How To Look Polished On A Budget, According To Rachel Zoe

Christopher Patey

You'd be forgiven for thinking Rachel Zoe, queen of maximalism and all things luxury, wouldn't be well versed in savvy spending. But you'd be wrong. Having taken a job at the Mall At Short Hills in New Jersey to bankroll her teen shopping obsession, Zoe picked up tips for looking polished on a budget, and plenty of them. "Cultivating great style takes more creativity when working within a tight budget," says Zoe, who says she's constantly inspired by people who mix high and low, source pieces from thrift stores and tweak their own clothes. "Anyone can look great when dressed in head-to-toe designer, but it takes innate style to create a great look without spending a fortune."

It's also one of the reasons she is such a fan of shopping vintage. "Not only is it better for the environment, the pieces are unique and typically timeless," says Zoe. And therein lies one of her top tips: stocking up on items that stand the test of time. Which is, unsurprisingly, the central theme of her seasonal subscription membership service, Box of Style, which offers members a selection of products that retail for over $400, for just $99.99. "I'm not interested in giving people things just for the sake of it," says Zoe, who hand picks every item that makes the cut.

The result is an array of items that are both elevated enough to add polish, but versatile and timeless enough to blend into your existing wardrobe for use season after season. Here, a few more of her tips for looking perfectly put-together without spending a bundle — and the key pieces you'll need to follow them.

Statement Jewelry

Whether that means a unique cocktail ring or a bold earring, any outfit looks instantly more polished when topped with a conversation-worthy accessory. "I'm partial to every kind of statement jewelry, but a big earring is a very universal way to capitalize on this trick," says Zoe, who collaborated with Nicole Richie's House of Harlow on a pair of earrings. Add them to elevate a sweater and jeans, or pair simply with a slip dress for the evening. The result is effortless yet elegant.

Luxe, Multi-Tasking Knitwear

J Ryan Ulshe

"You don't have to be swaddled in floor-length cashmere to look glamorous," says Zoe. "Simply look for knits in classic prints and draped silhouettes to add a dose of luxury." Get more bang for your buck by choosing a style that lends itself to layering, belting, and being dressed up or down. Can you wear it as a cardigan or a scarf like this Cleobella style? If so, that's a win in Zoe's book.

Versatile Beauty Look For Day & Night

Perfect a beauty look that makes you feel like your most polished self. Perhaps it's the perfect burgundy lip, or a bold brow, but for Zoe, it's a wash of eyeshadow. "I'm often going from the office to meetings to evening events, so I like a versatile beauty look I can dial up on-the-go," says Zoe. "A mini shadow palette lets me start with a light shimmer and gradually build up to my signature smoky eye by evening," which is why Zoe incorporated one of her Lorac shadow palettes in her Select Edition.

Classic & Timeless Accessories

Christopher Patey

It-bags and trendy accessories are wonderful if you have money to burn, but when you're looking to stretch the dollar, it's the classics that will serve you best. "I feel undressed without a good belt and a watch," says Zoe, who is rarely seen without either, even while wearing a linen dress in the height of summer. "A watch just rounds out your polish as a professional," says the designer, who chose a simple silhouette in a less unexpected rose gold to add a unique spin to her Select Box. She recommends wearing it with everything from poplin shirts to printed dresses.

"A belt is a non-negotiable staple for everyone," says Zoe, ever the consummate stylist. "An adjustable style like this can be worn over coats in the winter, or used to define your waist when wearing a billowy sundress in the summer." And like that, you have an arsenal of versatile tips and the products with which to execute them. To shop them easily, check out the Box Of Style.