Looking elegant on a dime is not impossible. It simply requires a little thought. Looking elegant is slightly different than looking sexy and certainly not the same as looking trampy. The Jersey girls have made a name for themselves. Loud, tattooed, rambunctious, is being sold to us as fun. It's a crazy new interpretation for "keeping it real," or being "true to yourself." The trouble is, if you have to act that hard to be "real" you're not for real, ironically, you're just acting badly. Elegant people have manners. There is a reason for manners. Manners make other people feel comfortable, equate "manners" with being gracious. Just having a lot of money does not make a person have manners. Being cold, or snooty or cliquish, is not having manners.
Being gracious means you smile and say hello when introduced to someone new. Hold out your hand for a firm handshake. Make eye contact when you smile. If you have something nice to say, say it! Who ever felt bad when you mentioned you liked the last piece they wrote, or were impressed by a project at the office? It's not fake if you mean it. If you don't have anything nice to say, you are not required to say it. Kanye West really didn't have to interrupt the music award last year to "keep it real." His comment was rude, uncalled for, and mean spirited. He is entitled to his own opinion, that was not the time nor place to express it. He was capitalizing on the camera to gain notoriety. That isn't elegant. That's awful.
Being elegant means you don't have to make grand gestures about your financial status. You can wear well made well fitting clothes without splashing the designer's name across your chest. Quite frankly they ought to be paying you to advertise if the designer's name is anywhere except in the inside label. So don't think a knock of Gucci bag is more elegant than a well made plain leather bag, it's not. Being elegant means your clothes are classic cuts of subdued or interesting colors. It isn't elegant to wear huge rocks of CZ's. Buy a tastefully set diamond. Wear a necklace that matches the neckline of your top, earring that match necklace and a bracelet of the same metal. Don't clash gold and silver. Platinum and silver at least look the same color. For a solid color outfit a bold chunky necklace looks elegant. With a print fabric too much jewelry looks "busy" and not classy.
If you have a slender figure fitted clothes look nice. If you are big though, clothes that are too tight look very unattractive. Bursting out of your clothes looks cheap, even if the clothes themselves are designer and expensive. Super low cut jeans that expose the strings of your thong don't look good on anyone, even slender girls. When the models on the cat walk show them they look alright because the models are standing up. When a person in hip riding jeans bends over or sits in a chair the entire butt is exposed and it's super unattractive, frankly it's lewd.
IF you have a tattoo, consider it when you put on clothes. It's wonderful to have a very ornate chest tattoo, but if you dress or shirt covers half of it, it may look odd. Tattoos on the back are even more important to think about because everyone can see them but you. Either cover it completely or expose it completely. Wear clothes that don't clash with the tattoo colors, or get monochromatic tattoos. Run down heels are another thing that are very noticeable to everyone but you. You grab a quick once over in the full length mirror and you don't think about it. IF you can, find a way to get a two way or three sided mirror into your house so you can observe all angles. There's a reason "down at the heels" is a negative connotation. It's not elegant.
An elegant look is made up of quality pieces. Invest in the nicest things you can comfortably afford to buy. Don't buy over your income, stressing over your creditors is not elegant. If you can't outfit your house with Christian Dior or Laura Ashley, then consider putting fresh flowers on the table. They look nice, liven up any room and smell better than chemical air fresheners.
If you can't afford original artwork for your walls, consider framing interesting pieces or fabric, or putting up family photos in matching frames. Don't crowd wall space with tons of knick knackery. Let a large piece direct the room. Work your other decorative items around the theme. For example if you live in a rustic cabin then wood and metal antiques might go with your dÃ©cor better than sleek modern pieces. If you live in an uptown apartment you can chrome to your heart's content, and so on.
Elegant is as elegant does, don't yell and scream when lowering your voice will get people to pay attention. Don't compete, be yourself. You have nothing to prove. Clothing that you like that fits you well will look so much better and last so many more seasons than anything "in-style" because a magazine said so. In fact give up fashion magazines altogether. They don't know what's elegant. They only know what's selling now. Be the thermostat not the thermometer.IF you want to be elegant feed your mind. If you must read magazines, read ones that teach you something. IF you like to knit, or bead, or ride motorcycles or build old cars they have magazines now in every genre. If you like politics or religion find good unbiased sources. Quite frankly a lot of the news magazines on the stands today, even newspapers have gone the way of fashion magazines. The fluff pieces on famous people dominate the pages. Read National Geographic, at least for the pictures if you don't know what else to read. It will give you topics of conversation at the water cooler that are more interesting that who wore what to the latest reality tv show awards.