and bag match these, it may sound monotonous but it is the greatest style economy when it comes to clothes.

With this plan everything goes with everything else.  Besides there are still blouse, tops, jackets, scarves, belts and other accessories to bring brightness to your wardrobe.

Another rule is never buy clothes that are defiantly one-purpose dressing or even one season trend led items.  Its all very well if you have enough money to replace your wardrobe each season but as most of us cannot it is a better investment to buy simple elegant styles that are timeless and you don’t tire of in 5 minutes.  Day dresses that have classic lines will take you to work. lunch with the girls and out to dinner.  This may sound all unexciting but as a matter of fact you can be just as chic in an outfit that doesn’t tell where you are going as in one that does – a little mystery never hurt anyone!!

As for the list of clothes this is the original from the 1937 book – the principals are the same now as then, keep your basis in the same neutrals so they mix and match then add some “whimsical” fashion item for each season.  Make a list like this for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter and you will always look chic and no-one will ever know that you are working to a tight budget!


  • Toast brown wool coat untrimmed. Simple well cut, warm enough to wear through Autumn and a good style to wear with separate furs?!
  • Black wool dress (with brown buttons to go under coat)
  • Short toast brown wool jacket (lightweight to wear over dress or separate skirt)
  • Check brown and black skirt
  • Printed silk dress (with brown and white design to be worn with jacket or coat)
  • Toast brown hat, bag and shoes
  • Lighter brown stockings and gloves
  • White gloves, bag and accessories and jacket (warm weather to go with print dress)

This may sound a little dated with matching shoes, hats and gloves but the basic principal is the same (and I want to bring hats and gloves back because it was just so ladylike and chic!?)

As for evening wear – the LBD is the elegant standby and can be worn in so many ways that you will never tire of it and with a little imagination no-one will realise that it is the same frock time and time again. It can be varied by contrasting jackets, jewels, flowers, scarves and shoes until it dies on its feet – one example taken from the book is the following:

A business women who can’t spend much on her evening wear but has to entertain for work with a smart set – her solution is one beautifully cut evening dress and several changes of accessories.  The dress is the backdrop for:

  • An emerald green taffeta jacket and slippers
  • Two ruby clips and bracelet to match worn with black slippers and bag
  • Pink chiffon roses and pink chiffon scarf worn with black slippers and bag
  • A gold lame jacket and gold bag with black slippers

If she feels her dress can last another season she will buy a black sequined jacket or some chunky gold jewellery or a belt in the new colour instead.

So with some thought and a little creativity you can look elegant and chic on a budget – think of the French they do it very well with a limited wardrobe but fabulous accessories and most of all keeping it simple and classic.

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