Prada and Penneys: Meghan Markle mixes it up

‘High-low’ dressing is the ultimate fashion formula. Here’s how to master the mix

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle: Markle used the elevate formula when she wore a high street green floral Self Portrait dress mixed with a Roland Mouret bag and Alexander McQueen blazer. Photograph: Getty Images

Blending designer with high street is an art beloved of celebrities like Alexa Chung, Olivia Palermo, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.

Not a new sartorial concept, the high-low formula is a well-known and effective dressing formula. But it’s not always so easily mastered. There’s dexterity required when it comes to skilfully engineering drastically different price points into a chic and cohesive ensemble.

Dress, €79.99, H&M.

These high-profile style mavens nonchalantly blend the budget with the blowout, the standard with the special, the luxe with the less. Most importantly, they know when to splurge and when to save.

Kate Middleton, in particular, started the royal high-low dressing with a statement of style intent when she wore a Reiss blouse in her engagement photos, and has since worn LK Bennett, Topshop and Zara.


You don't need high-end everything to hit the right style notes and make a statement

Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung have garnered their IT-girl status with their thrifty high-street-meets-designer outfits. Chung keeping to the fancy frock-frugal shoe adage and Palermo sticking to Zara and Topshop pieces masterfully punctuated with heavy-weight designers.

With the high street really upping the ante, churning out pieces that could rival designer, it proves that you don’t need high-end everything to hit the right style notes and make a statement. Instead, it’s all about creating that all-important balance between looking stylish and not trying too hard.

Shoes, €39.95, Zara.

Realistically, dressing in designer duds every day is a luxury only some people can afford. The reality for most is the opposite scenario – a wardrobe based on high street buys, with a selection of specially nurtured luxurious pieces that add instant polish. But, with celebrities and the fashion set all gravitating towards the high-low mix, it becomes less cookie-cutter and makes getting dressed all that bit more exciting and unique.

On-trend items

For fashion fads or seasonally trending items, consider saving your money and going with a high street item. It’s a good way of trying out a trend, and if you happen to wear it on repeat, then you can invest in a high-end version of it. But do seek out quality high street pieces, it must be able to carry off style with designer pieces and not fall flat, make sure it won’t tear or rip easily.

It's all about mixing and matching items that co-ordinate, irrelevant of the price tag

Take a style cue from Meghan Markle, blending budgets when she attended the wedding of Prince Harry’s cousin Celia McCorquodale, pairing a floral Oscar de la Renta dress costing close to €5,000 with a headpiece from Marks and Spencer that retails at just €35. Markle’s occasion outfit also proves that there’s no steadfast rules when it comes to the high-low equation. Marks and Spencer with Oscar de la Renta? Chanel and Topshop? Prada and Penneys? Why not? It’s all about mixing and matching items that co-ordinate, irrelevant of the price tag.


Accessories are always a sound investment and will get you long-term mileage. For a fail-safe dressing formula: think one high-end item per outfit to heighten the rest. This is where the designer accessory comes into its own with a little bit of distraction technique.

Bag, €995, Gucci.

When you’ve a designer bag slung from your arm, no one will know the rest of your outfit is last season Marks and Spencer. Of course, a bag doesn’t have to be your choice of high-end arsenal – a designer belt, scarf, jewellery or shoes will all add that pzazz. Markle, too, uses the elevate formula, most recently when she wore a high street green floral Self Portrait dress mixed effortlessly with a Roland Mouret bag and Alexander McQueen blazer.

Belt, €295, Dolce & Gabbana, Netaporter.

More on outerwear

It is also worth spending more on outerwear, as Markle does too. It’s generally on rotation in your wardrobe for six months of the year and every season to come, and this applies to menswear too. Whether it’s a lightweight trench, a structured blazer or heavy-duty winter coat, ensure they’re high-quality, durable and will add a jolt to the most basic of outfits.

Blazer, €349, Anine Bing, Seagreen.

With the sales in full swing, shop smart to score some savvy designer steals that will boost your basics. With high-end sale items, you don’t just have to stick to neutral shades or fail-safe black, you can invest in a fun bright hue or embellished pieces, just make sure you will wear it on multiple occasions and can style it up straight away with what you have in your wardrobe.