Frugal Fashionista: Inaugural Fashion for Under $200

Blogger Kate Michael found a dress and several accessories that are perfect for an inaugural ball—for under $200.

As Washingtonians frantically finalize plans for inaugural activities, over at Frugal Fashionista we’ve been brainstorming ideas for a swoon-worthy outfit for less than the price of most inaugural tickets. And who better to enlist for the task than former Miss DC and K Street Kate blogger Kate Michael? The pageant queen and model knows a thing (or 30) about dressing up, but she admits to frequently dropping more than a few Benjamins on dresses and shoes.

Before we got started, Michael was rattling off questions like a pro: Long or short? Was a bag included? Were any stores off limits? Even better, she was offering advice. It turns out that many of her pageant gowns, despite their black-tie formality, can’t be worn to events such as a ball—mostly because they have a train, which would rip or be soiled in a large crowd.

So we made the task hard for this veteran shopper—$200, no more, for a full inaugural-ball-worthy outfit that she herself would consider sporting to an upcoming event.

As far as rules go, we assumed that Michael was searching for a dress she’d wear herself but that her wardrobe was admittedly more limited than it is. We assumed she owned basic undergarments and tights—but nothing fancy.

Here’s what she found:

Black-and-gold strapless Jessica McClintock dress: $99.
Black splatter hoop earrings from Forever 21: $3.80.
Textured gold bangle set from Forever 21: $5.80.
Retro black-and-gold necklace from Pilgrim: $46.50.
Evita black satin clutch from Forever 21: $15.80.

Total: $170.90. ** Our first frugal fashionista to come in under budget!

What Michael thinks:

“With a budget so tight, vintage or upscale resale is the only way to go.” Plus, she adds, you can be sure that nobody will be looking like your twin in the same dress. She recommends Forever 21 for cheap, chic accessories, but she chose to splurge on a necklace from Pilgrim, which was to be the focal point of her jewelry. “I also thought the black satin clutch brought the outfit from ‘mod’ into 2009, adding a bit of feminine romance.”

The dress, she says, is a statement on its own, so she balanced it with classic colors such as black and gold and went for simple lines in the jewelry to avoid looking too costumey. “This Pilgrim necklace is my favorite because it’s not too dressy and it’s very versatile,” she notes. “It’d even look great the next day to spice up a dressed-down pair of jeans.”

Despite having a bit of money left, she didn’t decide to find matching shoes. After all, almost any pair of black strappy sandals would work with this look, she says, and that’s something most women already have in their closets. “Making use of what you have is important for a frugal fashionista,” she says. We agree!

Why we love the outfit: As expected, Michael did a great job picking out her inaugural outfit. We don’t even mind that she didn’t buy shoes—women really do need to make use of what’s in their closets when searching for a new look. After all, how often can you really wear a great pair of evening shoes? And we’re inclined to think that the necklace would suffice on its own as jewelry—the earrings and bracelet are pretty, but not 100 percent necessary. The dress was a great find, and we love that nobody else will be wearing it. Plus, she even has money left over for cab fare!

Excited for future Frugal Fashionistas? Upcoming installments include a new makeup look for less than $50, an office-worthy getup for less than $100, and a hostess-with-the-mostest outfit for $75 or less.

Think you’re a budget-balancing babe (or boy)? Senda note to if you’d like to be featured in an upcoming segment.

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