How to Look Expensive When You're Utterly Insolvent

The industry I work in revolves around appearances. Not many people can drop a grand on some sandals, but everyone looks like they can. And this is how you can, too.

Dec 11, 2012 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

I’m appallingly bad with money. Money and financial instability come up a lot on xoJane and I get riddled with guilt about my impulse purchasing and how much I struggle to prioritise the things that I need to buy over the things that I want.


This Stella McCartney is totally not mine.

My relationship with money fills me with anxiety. It has always been easy come, easy go – I’ve never had any problem working out ways and means to get it, which I think is fairly common amongst people with addiction problems. We’re resourceful when it comes to working out how to keep our habits alive.

But I don’t have a trust fund, I don’t do anything shady these days, and I still want to look expensive in that chic, composed way that seems to be expected of you when you work in fashion.

When I was at The MiuMiu London pop-up club the other day (basically the nicest place I've ever been), lusting after some limited edition shoes, one of the girls who works there said ‘I wish I could afford things like that’. It reminded me (yet again) that the industry I work in revolves around appearances. Not many people can drop a grand on some sandals, but everyone looks like they can. And this is how you can, too.


Why can't I have these? WHY?

Firstly, you need some sort of chill aura. I know I keep harping on about it, but Aromatherapy Associates is the best bath oil I have ever found and if you don’t have a bath, you can just rub it all over yourself before you shower. Their Support Equilibrium oil is a delicious combo of rose, geranium and frankincense and is like instant serenity. Not in a sleepy way, but in a grown up, soothing, supportive way. Everyone’s getting it for Christmas.


Support Equilibrium Bath and Shower oil, £37, Aromatherapy Associates.

As Alisande and I were discussing the other day, smelling good is just as important as looking good if you want to go classy and undertones of expensive bath oils are as good as it gets.

Secondly, skin. I’m obsessed with Fresh’s Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask ($88), which is sort of whipped and foamy. It is hydrating and refreshing and smells cool, soft and light, like cucumber and rosewater. It’s gentle enough to be used regularly and has been massively helping with my incredibly dehydrated winter skin. Nothing stops you looking classy faster than a scaly face, so thank you, Fresh, for aiding my deceptions.

Whilst I’m on the topic of my lizard-y skin, Clinique’s Turnaround Overnight Radiance Moisturizer has been amazing over the past few weeks at combating what inevitably happens every winter and distresses me like nothing else. It’s an amazing antidote to dull winter skin – it isn’t greasy, absorbs well and doesn’t cause breakouts whilst gently exfoliating as you sleep.


Turnaround Overnight Radiance Moisturizer, £34, Clinique.

I’ve also been obsessed with MAC’s Fix+ spray. Lots of people seem to use this differently – to mix with foundation, as a primer, whatever, it’s super multifunctional. I just use it after I’ve done my face, I mist it over my makeup a few times and it stops my foundation caking and leaves me looking dewy, almost like I haven’t got makeup on.


Fix + Spray, £7.50, MAC.

I’m completely obsessed with it, it’s alleviating my anxiety around wintery makeup flakiness and if you don’t have it already you should go buy some right now. You’ll thank me. Although impulse purchasing skincare is probably one of the things that contributes to my insolvency. Whatevs, you don’t need to be rich if you look it, and this helps.

And because looking expensive isn’t just about your face, duh, Clark’s Botanicals Skin Clearing Face & Body Wash ($46) will sort the rest of you out. With the highest levels of sacylic acid available without prescription, it is my sort of exfoliant, and is the only product I have ever found which I trust to use on both my body and my face. It’s amazingly refreshing and pore minimizing and is particularly suited for acne-prone skin. I recommend.

Finally, hair and nails are the surefire ways to keep you looking groomed. It doesn’t look particularly expensive if you look like you’re suffering from a major vitamin deficiency (hello!) so I take all of the supplements that my quarterly bloods demand, but I also take Centrum vitamins every day and they do wonders for me.

I’m obsessed with Sally Hansen’s Nailgrowth Miracle Serum (£5.49), which has made my nails the strongest they’ve ever been and Leighton Denny nail varnishes. They are the perfect fluid consistency and the brush is just thin enough to keep my manicures precise, which I am crazy about.


Nail Varnish in Starlet, £11, Leighton Denny.

I always, always, use Seche Vite (£10.95) as a topcoat because it is – without question – the best in the world and dries fast enough for me to avoid getting my hair and pillows imprinted into my nails when I fall asleep. And it’s super shiny. I don’t understand why anyone would ever use anything else.

As we’re talking about shine, Bumble & Bumble’s Shine On (And On) finishing spray is my favourite of the shiny hair mists and my final surefire way to look like you have a few digits in your bank account. They say use it sparingly and they mean it. More than a few spritzes and you’ll need to wash your hair again, but on the bright side, that means it lasts forever. It’s practically saving you money.


Shine On (And On) Finishing Spray, £21.50, Bumble & Bumble.

Voila! My tips for looking like you earn more than minimum wage! Just namedrop some Caribbean holiday destinations and nobody will ever know that you can hardly afford to travel to Zone 2 on the tube, let alone Barbados.

What are your tips for looking lovely and groomed? Can you help me care enough about budgeting to actually do it? Would you rather spend money on moisturizer than food?

Olivia is being insolvent on Twitter @oliviasinger