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Having it all for less? It’s a dream for women who obsessively dream about living the luxe life, like yours truly. Okay, “obsessive” may not be the right word, but I do covet the finer things in life and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m no Hollywood starlet, though, nor am I a socialite of Hilton-esque proportions. The best I can do is create my own personal version of luxury — those special little indulgences that make the toughest days easier and generally make life more enjoyable.

Believe it or not, this is easy to achieve without sacrificing my life savings. Though I can’t pretend I don’t love a great designer handbag, a trip abroad or a sexy dress straight off the red carpet, I also love shopping smart. Here are a few tips I adhere to from time to time:

1) Give in to temptation — wisely. If there’s a designer piece I really can’t get out of my mind, I hang on to the name and shop around a few months later, when it’s likely to be sold for less. Discount websites like RueLaLa, Hautelook and Gilt are great sources.

2) Don’t discount “cheap” clothes on the basis of their price. Some of my best pieces are tops and accessories scored at bargain-basement prices, and they’ve lasted me for years.

3) Goodwill is a surprising source of luxe for less. I eschewed this option for a long time until I discovered the retailer’s auction website, ShopGoodwill.com. Spend some time browsing — you’ll be surprised at just how many new (with tags!) items there are, priced obscenely low.

4) Traveling is a huge luxury that usually comes with an equally impressive bill. Popular discount websites like Groupon and LivingSocial make it really easy to find great deals, whether my interest is traveling to a neighboring state, across the country or overseas.

5) Subscription boxes are affordable and fun to receive, especially if you’re commitment-phobic and don’t want to spend big bucks on products you aren’t sure you’ll love. Many are beauty-specific, like Glossybox, and each monthly yields generous sample sizes of makeup, fragrance and skincare products.

6) I am a spa fiend. I’d live in one if I could. But being that it’s not quite an option, I sometimes opt for the next best thing: at-home spa days, which admittedly require a little more energy, but can be equally pampering and indulgent. From facials to manicures to deep conditioning masques, there’s nothing I can’t do at home — for way less than I would at the spa.

7) I’m no longer the beauty snob I once was. Sure, I can’t part with my $70+ moisturizer because it just plain works, but I can easily round out the rest of my routine with drugstore products that do their jobs perfectly. I’m no stranger to $5 face masks, $2 lip balms and $4 body lotions — they’re all phenomenal. And these days, budget beauty offerings feel incredibly luxe thanks to more effective formulas and better packaging.


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image: Gilt, Glossybox

Q. Are wedge sneakers still in style?

A. If you’re one of the many who invested in a pair of Isabel Marant-inspired wedge sneakers, you knew this day would come, right? A trend that started as cool and different (though I was never personally a fan) has officially gone mainstream, being offered by everyone from high-end designers to Wal-Mart. You know a trend has run its course when every tween at the mall is wearing it. So, grown-ups, it’s time to retire your wedge style sneakers for what we hope is forever. Instead, try one of these chic sneakers with a bit more staying power instead:

Q. I really like this year’s spring trend of printed denim, not all of them, but the ones with small and subtle prints. But the problem is, I am 30. On top of it, I am petite, I don’t look like 30, the most common thing I hear when I tell people my age is “you look so young!”…I hate it, so normally I stick to formals and mostly neutrals. So my question is, should I skip this trend? I don’t want to look like I am wearing my niece’s pants nor do I want people to faint on knowing I am 30.

A. Printed jeans are more wearable than you might think, and definitely not just for teenagers. The key is to choose a “sophisticated” pair and wear it with tailored separates and heels if you are petite. Try pairing yours with button downs, blazers, floaty blouses and dressy tees. For shoes, try a pump, wedge or strappy sandal. Here are a few looks to show how women over 30 can wear printed jeans.

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Q. I’ve recently lost a lot of weight and don’t feel like I know appropriate dress lengths anymore. What is acceptable to wear to work? Is a couple of inches above the knee ok? Could you show me where a skirt/dress should hit with a picture?

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A. Congrats on your weight loss and your newfound confidence! The basic rule for dress and skirt length for the office is to keep your hem at or just above the knee — about 2 inches above the knee at the shortest length. Of course, all office dress codes are different; a conservative office might require skirts to be knee length or longer, while a casual or creative office might permit skirts that are shorter than a couple inches above the knee. If you’re unsure of what is permitted at work, take a look at some of your superiors to see what skirt lengths they tend to wear.

Below are 5 skirts of different lengths, starting on the left from below the knee and gradually moving upward to several inches above the knee (mid-thigh) at the right. Consider this a sliding scale from conservative to casual/creative offices. If your office falls somewhere in the middle (as most do), then your safest skirt length is 2 inches above the knee or longer.

If your office does allow shorter skirts, you should still always strive to look professional. Be sure to do a test before leaving your house where you sit and bend over to ensure that your skirt doesn’t ride up too high. Also, you should balance a shorter length skirt with conservative shoes and top at the office. A tank top, miniskirt and strappy heels is never ok, even in the most casual office.

Q. I love that shorts are longer this season, but I always feel so frumpy in Bermuda shorts. Can you help me find a flattering pair?

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A. Bermuda shorts were a hit on the Spring runways and a nice alternative to the short shorts we’ve been seeing for many seasons now. Depending on the style of shorts you choose as well as what you pair with them, they can be dressed up for work and evening, or dressed down for weekends. Here are a few tips for finding your most flattering pair (and avoiding the frump):

  • Choose a slim-cut pair for the most flattering silhouette.
  • Petite women want to look for a pair that hits a couple of inches above the knee, while women with longer legs can wear shorts that hit at or over the knee. (Tip: You can cuff your shorts to get them to your ideal length — or bring them to a tailor for a more finished look.)
  • Wear shorts with heels or wedges to lengthen and visually slim your legs. Flats work too, but tend to make legs look shorter

Here are some looks for inspiration:.

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