Can any of you still remember Anna Wintour’s very first cover as the editor of Vogue? It was the glossy’s November 1988 issue featuring Michaela Bercu. Photographed by Peter Lindbergh, the Israeli model wore a 50-dollar pair of stonewashed jeans with an haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket worth over $10,000. That, as far as the publishing industry is concerned, was the birth of high-low fashion.
The people were reminded of this fashion trick when Angelina Jolie showed up on the red carpet for the 2007 premiere of A Mighty Heart wearing her Christian Louboutin heels with a little black dress that she bought for only $26 from a vintage store along Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Thus, if you’re ever having difficulty grasping the idea of pairing your designer skirt with a basic H&M tee, let these stylish icons serve as a constant reminder: Mixing high and low fashion is never a sin; it is, in fact, an art.
Where to go cheap and where to splurge?
The key is always to find your personal style and stick to it. Opening Ceremony’s co-founder Humberto Leon once told Harper’s Bazaar, “Avoid items that don’t fit your body type or style.” That’s how you avoid buying into a trend, which is a known trap when you’re trying to build a stylish yet reliable wardrobe. If you follow your true instincts, it’ll help you find that gem amidst those racks of shoulder-baring lace tops and trendy high-waist shorts. Instead of buying into trends, opt for basics that you can mix and match with statement pieces again and again. These closet staples don’t even have to be expensive. It can be nice-fitting pair of jeans or a simple white denim skirt, all of which you are very likely to find during an end-of-season sale in Zara.
If you’re going to splurge on something, you might as well spend it on the skeleton of your outfit. These are pieces you are most likely to use more often than your actual clothes a.k.a. your bags and shoes, so there’s a high return on your cost per wear here. You can think of these as an investment.
To borrow words from Nordstrom’s Director for Designer Merchandising Jeffrey Kalinsky, “You can fool somebody if you’ve got a good shoe and a good bag. If you spot someone in a fabulous pair of Pierre Hardy shoes and a killer Dior bag, you’re going to assume that the clothes are all designer and the jewelry is real.”
Why do it?
Why high-low fashion exists is because of obvious answers—practicality and function. While there’s nothing wrong with wearing big-ticket designers, fast fashion, or even thrifted clothes from top to bottom, there’s also nothing more liberating than having the sense of freedom to mix and match however you please. It’s the kind of high that only fashion can give and only the true-blue fashion girls can comprehend.
American fashion designer Rachel Roy hit the nail on the head: “It’s not modern unless it’s mixed,” she says.
In the end, it’s not the overall price tag of your outfit that matters. It’s how you pull it off, and how you can make something cheap look so damn expensive.