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Fashion Diva on a Budget: Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style

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How nice would it be if somebody could tell us each morning exactly what to wear that day, or guide us elaborately for a memorable evening out with that someone special.

But no one does and no one can. The path to true style is walked on our own.

Fortunately for us, though, there are plenty of pointers on the way.

If you are reading this you must have given thought to cultivating, or polishing, your personal style. All women want to look stylish and gorgeous, but it’s a lifelong quest for many to find their style. They misguidedly think they will have to spend a ton of money to get there. They look to the reigning fashionistas for style inspiration, when it’s the Audrey Hepburns of the world they should be consulting.


Remember, personal style is not about chasing trends or aping those who have seemingly got it.

So what is personal style all about?


If you break it down, you will find that style is very basic. It is that which looks good on you and makes you feel comfortable, which is why you go back to it again and again.

That’s it.

No fancy definitions to wrap one’s head around. No endless lists of things to keep in mind.

And driving a well-established sense of style is confidence. Confidence that clothes are mere accessories; the real deal is you.

This confidence comes from an intimate knowledge and acceptance of your own body. Knowing your body type, therefore, is the first step toward the creation of a personal style.

Knowing your body type

A well tailored outfit is worth its weight in gold.

Whether it’s dresses, trousers, blouses, skirts, whatever, the fit is the most important aspect of a garment.

It should create an admirable silhouette, and it should attract attention to all the right bits.

But you won’t be able to choose the right clothes for you if you are unaware of, or in denial about, your true body shape.

Women are often apologetic about their bodies, but what’s the point in it? None whatsoever. Don’t try to paper over what you consider to be your ‘embarrassing’ bits. Embrace them, because they will form the basic element of your style.

Top heavy women will dress differently than the bottom heavy ones, who in turn will dress differently than those whose weight is equally distributed on them.

Slim fit may look great on some, but it may look disastrous on you. It all comes down to your body shape.

No matter how pretty or trendy a garment, if it does not flatter you, walk away. It’s not for you, and you should not be wasting your time even considering picking it up.

Understanding colors that flatter you


Black is a safe bet, but few other colors look good on everybody. I’m amazed at women well into their 40’s, who continue to wear colors that do nothing for them.

The colors that you pick should not flatter just your complexion but also your hair and your eyes. The whole point of dressing up should be to present yourself in the best light. The only reason women continue to pick wrong colors and fits for themselves is an ignorance of what looks good on them.

Remember this mantra, if it does not flatter you, walk away from it.

Understanding your dominant tendency

Are you the fussy type, who does not mind getting up at 6am to style her hair, paint her face, and deck out in the latest fashion for a 9am class?

Or, are you the kind that does not look twice at your wardrobe and just puts on the first thing you can get a hold of? And about that tousled hair from the previous night, well, who cares! I will just tease out a pony tail. I mean, it’s madness getting up at 6am just to look good, right?

Not that you never dress up, just that you wouldn’t go out of your way for it. Sometimes you even go through days together of showing indifference to your wardrobe.

But, like every other female on the planet, you want to look stylish.

So the first step toward a unique and flattering style is a deep and sympathetic understanding of yourself, of what suits you the best, what makes you click, and what you want from your wardrobe.

How to build a stylish wardrobe


The best way to have a great wardrobe and ensure that you look stylish each time is simple: Just do not have anything in it that could compromise your style quotient.

Dieters are asked to throw away junk food and drinks from their kitchen and fridge, and replace them with healthier alternatives, so as to prevent late night or weak-willed binges. Similarly, you should cut down on anything that is less than good and find stylish alternatives to that which you know are your go-to clothes and accessories.

Shop with a plan, that is the best way to save money and buy the best stuff you can.

Have more of the following in your wardrobe:

Your go-to things

We all have go-to clothes. Mine are leggings, oversized tops, hoodies, shrugs, and boots. They always sort me out. Each time I feel too lazy to deck myself up or style my hair, which is way more often than not, I find welcome refuge in my collection of meticulously gathered pieces that I know I keep defaulting to.

What is your go-to garment, color, or fabric? (If you keep going to them all the time, then they are your style.)

If jeans and tops are your go-to clothes, make sure you only have the most flattering fits and colors in your wardrobe.


(^Blazers can streamline your wobbly bits.)

If it’s knee-length skirts, again, the same rule applies. The fit should be perfect, but equally importantly, only buy designs that serve a purpose for you. If that means having 5 attractive skirts instead of 15 utterly forgettable ones, so be it.

Have 2 good quality winter coats instead of 5 cheap-looking ones.

It’s up to you if you want to buy 10 pairs of jeans worth less than $20 per pair, or only 2 pairs costing about $50. If you can find excellent buys and great fits, more power to you. Just do not kid yourself when it comes to the quality of the purchase, because quality and style have a very deep connection. For best results, stubbornly choose quality over quantity for most things.

Excellent collection of accessories


- Bracelets (the type that suit different occasions/moods) x 10

- Long necklaces x 5 (minimum)

- Short necklaces x 5 (minimum)

- Finger rings x 10

- Earrings (as many pairs as you want)

- Hair accessories (whatever takes your fancy)

- Belts (not a fan of belts here, but they definitely can perk up a dull outfit)

- Sun glasses (as many pairs as you can own, they are the most killer accessory)

Apart from gym sneakers and flip flops, have five more pairs of shoes:

- Flats (gladiators or belle pumps)

- Medium heel sandals (for a bit of a height + good for walking)

- A pair of knock-out, gorgeous sandals (with heels you’d be comfortable wearing)

- A practical pair of boots

- A stylish pair of boots


Certain items that always look good

Such as:

- A well-fitting blazer







- A watch








- A Chanel jacket (Doesn’t have to be from Chanel, just the cut would do.)

On the other hand, there are items that do nothing for you.

Examples of impractical buys:

- Neck scarves (if you live in a hot place)

- Leather or suede shoes (if you live some place it rains, and floods, a lot)

- Lace tops sans cotton padding (if you live in a hot and humid area)

- Necklaces which look beautiful but do not go with anything you have

- Lots of high heels if you have to walk a lot

- Clutches, which do not serve your purpose since you love to carry your water, a snack or two, and some electronic equipment with you around. You really need big bags. (Pick a stylish one, roomy enough for you to throw everything into it, and classy enough to be a style statement!)

- Anything that makes you look fat, short, or washed out. (Yes, there are clothes that make us look fat as there are those that create a slim outline.)

What are the items that look good on you more often than not? Make a list, get the best possible pieces, and have them ready to spice up a dull day.

Evening wear

Every woman should have a good assortment of dresses, skirts and the like, for social (or special) occasions.

Again the same principles apply as above. Walk away from anything that does not flatter you, or that which you don’t have the confidence to pull off. Have a custom made dress if you can’t find your perfect fit in a store.


Formal wear

I’m not a fan of trousers, so I don’t own a single pair. If, however, you like them (and they look good on you), there are excellent fits, styles, and colors available in the market to spice up each day of the work week for you.

Stick with plain trousers (in a few different colors or shades). Work shirts or tops tend to be subdued more often than not, so invest in a good range of peppy blazers. Fold up the sleeves and flaunt your wrist accessories for a smart and stylish look.

When buying dresses and skirts for work, focus on their fit and cut. Keep the clothing simple and add the element of style with accessories, shoes, and bags.

How to put an outfit together


Since every woman is different, she will have different items in her wardrobe. Those that are ‘must-haves’ for some women, might not do anything for you.

Question any so-called wisdom being paraded around in the name of sound fashion advice.

“Every woman should have a classic white shirt in her wardrobe.”

Really now? I don’t think so.

The entire purpose of this article is for you to think for yourself than to be spoon-fed about exactly what you should have in your wardrobe. (The spoon-feeding is what causes style confusion in the first place!)

To take that further, how to put an outfit together is also an exercise in creativity and ingenuity, driven by originality. There you have the makings of a unique style.

Choose what you want to be today

You cannot be everything, so you will have to choose what you want to be on any given day.

- What do you feel like today? Conservative or bold? Pretty or smart? Chic or hippie? Professional or sensuous? Feminine or androgynous?

- Choose a style before you start dressing, depending on your mood and the weather, and let that guide your outfit. Determine the occasion, and the tone you want to incorporate in your clothing for it.

- Don’t put on a blazer just because it looks great, or a necklace because it makes your neck look slender and taller (which may be a great thing but if it does not fit in an overall look, you have to be ruthless and turn that pretty thing down).

- Each and every thing that you put on, should be a part of the overall narrative you are trying to weave. Yes, dressing up is like creating a narrative. You are making a statement about how you are feeling today. So try not to confuse it, even if you are mixing and matching things.

- Aim to create harmony with your clothes, accessories, makeup, and hair. For example, if your outfit is full of bold colors and prints, go easy on the accessories. If your outfit is simple, tap into the accessory power to perk things up.

- Think of yourself as an artist trying to paint a pretty picture. Get rid of redundancies, brighten the dull bits, and temper the excesses.

- Hair and makeup can also make or break your look. Pay particular attention to your hair. If you are unsure what to do with it, stick to the cut and the style that suits you the best. Perfectly blow-dried and smoothened hair looks good on almost everybody and goes with most occasions.


Do your homework

- Spare an hour or two each weekend thinking of combinations that you can make from the items in your wardrobe. List the combinations (on an Excel spreadsheet if you are technically inclined) for handy reference.

- Match these combinations with days of the week, days you know you are going to be hung over or in general not be very sprightly, bad hair days, days when you are going to be very busy, and days when you are going to be traveling. Or days that are going to be a combination of all of the above.

- Create a no-brainer list (as a backup should all else fail) for when you are in a jiffy and don’t have the time to think about what to wear. The combinations on this list should be very easy to pull off and require minimal input on your part (i.e. no lengthy makeup or hair styling session, no ironed clothes required, etc.)

The clearer you are about matching your wardrobe combinations with your lifestyle and moods, the easier it will be for you to pick (and stick to) a stylish combo regardless of where you are at personally. Style is a commitment and you definitely will have to be mindful in the beginning. But after a while, you won’t even have to think about it, you will be stylish by default!


A wardrobe is built garment by garment, accessory by accessory. Nothing worth having was built in a day, so have patience.

A style to die for does not require you to spend any more than a badly styled and poorly built wardrobe. You’d be surprised how much money and grief you’d save if you started to plan your outfits and shop accordingly, instead of falling for attractive things left, right, and center.

Don’t be blinded by latest trends or celeb crazes. Take inspiration from everybody, but stand tall and secure in your own personal style.

Remember, trends come and go but true style is timeless.


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  • brianzeng

    amazing post!!
    love it.

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