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Buy A Third As Many Clothes And Look Twice As Rich

New York City writer Vicky Oliver has observed what makes some people look rich and why others miss the mark. She says you too can look like a millionaire

5 October 2021

Career consultant Vicky Oliver says you might not be a millionaire yet, but she has some good news. There is a way to look the part on a modest allowance.

Oliver, who has written six books on how to get ahead in your career, says she came up with the idea for her book Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) because she lives and works in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

“It occurred to me that people just starting out in their careers don’t have a lot of money. Yet they are expected to play the part, wear the suit, ‘talk the talk’ long before they may be psychologically and financially ready.

“I began to think about tips I could give that would help people bridge this gap. So, I wrote a book about stretching the dollars you have, making wise clothing investments, and dispensing with the stuff you don’t need.”

Oliver has 10 laws for dressing for success on a shoestring.

1. Don’t lose your shirt on ephemeral purchases

Fashion is fickle and its whims are fleeting, says Oliver. Follow every passing fashion and you can lose your shirt (and it won’t even be in fashion next season, she laughs).

“You’ll get more stretch out of a style that will see you through season after season. Opt for classic pieces over trends and start by building your wardrobe in one- or two-colour palettes.”

Mixing and matching will make your budget go further.

2. Divorce yourself from middle-of-the-roadism

Oliver says with clothing, middle-of-the-road cuts with middle-of-the-road stitching, buttons, and seams will always look mediocre.

Middle-of-the-road means it’s not made well enough to be considered ‘uptown’ or luxe, and it’s too costly to be cool, she says. But buying these garments is a hard habit to break.

3. Ride the escalators

Middle-of-the-road thinking is a stranglehold, says Oliver. So, she suggests a field trip for research.

Find the most upscale department store in your nearest big city. Ride the escalator up to the most expensive floor, then give yourself permission to try on the designer items you could never afford. But don’t buy them. Instead, just examine them to train your eye to recognise good quality.

“When I buy a piece of clothing, I look at the seams, the buttons, and the stitching. It should all be tight. The fabric should be fresh without shine. Nothing should pull. Fewer quality items will last a lot longer than cheaper fare that wears out quickly.”

4. Follow the one-third rule

If you don’t have a rich person’s budget, your spending can stay the same, but you should buy differently.

Buy a third as many clothes as you do now but spend three times as much on each item.

Instead of buying several pairs of work pants at middle-of-the-road prices, buy just one $2000 suit and never take it off, if need be, she says. “A pair of designer shoes crafted from Italian leather will last 10 years. A quality pair of cowboy boots could well outlive you.”

Clothing is an investment, says Oliver. Buy the best and give away the rest.

5. Stay out of outlet stores

Bargain-lovers think they’re on a treasure hunt, but really, much of the stock in outlet stories is ordered for that shop, less costly but lower in quality.

6. White versus black

White shrieks money, says Oliver. But you have to be wealthy to wear white. One tiny stain and the garment is no longer white. With every dry clean it gets a little more yellow. As an investment, white is a disaster, she says.

If you can afford one suit, it should be black for women and charcoal grey or navy blue for men. Black forgives a lot of debauchery, she says, hides extra kilos, and looks stupendous with any colour. Opt for wool, which preserves its colour longer.

Pair textures for a richer look. Pick contrasting textures particularly when the colours are a perfect match. Say, a cashmere sweater paired with black pleated pants.

7. Find your colour of money

The richest colour is the one that makes your hair look lustrous and your skin radiant. Pick one or two colours to work with and one neutral to offset them, like black, grey, or brown.

“Each person looks divine wearing certain colours and not-so-great wearing other colours,” she says. “Stretching your dollar means figuring out which colours flatter you, and buying a wardrobe in only those colours.”

9. Refuse to be a drone

You can look rich and still be yourself, says Oliver.

The way to do that is to add to your outfits some accessory that is undeniably you – a leather jacket that screams ‘hipster’ when the rest of your wardrobe says ‘banker’, or a tie, belt, or watch that stands out.

Try red socks or a patterned vest with a suit; bright nails with a conservative dress.

That’s the key to a signature style.

10. Pandemic shortcuts

One new law has come in over the past year, says Oliver. “During pandemic lockdowns, you only need to worry about the upper half of your body for a Zoom call.

“I have literally stopped worrying about pants and skirts and really focus now on the jacket I’m wearing.”

Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) is available for Kindle on Amazon for $8.99. For more information see www.vickyoliver.com.

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