12 affordable fashion swaps to help you look good, feel good and save money
So you can add to bucket list, and cart
Holly Golightly may have been satisfied just having breakfast at Tiffany’s. But when I was 12 years old and sneakily watching Legally Blonde (2001), I saw the Tiffany Heart Tag Charm Bracelet hanging from Elle Woods’ wrist, and became a pre-teen possessed. Elle Woods had it, all the tweens on TV shows had it, so I begged my dad for one.
Twenty years later, I find that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I still gaze wistfully at photos of tufted Chanel bags, but I’ve made my peace with it. Sure, I have some icons on my wishlist, but adulting (aka spending your hard-earned money) and living through a pandemic makes you re-prioritise, you know? Vacuum cleaner over Valentino.
I still love fashion, and one day I will save up enough to buy one of those classics. Until then, I satisfy myself knowing great style can be found in high street fashion, and that a little retail therapy never hurt anyone, especially during taxing times. According to clinical psychologist Akshita Shukla, it’s a short-term, healthy coping mechanism. “Buying groceries isn’t retail therapy. It’s the purchases you make to relieve emotional distress, and it can be quite therapeutic,” she explains.
In our ‘best of both worlds’ list, I pay homage to some classics we’ve all lusted after (and continue to) — and drum up affordable fashion swaps for each aspirational pick. Here are 24 products, the iconic originals and their affordable fashion swaps — the former to inspire you to keep dreaming, and the latter, to turn your dreams into reality.
PS: I may not have a Chanel purse, but I do have a dad who many years later, bought me that Tiffany bracelet. It sits perfectly in my wrist stack, against the beads I picked up from my travels in North India, and a silver bangle from Colaba Causeway.
Affordable fashion swaps to make today
Photo credit: Anavila, Rs 14,500/ Jaypore, Rs 916
The heirloom dupatta
From Chunari Chunari, to Lal Dupatta Mulmul Ka, there’s a reason the dupatta is a mainstay in Bollywood songs. It’s because it can swoop in and become the hero piece of every outfit. A solid, neutral salwar kameez can be transformed with a statement dupatta, add a dupatta to a crop top and skirt and you can convince your mum you did dress in Indian wear for the neighhbour’s puja.
Which is why we love the Persian jamdani linen dupatta from Anavila — a brand known for its sustainable fashion efforts, working with local artisans and for giving the sari a contemporary linen avatar. Meet its affordable match in the lush peach silk cotton dupatta with zari from Jaypore, a portal that unites the best designs from Indian artisans from across the country.
No matter your pick, you’re scoring points in the style and conscience department.
Photo credit: Lajjoo C, Rs 39,900/ Once Upon a Trunk, Rs 4,100
The bandhani suit
Tie-dye fashion went mainstream with the free love generation of the ‘70s. Scroll through the Zara app today, and you’ll find about fifteen different variations. It never goes out of style. Neither does India’s answer to tie-dye, bandhani.
We love the dark magenta, embroidered bandhani kurta from Lajjoo C, a brand synonymous with classic silhouettes, crafted in the lushest fabrics. It comes with brocade pants (brocade = certified classic), and it’s the kind of piece that your 60-year-old mom will want to steal, as will your 16-year-old cousin.
The hand-blocked, naturally-dyed cotton bandhani suit, from Once Upon a Trunk captures the essence of the bandhani spirit just as well, at a fraction of the price.
Photo credit: Fab India, Rs 22,990 / Achoo, Rs 6,499
The silk saree
There’s no investment piece quite like the sari. There’s also no garment that’s equally flattering on every shape.
The gorgeous bright silk tussar chikankari sari from Fab India will ensure all eyes are on the blooming flower wearing it, but if you’re looking to save money and hankering to buy a silk sari to add to your growing collection, opt for the Yasmin handblock chanderi silk sari from Aachoo.
Photo credit: Raw Mango, Rs 79,800 / Nykaa Fashion, Rs 3,750
The brocade salwar kameez
Every dadi owns an heirloom silk brocade outfit — they age just as well as the wearer. The woven fabric looks as good on a cocktail dress as a choli and no one does a bold, bright brocade better than Raw Mango. Their rani pink silk brocade set features motifs in the Kadwa technique.
Until you can save up enough (or get lucky in their sale), the Nykaa Fashion desi waves pink brocade kurta is our pick.
Photo credit: MatchesFashion, Rs 33,200/ Zara, Rs 2,990
The blazer jacket
Hands up if you have no idea what the actual difference between a single and double-breasted jacket is. Hands up now if you still think a sexy, structured jacket is the best way to elevate a basic jeans-t-shirt combo.
A well-tailored blazer is the cornerstone of a working woman’s wardrobe — and the Isabel Marant Charly single-breasted herringbone wool blazer is great to throw over tailored separates to channel your inner Miranda Priestly. The polyester -viscose blend, Zara version proves that affordable fashion can be just as chic.
Photo credit: Misho Designs, Rs 8,500/ Tribe by Amrapali, Rs 412
The timeless gold hoops
“Put on your hoops and remember who you are” — I don’t know where I read this, but ever since, I’ve felt like a different person when I put on my hoops, and got ready to take on the world. Maybe it’s the act of dressing up, maybe it’s how fashion empowers you to feel good because you look good, maybe it’s because hoops are a cheat to dress up a bland outfit. Basically everyone must own a pair.
A favourite of the Kardashians, Deepika Padukone and more, Misho Designs’ Hollow hoops will ring you right up into the big leagues. Handcrafted in sterling silver, featuring a 22K gold gloss, they’re the investment piece that you’ll wear over and over.
Tribe by Amrapali’s brass with 18K gold plating Classic hoops are just as cute, dependable and tick of all the affordable fashion boxes. We say, buy them and circle back for the Misho Designs when you’re ready to splurge.
Photo credit: Tribe by Amrapali, Rs 23,690/ Fab India, Rs 4,590
The traditional jhumkas
Intricate, dazzling jhumkas are to an Indian outfit what a spicy ghee tadka is to dal — the perfect finishing touch.
When it comes to fine jewellery, no one does it as well as Amrapali — their gold-plated, silver peacock devi earrings with pearl tassels, studded with red glass, are the perfect splurge gift for yourself, or someone you love (a lot).
Fab India’s gold-plated silver jhumkas are a pretty version, perfect for someone who’s looking for something lighter on the ears, and on the pocket.
Photo credit: Tiffany, price on request/ Tipsy Fly, Rs 1,450
The chain bracelet
When it comes to classic investment pieces, there’s nothing like a simple link bracelet to dress up a wrist. We’re chained to the Tiffany Clasping Link Bracelet, crafted in 18k gold — that you can attach any number of charms to.
Tipsy Fly’s linked chain bracelet can step in as an affordable fashion swap until you’re ready for the big league.
Photo credit: Mikimoto Rs 2,53,752/ Lune, Rs 8,600
The pearl necklace
Whether you’re a fashion aficionado who has grown up hearing about Mikimoto’s cultured pearls, or just been trying to steal your dadi’s strings, every time realised grandma fashion was trending, you have to admit, a string of pearls is the Audrey Hepburn of fashion.
Now, Mikimoto and affordable may not be synonymous with each other, but the Mikimoto Comme des Garçons Necklace, featuring 6mm Akoya cultured pearls set in silver, a contemporary update on the classic pearl necklace, is the perfect pick across genders, and age. The iconic collaboration also makes it quite the collector’s item.
The Lune charmed solid pearl necklace (gold polish on sterling silver) is a daintier and equally show-stopping swap.
The SATC-inspired name necklace
There’s just something about personalised gifts that make them so much more special. Whether it’s a monogrammed pair of his and hers pyjamas, or a customised cream developed just for you and your prickly skin, or a name necklace that someone specially designed for you.
Photo credit: Nordstrom, Rs 1,26,889/ Hidesign, Rs 13,995
The classic black sling
Girls like to swing… and sling. And when it comes to shoulder bags, there’s one thing most fashion editors and stylists can agree on — there’s nothing like a Saint Laurent bag to invest in. The brand is an iconic French fashion house that’s been around since the ‘60s and while it’s best known for its tuxedo suit for women, the Le Smoking jacket, its luxury bags have become a ‘forever’ item among collectors.
Their Kate matelassé leather shoulder bag is the one you should pick if you’re looking for an investment buy — its interchangeable straps mean you can switch from in-hand carry to over-the shoulder, effortlessly.
Our affordable fashion swap for this icon is from homegrown Indian brand, Hidesign — the chic Sevruga Sling bag, crafted in equally hardy leather.
Photo credit: Sunglass Hut, Rs 8,290/ Fast Track, Rs 1,299
The iconic aviators
There’s a reason aviators make you feel like a, nay, the top gun. The embodiment of cool, they’ve shielded the eyes of everyone from Elvis Presley and Bianca Jagger to Priyanka Chopra and even the Kardashian Jenners.
Ray Ban’s classic green, gold metal-rimmed pair is one for the history books. If you don’t have someone to steal from, or are saving your money, opt for the hardy, affordable and UV protecting Fast Track aviators.