How to nail the ultimate style trick: high/low dressing
Frankie Graddon | The Pool
During the 80s, Tina Brown famously rebuilt Vanity Fair on an ethos of high and low, mixing the highbrow and intellectual together with the light and fluffy; an approach that transformed an ailing magazine into one of the biggest media success stories going. When applied to fashion, that same “high/low” formula is the oldest and most effective style trick in the book. It’s this that creates the all-important balance between looking stylish but not (God forbid) try-hard. Talk to any fashion person and they will tell you that, when it comes to outfits, it all hangs in the “high/low mix”. So, how do we get it?
The first method is mixing the cheap with the chic, the budget with the blowout, the luxe with the less – we’re talking price points. I have a friend who is brilliant at making M&S look like Mulberry because of her “elevators” rule: one luxury item per outfit to “elevate” the rest of it. “No one thinks you’re wearing mid-season-sale Zara when you’ve got a posh bag on, F.” She’s a whizz at sniffing out designer discount bags at Bicester Village (she once returned home with a half-price Céline cross-body, which still makes me sick with jealousy), but if you’d rather shop from your sofa, check out The Outnet and Vestiaire Collective for high-end pieces at doable prices. Of course, it doesn’t have to mean splurging on a designer bag – another friend found a vintage Hermès belt on Etsy and swears by this to give her high-street jeans and T-shirt a bit of polish. Equally, you might be more of a shoe or jewellery person – whatever floats your boat. But a little dash of “high” can have a big effect.
The second high-low method – and the one I want to really talk about – is the one that means you can wear a ruffled dress without looking like the Queen Mother. Or a pair of dungarees and not look like you’re off to playgroup. It’s mixing the posh with the scruffy, the fancy with the everyday, the bling with the ming (well, not actually ming, but you catch my drift). Designers have been doing this for years – remember when Dior did ballgowns with trainers? Very high/low. (Actually, very Lily Allen circa 2006.) Or when Chloé invented wedge trainers – literally, low-to-high. Or when Saint Laurent throws a leather jacket over a sequin disco-dress, and Vetements puts a hoodie under a tailored jacket. THAT’S the high/low mix and it’s actually really easy to do.
The formula is simple: one part high to two parts low. For example, take one floral midi dress (high) and put it with a leather jacket (low) and a pair of flat, clonky boots (also low). While a tailored blazer (high) might, on first impressions, appear too corporate, stick a fitted sweatshirt underneath (low) and a pair of slouchy trousers (low), and you’ve got yourself a far more appealing proposition. Bored of feeling like a scruffbag in jeans? Switch your regular white Stan Smiths for a pair of jazzy trainers (look at these velvet Converse) and put on a dressy pair of earrings (high + high).
Not only does the high/low fashion mix look great, it can also open up a whole new realm of possibilities in your existing wardrobe. Case in point: I was recently struggling to wear this amazing skirt from Monsoon on account of it being too dressy for everyday, until I tucked in a plain white T-shirt and added a denim jacket. Suddenly, a piece that had been consigned to my “in event of being a wedding guest” drawer turned into something I could wear to the office. See? The ultimate style trick.
SEVEN WAYS TO DO THE HIGH/LOW FASHION MIX