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Dressing for less doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing items at budget stores. It can also mean purchasing better-end items at discounted prices. Even at discounted prices, very few people can afford to dress in labels from head to toe, but a single statement item can make all the difference. It might be the item that pulls the outfit together, or takes things up a notch. This is particularly true for work business ensembles. Not only will a great statement piece create a positive impression, but it will also boost your confidence.

Of course, you do have to be cognizant of the statement you’re making. When it comes to career wear you might be looking to show professionalism with a pulled together outfit, creativity with something bold and unexpected, or just the good impression associated with a piece of high quality workmanship.

In this post I will outline some things to think about as you search for that elusive killer statement piece that fits within your budget.

Brands are Sometimes Important

In business the people making snap judgements based on first impressions (and the reality is that so many people do) are not necessarily fashion-savvy like you are. Aside from the obvious quality of some items, their only signal may be the brands that they see. You may hate the fact that they think better of you because of your Prada handbag and Stuart Weitzman shoes, but that might be the reality.

Note that brands are often about more than a name or logo. Many brands have design details that have become iconic, like the Burberry check, the Louis Vuitton pattern, and the Chanel chain handle and quilted fabric.

The Universal Appeal of Quality

Branding is not always positive and can be associated with extravagance. Overt branding may be a turn off for some people, a sign that your priorities are different to theirs. The key is to know the environment and dress accordingly.

Quality, on the other hand, is universal. There is something about beautiful workmanship that is recognizable and aspirational. And while it is often true that expensive designer items are expensive for the name alone, this isn’t always the case. There are many examples of high end items that fit better, wear better and generally exhibit a higher level of workmanship. For example, the drape on a Hugo Boss or Theory suit is hard to beat because the fit and fabrication are a cut above the rest.

I believe that even when the branding isn’t visible, this quality can shine through.

Design Exclusivity

Getting that extra bit of interesting design detailing is another reason to purchase a statement piece. Buy something at the Banana Republic sale and you’ll see other people wearing it too. Purchase the right statement piece and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Whether or not you want to stand out from the crowd will depend on the situation, but in many cases individuality will be a positive thing.

Picking the Right Item

You’ll hear this over and over again in the fashion and style world: better end shoes, handbags, jackets, coats and suits make an instant style statement. These items are central to the outfit and can carry the statement, so to speak. It is much harder to create a statement with a separate like a shirt or pair of pants, which are more like the support act of the ensemble.

Items like footwear and handbags can be faithful statement pieces for many seasons. And even if a piece is more expensive than your budget normally allows, the cost per wear will whittle down to nothing if they work hard for several years. Look for items that will go the distance.

It is more cost effective to make your better end statement piece something fairly timeless. Not only will this be useful for a lot longer than something that is trendy for one season, but you are also far more likely to find it on a discount or second hand.

Remember that it’s all about HOW you wear something that counts. Purchase better-end classic pieces and combine them with less expensive trendy pieces to make them look current. Often, it’s a spunky and fashion forward hairstyle that makes a high end classic item look hip.

Ultimately… Other Things are More Important

The things you say and do, and the results you achieve will be far more important than any item you are wearing. But a good ensemble can create a good first impression, it can give you a boost of confidence, and most importantly, it can be fun. The right statement piece can take your ensemble to the next level.

Better end statement pieces need not break the bank if you choose them carefully. You can buy on discount at an outlet store, or second hand at a consignment store or on eBay. And who are we to turn down a fabulous hand me down!

In fact, the cost per wear of a hard working, better-end statement piece might be lower than many of the inexpensive items in your wardrobe.