Money Can’t Buy Style

Years ago I worked with a woman who only bought her clothes at Woolworths. Her handbags had to be genuine leather and shoes either Froggies or whatever other quality brand that escapes my mind right now. It could have been Green Cross or Tsonga. Whatever it was, it was a brand and it’s believed to be expensive. “I believe in buying only the best quality” she would say while implying that costs lots of money, much to my constant annoyance. I’m sure you’ve all seen the Woolies water videos and memes and have some idea about what I’m about to say.

For one, I’m finding these videos hilarious. Not the general opinion of all South Africans. There are plenty of people who take offense to it. For them it is a daily struggle or past hurt that cannot heal. This saddens me and makes me understand why they loathe it. Who am I to take away years of anger and pain from people who have been smack bang in the middle of racism. Secondly, these videos remind me of my ex colleague and oh so many people who only shop at Woolworths or larney department stores, because well, it’s quality. Mostly it’s a status thing. But they do make me laugh. A. Lot. Because while I believe in the quality of Woolworths products and buy there often, I don’t think it makes me any more special than anyone else. Nor does it make their loyal clientel special. As for quality, I do believe there are other stores that provide the same and sometimes better quality. And relax. I’m not about to trash Woolies. That will make me all kinds of hypocrite. I’m about to tell you how no store or designer item can make you stylish. That’s all.

You either have style or you don’t.

My mom used to say this a lot when we were growing up. This would usually be when one of her best friends would come bragging with new clothes that were the latest trends but that she matched up horribly. )Obviously not when her friend was within earshot.) My mom in her heyday was a fashionista. Sadly none of her daughters followed suit. We’re not bad dressers but we’re not her. Of the three, my eldest sister is probably the hippest chick with me following close behind. Although I can’t always wear what I want. Having teenagers kind of dictates what I can and can’t wear. My eldest daughter being my fashion police. The joys! My youngest sister got absolutely none of my mom’s fashion sense. Dressing is all about comfort to her. Not that she looks crap or anything. She’s just not bothered about clothes that much. Never was.

While we may not have inherited the fashion gene, or my mom’s skinny physique, we did learn plenty about style from her. How to carry yourself and not letting your clothes wear you are some of the most important and valuable lessons we did learn. Although if I look back at some of our pictures from when we were kids, I often wonder what my mom was thinking when she dressed us. In her defense, it was high fashion at the time. The 70’s and 80’s were her prime years and we all know what 80’s kids were dressed like. Makes me glad I wasnt responsible for my own outfits. It’s good to know I have someone else to blame. My kids will probably judge me too in a few years. I can already see it. I fact, it’s already started. Kids are harsh like that.

Back to my ex colleague…

Even though I can’t say that I am most fashionable, I do have some fashion sense and know what suits my body. Mixing and matching is a form of art that my mom taught us. Your whole outfit doesn’t have to be designer or branded. You can wear the cheapest plain looking dress but accessorize it and look like a million dollars. Your hairstyle also makes a huge difference. A tidbit I always keep in mind when I shop for clothes. If I’m completely honest, I buy shoes and accessories first before I buy my clothes. Have been doing it for as long as I can remember. As far back as when my mom worked in a shoe factory and Gino Paoli shoes were the only shoes we basically wore. Never knew the value of those shoes back then and never cared really. My mom worked at the factory so she got it for next to nothing. I blame her for my shoe fetish by the way.

So this colleague of mine with her Woolworths only clothing always looked the same. She would come into work on a Monday morning and be all excited about her new shirt and no one would notice because it looked exactly the same as all her other shirts. Tried as we might to notice her new items it was difficult. The only way we established it after a while was in the way she would sway when it was new, then we could all compliment her on it. We so much wanted to make her feel good too because for all her bragging she would always compliment us on outfits. And it was genuine. Slight problem was the way she irked us quite a bit when she realised that we are not Woolies only clientele. “That’s a nice cardigan you have on. Was probably cheap cheap.” she told me on one occasion and was baffled when I told her it was a YDE cardi. She didn’t know what YDE was.

Don’t get me wrong, she was a lovely woman who would get her foot into it more often than not. She didn’t mean to be condescending but she had never really let go of her poor upbringing and if you didn’t know her you would be insulted. Mostly I was amused by her. She had teenage kids at the time and had no idea what YDE was. I’ll never forget the day she came back to me and said she’d asked her kids about YDE and they begged her to take them there or the day she fell inlove with my G-Star jeans and nearly fell on her back when she googled it. And no, I’m not bragging. I can’t. I have connections that makes it possible for me to wear brands and pay the prices I’m willing to pay for such items. It pays to have friends in high places and a sister who lives in China.

My ex colleague looked at me through different eyes once she noted that I would get away with wearing a R2000 jeans and matching it up with a R50 (or less) plain PEP t-shirt and no one would know that my t-shirt is so inexpensive. There are days that I wear a whole outfit from Woolies or Truworths and don’t look special and the next day I’d wear a Mr Price dress and the compliments come rolling in from every angle. I can make a hundred rand outfit look like couture. Shopping is a skill and I have an eye for it. At some stage she would make it her mission to guess my outfits and the retailers and it became a fun game where she mostly got it wrong. What she did get right eventually was that it doesn’t matter what you pay for an item, it’s about how you match it and carry yourself while wearing it. A bit late in her life because she is quite a bit older than I am but she got it nonetheless.

I have a few friends who go shopping and buy the items as it is merchandised in store. They only ever wear the outfits like they bought it and play it safe. They don’t mix and they don’t match. They will never go out and just buy a top or a pair of pants. It has to be complete outfits. All or nothing. I can never understand the logic. Maybe I’m daft or maybe I’m not meant to get it. What I can say is that my frugal side will never accept it. My mom will probably get a hissy fit if I always look the same. My gran too.

For the past couple of years I have been looking to Pinterest for style inspiration. I’ll check out what the seasons fashion is all about and then look for ways to dress it up before I hit the shops always looking for the cheapest options if I see it looks more fad than timeless classics. This is especially true when it comes to prints and frills. I’ve taken it a bit further and have started upcycling some of my clothes by either adding different buttons or details like a lace trim to it.

Mostly my closet is filled with classics like black pants and skirts (which I seldom wear), white shirts and about 10+ white vests that are oh so versatile. Although my clothes look boring at the first glance, my imagination and accessories make up for it. My husband thinks I have too many shoes while I am of opinion that shoes can make or break an outfit so a woman can never have enough. My style is mostly contemporary so while I have the makings of a mommy/school marm capsule type wardrobe, clothes is more than just getting dressed. It’s an art form. A way of expression. So you’ll often see me dressed up in colours. Even if it’s my hair colour that is different. Right now though I have no hair so colour pop it will be.

While money can buy you some fantastically stylish items, it cannot buy class. here are a few style tips that is priceless:

  • Always wear clothes that suit your body type. There is nothing worse than I’ll fitting clothing.
  • Make sure that your clothes are clean and ironed. Ensure that your handbag and shoes are clean too. It makes for a neater appearance.
  • Invest in good underwear. No one may ever get to see it but it can make the world of difference to how your clothes fit your body. A set of matching underwear is a great confidence booster as well.
  • Walk tall and be confident. Fake it if you have to. The points above will go a long way to boosting your confidence.
  • Accessorize always. Even if it’s a classy phone cover or a pair of earrings. It can make the huge difference to your outfit.
  • Wear your hair differently from time to time. You don’t have to make drastic changes but changing your hairstyle and ensuring that it’s in great condition goes a long way. No product will do fading hair colour and dry brittle hair justice. Freshen up your colour and treat your crown. Different hairstyles also compliment different outfits.
  • It’s all about attitude and how you carry yourself. I have mentioned this but need to reiterate because class and style really is about more than the sum total of your outfit. Owning it and confidence can make any outfit go from drab to fab.

Do you believe that money can buy style?

With love,



  1. Shelley

    April 5, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    Money certainly does not buy class nor style. You know I’m only really willing to spend big money on shoes…and even then I’m always looking for a bargain. I don’t follow trends. Mostly they’re for skinnier girls and I’m not that. I absolutely live for outlet store sales and take great pride in being a cheapskate.

    Thank you for penning this and educating the masses. Expensive doesn’t make it fabulous.

    1. CJ

      April 5, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      You hit the nail with the shoes. I don’t mind paying for shoes either, but Bargain Hunting Barbie I am. Lol

      Thank you for reading.

  2. ChevsLife

    April 22, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    I have no fashion sense and go with comfort which often comes with a dash of quirkitude! I also have zero budget for clothes and most of my clothes, for almost a decade, we’re hand-me-downs.

    1. CJ

      April 28, 2019 at 8:59 am

      Your quirkitude works for you. You may think yo don’t have fashion sense but your style is unique to you. Those red shoes are still my faves. Believe me, plenty of my clothes are hand me downs from my sisters too. And I love adding some flair to my old clothes by embellishing because buying clothes are not too high on my list of priorities.

  3. Karin

    July 6, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    You’re spot on, as usual. No amount of money can buy style. However, style can be learned. A lot of women don’t take the time to understand body type, fit, proportion and texture or patterns. It’s not nice to compare yourself to others favorably and I am a firm believer in wearing what makes you feel like a million bucks, regardless of what others think. Thanks for opening the he conversation, sis!

    1. CJ

      July 6, 2019 at 11:48 pm

      You know what, you’re right. It can be learned. I guess it’s the fact that women don’t take the time to understand all the dynamics of putting an outfit together that I was a tad closed minded about that. Consider me enlightened. When you feel great in whatever you wear it makes all the difference.

      Thank you for popping in. ❤

  4. Karin

    July 6, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    You’re spot on, as usual. No amount of money can buy style. However, style can be learned. A lot of women don’t take the time to understand body type, fit, proportion and texture or patterns. It’s not nice to compare yourself to others favorably and I am a firm believer in wearing what makes you feel like a million bucks, regardless of what others think. Thanks for opening the he conversation, sis!

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