If you've got it, flaunt it. And if you don't -- rent it.
With the help of companies like Bag Borrow or Steal, From Bags to Riches and Borrowed Bling, which rent out designer bags and jewelry, almost anyone can look like a VIP without paying for it.
"I wanted to bring Hollywood movie-star glamour to every American woman," said Carol Wexler, founder and owner of Borrowed Bling (www.borrowedbling.com ), which rents out crystal and jewelry, bags and accessories in exchange for "membership fees" that range from $30 to $100 a month.
Wexler got the idea while working as a wardrobe chief, providing jewelry for the soap opera "The Young and the Restless."
"I thought, how come celebs get all the fun, and people like you and me don't get the same advantage?" she asked rhetorically.
Fashionistas can also rent celebrity-style designer handbags. Names like Vera Wang and Chloe carry price tags of thousands of dollars for the season's newest style. But with the help of the online bag-rental service Bag Borrow or Steal (www.bagborroworsteal.com ), Boston University student Maura McGreevy hardly has to worry about blowing her college tuition money on a purse.
Bag Borrow or Steal customers pay a weekly or monthly fee for an original designer-bag of their choice, and can return it in exchange for another bag at any time. McGreevy carried her rented Prada tote, which retails for almost $500, "day and night," from class to the nightclub where she worked, for just $30 a week. All it took, she said, was "a bit of birthday money from my grandparents."
Students aren't the only ones who want to look posh on a budget. Charlene Friedman, a schoolteacher in Los Angeles, hardly has the income of an Eva Longoria to put together a show-stopping outfit. But having friends in the entertainment industry means Friedman is often walking the red carpet.
"I always felt like such a schlep," she said. "I never had bling."
Tired of shifting between costume jewelry and the few good pieces she had in her jewelry box, Friedman decided to give Wexler's Borrowed Bling a try.
"If I have a wedding to go to, or a Bar Mitzvah, it's always nice to bling it up a bit and make people go 'hmmm ...' "
Some of Wexler's customers are wealthy women simply looking to spice up already impressive jewelry collections.
"I have women who are millionaires who have five, 10-karat rings that are real," says Wexler.
Kara Richter, founder of From Bags to Riches (www.frombagstoriches.com ) agreed, stating that while some of her customers rent in order to try out a bag, most of her customers are "frequent renters."
"Most already have a closet of designer bags, and are looking for ways to expand their bag options without breaking the wallet," says Richter.
Some think frequent renters are the only rightful customers of the high-end jewelry- and bag-rental companies.
"For some reason, it's like people feel that having a designer bag is some sort of human right," says Kathryn Finney, author of How to Be a Budget Fashionista: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less.
But the owner of Borrowed Bling disagreed, stressing that she strives to provide the average female consumer with a lease on luxury.
"I didn't want people to have a $100,000 income to rent from me," said Wexler.