20 Simple Ways to Update Your Style

By Erin Donnelly

Paying an arm and a leg for gas is one thing. But having to cut out your bimonthly highlights and a new fall wardrobe? Now it’s personal. In this current troubled economy, women are spending less on beauty and fashion, swapping luxury lipsticks for good ol’ Revlon and Cover Girl, and designer denim for lower-priced Levi’s. But if you’re itching for a style makeover or a fresh change, don’t let a shortage of funds stop you. We’ve rounded up 20 simple fashion and beauty tricks that will give your style a big bang, without a lot of buck.
1. Say Cheese. Never underestimate the value of a bright, healthy smile. Read about the best at-home teeth whiteners here and treat yourself to a budget-friendly smile makeover.
2. Brow Wow. Want an instant eye lift? Take your bushy brows in for a professional eyebrow shaping. A pro will shape and define your arches according to their natural flow and what flatters your face most. A more polished (but not overplucked) brow will open up the face, and once the base shape is established, maintenance is limited to tweezing away any strays that crop up.
3. The Urge to Splurge. Invest in one signature luxury item. A new coat, knee-high boots, a black cashmere sweater that you can wear with everything—look for splurge-worthy pieces that will guarantee lots of mileage. Before you buy, calculate how many times you’ll realistically wear the item in question. Divide the price by the number of anticipated wears to get your cost-per-wear breakdown, which will help you gauge whether or not it’s worth it. That red chinchilla coat with the ruffled collar? Definitely not worth it.
4. Swing, Batter Batter. If not even 5 coats of Maybelline Great Lash can take your sparse lashes to the heights you dream of, try falsies. Visit the Shu Uemura counter at your local high-end department store for a wide array of fake eyelashes, ranging from the demure to the dramatic, and pros who can teach you how to apply them properly. (Hint: individual lashes are best for a more natural look.)
5. Crave the Wave. A pricey cut and color isn’t the only way to update your locks. Indulge those Carrie Bradshaw fantasies by bringing out your hair’s natural curl. Ouidad, the Queen of Curl, uses products like Botanical Boost Spray-In Conditioner and PlayCurl Volumizing Mousse to build curls. Add a diffuser attachment to your blow dryer to transform limp, straight locks into bouncy, springy curls.
6. Shape Up Your Silhouette. No time for the gym? Let a body shaper do the work for you. From Spanx to Dr. Rey’s Shapewear, a smoothing undergarment can help you get the contours you crave.
7. Pucker Up. Who needs collagen? Get fuller, Angelina Jolie-esque lips the natural way by coating lips with a plumping lip gloss before you swipe on lipstick. My pick: DuWop Lip Venom, packed with spicy cinnamon and ginger to slightly swell the lip.
8. Hue Glory. You know that beige washes you out and red makes you look like a knockout, but there’s a lot more to picking the right colors than you might think. Color Tools offers an affordable array of color analysis tools that will tell you which colors flatter your skin tone best, along with fabric swatches to take along while shopping. The right colors will brighten you up and make you look younger, making this a no-brainer makeover tool.
9. Go with the Glow. Giving your skin a sunkissed update will help take the years off, but only if you do it right. In other words, the world doesn’t need another George Hamilton. To look naturally bronzed and not tanorexic, opt for a self-tanner or bronzer that imparts a lighter or more gradual dose of color. Recommended: Lancome’s Flash Bronzer Medium Color Self-Tanning Face Gel with Vitamin E, and Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer. If you can afford it, a weekly airbrush tan from a pro is the easiest way to get full, even coverage.
10. The Art of Arm Candy. Even if you can’t shell out for a super-expensive status bag, switching up your purse is a smart choice for a quick seasonal update. For fall and winter, think rich leathers in black and brown. Come spring, a stark white handbag is light and playful yet still versatile, while summer is ideal for woven details or pops of color. Hayden-Harnett is an excellent source for moderately priced bags with high fashion appeal, while most of Nine West’s on-trend pieces retail for $100 or less.
11. Open Up to Organic. Here’s a style update that will earn you some good karma points. With eco-friendly beauty products and fashion lines hitting the mainstream, there’s no excuse not to go green. Read about top organic beauty brands here, and hit the shops in search of eco duds from the likes of C&C California, Beau Soleil, Melissa, and Linda Loudermilk. 

12. Shine On. Ever wonder why some women just look so darn radiant all the time? No, they’re not pregnant, and they don’t live next door to a power plant. Their secret: using a highlighter to boost the skin’s luminosity for a dazzling, younger-looking complexion. To DIY, snag Fresh’s Satin Luster Face Palette and blend in pigment just under your brow, at the inside corners of the eyes, along the cheek, down the bridge of the nose, and on the chin.  

13. Follow Your Nose. Not every makeover has to be visible to the naked eye. Mix things up by switching up your scent. If you’ve always stuck with classic romantic floral blends, look for something with a richer, more exotic edge, or splash on an invigorating citrus scent. Visit LuckyScent.com to catch up on fragrance trends and the latest perfumes.  

14. Say Cheese. Never underestimate the value of a bright, healthy smile. Read about the best at-home teeth whiteners here and treat yourself to a budget-friendly smile makeover.  

15. Altered States. Whether you’ve packed on some pounds or have shed a few, there’s no reason you have to ditch your favorite, not-quite-fitting clothes for good. Take those loose jeans or slightly circulation-blocking suit to a professional tailor to have them adjusted to your new shape. Most alterations cost less than $50, and you’ll walk away with reinvented clothes that fit you to a T.  

16. Get Nailed. Acrylics have had it, and torn cuticles and jagged nails just won’t do. Add instant refinement by treating yourself to a manicure. Think clean and classic with a tasteful beige or soft pink; chips will be less noticeable. 

17. Blown Away. Again, a hair transformation doesn’t always call for scissors. When you need to impress, dash out to your favorite salon for an in-and-out blow-out that’s polished and posh. 

18. Make Up Your Mind. Just because you don’t have Bobbi Brown on speed-dial doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to an A-list makeover once in a while. Stores like Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, and Barneys frequently host free (yep, FREE) makeover events in which pros from the top beauty brands will work their magic and showcase new trends. Check the websites of your local beauty destination for listings of upcoming events.  

19. Hit the Gem. You may breakfast at Tiffany’s, but you eat lunch and dinner at Claire’s Boutique. Find a happy medium by selecting one or two amazing statement jewelry pieces that you can build several outfits around: layered strands of pearls, a chunky beaded necklace, bold stackable bangle bracelets, etc. The right piece of jewelry will make your clothes secondary, so take this opportunity to liven up a basic LBD or even a fitted cotton t-shirt and jeans. Just don’t mix and match two statement pieces-this town’s not big enough. 

20. When You Wish Upon a Star… Is there a celebrity whose wardrobe you’d die to own? (Please don’t say Paris Hilton.) Take some cues from their style-their signature looks, what colors and cuts they prefer, etc.-and look for similar pieces that work for your body and budget. Whether you’re ga-ga for Kate Moss’s skinny jeans and French-striped tops or Salma Hayek’s curve-hugging sundresses, big-screen style can find its way into your closet. Read here for tips on taking style inspiration from Katie Holmes, Oprah Winfrey, Cate Blanchett, and Nicole Richie.


More SMW Fashion & Beauty Advice:

Matchmaker Makeovers: Advice from Professional Cupids

LA Confidential: Inspiration from Your Favorite Celebrity Style Icons

Q&A: Eco-Conscious Fashion