Fashion & Beauty

Luxe for Less

By Janet Kelly

ALL THE cool girls in middle school had Papagallo loafers. And I so yearned to have a pair. Despite my begging, though, my mother refused to understand why we should pay more money for brand-name shoes when we could buy similar ones (to her eye, not to mine) for way less.

I’ve come around to my mom’s way of thinking but not because I don’t covet that gorgeous Prada skirt, Dries Van Noten jacket, Marni dress or Row handbag. Even a decade ago, I could afford high-end designer names (particularly when they were on sale), but today prices for many of these labels have gone up so astronomically, they’ve become beyond the reach of mere mortals.

Given the current state of prices for designer clothing and accessories, I went browsing for worthy substitutes for a Prada skirt from last fall, a small shoulder bag from The Row, Roger Vivier ballet flats for this spring and more.

Here’s what I found:


LEFT: A runway look from Prada’s fall 2023 collection, the duchesse satin midi skirt has a tulle overlay that’s hand embroidered with large rosettes. It sells for a breathtaking $11,500 at Saks Fifth Avenue. (The wool-and-cashmere sweater, which tones down the dressiness of the skirt, sells for $1,850, also at Saks.)

CENTER: Love the Prada look, but not the price? Ted Baker’s Louelaa pleated midi skirt in a rose-textured lace fabric (polyester) has a similar delicate vibe but sells for $237, reduced from $475. The matching blouse (customer service says it’s currently out of stock) is kind of prissy when paired with the skirt—perhaps a better choice to wear for a fancy summer garden party or if you’re a bride.

RIGHT: For a more sophisticated but relaxed coupling (à la Prada), pair Cos’s cotton circle-cut midi skirt ($220) accented with floral embellishments that wrap around the hem with its matching short-sleeve shirt ($170, in limited sizes).


LEFT:The Balla is Dear Frances’s take on the ballerina flat. Scattered with crystals, the glove-like shoe, made of mesh and finished with leather trim, will bring a subtle party vibe to your look. They sell for $495 at Nordstrom.

ABOVE RIGHT: For something similar, Zara’s shiny mesh ballet flats would fill the bill. Moreover, if they get scuffed or you lose a rhinestone or three, you’ll feel better that you spent $69 instead of almost $500 for shoes with limited versatility.

CENTER RIGHT: A thing of beauty in springy pink and white, these buttery leather pointed-toe flats with patent leather piping and lacquered buckle by Roger Vivier will elongate and slim your foot. A rubber sole promises a cushy feel. These sell for $825 at Nordstrom.

LOWER RIGHT: More striking than the Roger Vivier, Bells & Becks polished leather flats with a slender square toe combine eye-catching fuchsia, a sleek design—including an oversize buckle—and comfort —with a padded leather insole. Also available in white and blue patent leather, they sell for several hundred dollars less than the Vivier—$375.


LEFT: The full sleeves on Tibi’s Deluxe Tube Yarn Pullover trim down the torso and call attention to the smallest part of the body. Made from a cotton-nylon blend of recycled chunky yarn, the loose-knit sweater hits slightly above the waistline, the proportion we’ve been admiring. The puffy top is $695.

RIGHT: Anthropologie’s Textured Top also has those stylish puff sleeves, is made of a cotton and polyester blend and has the cropped proportion of the Tibi sweater. The construction of the Tibi knit looks finer than Anthropologie’s, but the latter is one-tenth of the price at $68.


LEFT: Cos Stores’s leather, cotton-lined, half-moon shaped swing bag (12.36″w x 4.33″h x  3.93″d) looks hip slung across the body with its wide adjustable strap. Available in brown, black and beige, in addition to this season’s new cream color, it sells for $150.

CENTER: The Row’s half-moon leather bag (8″w x 7″h x 2.5″d) in the season’s must-have burgundy sums up the brand’s minimalist and coveted aesthetic. With its flat shoulder strap and curved shape, it sits seamlessly beneath the shoulder. It sells for $1,390 at FWRD.

RIGHT: It’s not for every occasion, but it’s hard to beat the functionality—and $19.90 price—of Uniqlo’s Round Mini Shoulder Bag ( 11”w x 6.7″h x 3.9”d) for every day. Like the Row bag, it’s shaped to fit the body, is made from dirt-resistant nylon and is sized to fit your smartphone and wallet.


P.S. My mom finally did give me the money to buy a pair of Papagallos. Maybe it was the universe trying to tell me something, but I left my brand-new shoes in a train station, never to be recovered.



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