One of the plights of going to school in New York City is being constantly surrounded by stores, billboards, and hordes of stylish people showing off drool-inducing designer outfits that are utterly unattainable for those of us working on a college budget. While scrimping, saving, and thrifting provide one way of grabbing those lofty pieces, it’s cheaper, smarter, and entirely possible to build similar looks based on what can be found in stores within a more reasonable price range. Even Balmain can be used as affordable inspiration, with some searching and creativity. Here’s a cheat sheet for cheap shopping with expensive taste.
In one of the most high fashion shows at New York Fashion Week F/W 2013 last spring, Balmain presented a line that fused a futuristic chic with glamour of the nostalgic 1970s. While head designer, Olivier Rousteing, chose to use overly dramatic silhouettes of geometric proportions in equally drastic fabric and colors, the looks were received phenomenally on the runway but were challenged in terms of everyday wearability.
In one of Rousteing’s more wearable looks, a rich palette of black and blues are accentuated as the sole colors. Triangular patterns align a metallic mini-skirt of cobalt, pale, and navy blues that shine. A layered skinny pant/legging is used underneath the skirt to lead seamlessly into a pair of matching boots. On top, the model is clad in a black blouse that drapes from her arms in columns, subtly folds over her cinched side waistline, and extends her shoulders with the addition of a quilted high collar patch.
In order to take this look from runway to subway, the first task is to find the right top. If warmth is a main priority, Gap’s black Supersoft Turtleneck for $25 will be a perfect layer underneath a $60 Quilted Jacket by H&M or a $45 Quilted Sweater by TopShop. These quilted patterns, while impossible to copy exactly, are prominent in both garments and the turtleneck can reference the stiff raised neck of the runway look. If staying as true as possible to the house’s original piece is in mind, try H&M’s $25 Chiffon Blouse that mimics the same high neckline and billowing sleeve.
In choosing a skirt, minimalism is usually advised, but to push the envelope a bit more, extra measures can be taken. To capture the trending cobalt blue of the season, Necessary Clothing’s $25 Got the Blues Mini-Skirt is perfect in its length, hue, and cut. While simplistic, it successfully stands out on its own while matching the rest of the outfit. To reach an ornate level of street couture, put your own designing skills into place by using H&M’s $6 pack of Decorative Studs in silver or gold along the dress to embellish it even more.
Since Balmain chose to play around in the mixture of fabrics, American Apparel’s $42 Stretch Velvet Legging in black easily translates this same idea in blending textures. For boots, cropping the runway’s full stiletto heel boot down to a chunky-heeled bootie urbanizes the look, especially with Pink & Pepper Duster’s black suede booties for $49 on Zappos.
The final touch to make or break the look is the cinching belt. In this situation, the thicker the belt, the better the look, but decoration also arises as a balancing factor. If you choose to stud your skirt in gold (or you just really like gold), Nasty Gal’s Trilateral Belt with gold outlined triangles is the perfect accessory at $18. For the more ornate, Dorothy Perkin’s $21 Black Gem Waist Belt complements the silver studs but can also make a statement without them adorning the skirt. Either way, both belts will tie the look together and cinch the waist to reference Rusteing’s melodramatic silhouette while still.
For well under designer prices, any college student can strut the street in the latest and greatest fashions. All it takes is a little research, creativity, and, of course, style.
David Bologna is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.