Dressing like the one per cent comes down to one simple rule (2023)

Levelling up in classic, luxurious stealth-wealth minimalism is the only game in town right now. Leave logos, pullulating patterns and garish colours to the no-cluers.

And don’t just take my word for it. No one said it better than Tom Wambsgans, long-suffering husband of Succession’s Shiv Roy, when he explained in the first episode of season four, which aired on Monday night, to the hapless cousin Greg that his date’s flashy checked Burberry handbag instantly set off alarm bells at billionaire media baron Logan’s birthday party.

“She’s brought a ludicrously capacious bag,” Tom explains witheringly. “What’s even in there? Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? Greg, it’s monstrous. It’s gargantuan.” In a world where a private jet and personal chef follow you around like puppies, this is the ultimate put-down – even if said bag does retail for £2,500.

Tom has learnt from the best because Shiv, the 30-something daughter of Logan Roy is the high priestess of stealth wealth – a kind of Medea in Max Mara hopsack. It’s a look she appears set to uphold in this new season of the show if the first episode is anything to go by – her appearances were all stealth-wealth tailoring in shades that could read like a Starbucks menu.

From left: Kendall wears: Lyocell and cotton-blend jersey t-shirt, £170; Blue stretch slim fit jeans, £585 and Light suede track bomber, £5,275, Tom Ford. Waterproof baby cashmere baseball cap, £535, Loro Piana. The Ripley for K.L.R sunglasses, £630, Jacques Marie Mage. Shiv wears: Wool blazer, £825 and silk trousers, £430, Max Mara

Stealth wealth is ageless – it looks as good on Shiv as on her ghastly (but well-dressed) mother, played by Harriet Walter and because SW doesn’t date quickly, it’s catnip for Gwyneth Paltrow types wanting to virtue signal how eco they are. These are just two reasons why the stealth-wealth look is no longer the preserve of the Succession cast, but the prevailing style of the moment.

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Gwyneth in court last week wearing a cream Margaret Howell roll neck one day and her own Goop-label Bennett cardigan another was a concentrated version of stealth wealth. Arguably she’d have been wiser to semaphore stealth poverty, like the tech bros in their hoodies and dad jeans, but perhaps wealth is so steeped in her veins she’d need a transfusion to wipe away its vestiges.

If you’re someone who likes to look nonchalantly elegant and coolly collected rather than a desperate exhibitionist (à la Greg’s plus-one), there’s a lot to be said for the stealth-wealth aesthetic. For one thing, it never really gets old. Think how well Sharon Stone’s playbook has aged over the past 30 years – from white cotton shirt she wore to the 1998 Oscars (albeit teamed with a luscious lavender satin Vera Wang skirt) to the blue jeans and impeccable wool flannel shacket she’s wearing in a recent Instagram post.

Take the oatmeal-coloured outfit Jennifer Aniston recently wore. The barely-there fine gold chains, barely done (but oh so kempt) hair and invisible-to-the-naked-eye make-up is peak stealth-wealth style.

So too is Amber Valletta in a white trouser suit at the Vanity Fair Oscar party earlier in March. Meanwhile Meghan Markle is a Californian duchess version of the genre, who does stealth wealth head-to-toe and ends up not looking very stealthy.

As for the latest round of fashion shows – the big guns, from Prada, Max Mara, Fendi and Ferragamo (formerly dowager fodder but now reinvented under new designer Maximilian Davis) to Saint Laurent, Hermès and The Row, all prioritised classy tailoring, squishy soft bags and court shoes over look-at-me screamers.

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Even Donatella Versace went all discreet and understated – razor-sharp blazers and quiet, knock ’em dead cocktail dresses – for her blockbuster catwalk show in Los Angeles in March, notwithstanding the fact that Cher and Elton John were in her front row.

Meanwhile at London Fashion Week, one of the break-out names was Tove, a British label set up in 2019 by two ex Topshop executives, which was full of sophisticated stealth wealth dresses and midi skirts with matching, deconstructed jackets and coats.

Away from the catwalk, Blaize Caprice is building a reputation for deluxe timeless classics, which are going down a storm with fellow ex-pat Americans who love that glossy, fuss-free sleekness.

Another Tomorrow, set up by New York ex financier Vanessa Barboni and about as sustainable as labels get these days, is de facto stealth wealth because everything is pared back and timeless, as it has to be if it’s going to be worn for years to come.

You could categorise all of this as sartorial comfort food – with a similar palette to porridge, potatoes and creamy puddings. It’s no coincidence SW is on the rise against a pile-up of economic cock-ups and strikes. Maybe it takes a creeping sense that every single one of the world’s major institutions is a cesspit of corruption to make the 0.1 per cent (and anyone else who aspires to whisper-volume chic) to recall that one of life’s great comforts is snuggling into a luxe-y, pale coat. Plushiness is a major pill of stealth wealth.

Cotton and wool jumper, £295 and skirt, £375, Joseph; Raffia shoes, from a selection, Malone Souliers; Suede bag, £1,850, Métier; Gold plated earrings, £265, Bottega Veneta at Matches Fashion

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Could be camel, could be sand. Or cappuccino or tan – anything that comes under a Pinterest listing of “high- end, organic, locally produced, single- estate honey shades” is hunky dory. Colours reminiscent of glamorous- sounding tipples are admissible too – claret, margarita, dirty martini, apple and spinach smoothie (if you’re the Goop set), but only as accents.

Sienna Miller’s Max Mara coat and silky, body- skimming dresses in Netflix’s Anatomy of a Scandal are a good template. We’re talking impeccable tailoring, pared-back designs and sometimes hidden touches, which separate them from the chaff.

Of course there’s a creamy-coloured dollop of tribal one-upmanship at play. Tell-tale “invisible to the masses” details are snuffled out by stealth wealthers like Tom and that Burberry bag, as if they were the rarest of truffles. Which price-wise, they are. This is about if-you-know-you-know hallmarks.

It’s the stretchy, ivory-knit body, perfectly cut to cup the shoulders from Khaite, a favourite stealth wealthers go- to. It’s the little gold pocket chains on Celine’s washed-to-the-perfect-shade-of-faded £700 jeans. It’s the Open Walk, a sturdy, utilitarian high-top loafer, which to the uninitiated, looks as though it comes from the orthopaedic section in Clark’s rather than Lora Piana, another stealth-wealth shrine, where shoes start at around £865.

It’s definitely Roma, a meticulously crafted slimline, cross-body/shoulder and clutch bag with an antiqued rather than shiny gold chain. Roma is by Métier London, a non-logoed brand so stealth wealth it features in the latest series of Succession.

Generally speaking, it’s not that difficult to cheat at stealth wealth. There are excellent places like My Wardrobe HQ and Hurr where you can now rent big ticket items, but you can also shop at discounted outlets such as theoutnet.com or yoox.com.

Here I wear a quintessential stealth-wealth look sourced from Sézane and Reiss, both of which could just about be defined as high street. Though you could also try holding a New York fashion editor hostage until she hands over her invitation to The Row’s sample sale there. If you’ve developed an eye for quality and have the patience, you can find amazing stealth-wealth coat trophies secondhand.

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Wool blend coat, £348, Reiss; Wide leg trousers, £135, Sezane; Leather shoes, £495, Malone Souliers

How you wear anything is also an important consideration. SW is about balance. If the shoulders are big, the waist will be tapered. If the trousers are wide, then a slim shorter top is required. Wear flats, a lot, but an elegant heel at night. Mind you, it can go very wrong if you don’t pick the honey shades that work for your complexion (see Shiv’s clothes in season three), or ignore basic rules about fit and proportions (poor old Shiv again) – thankfully, she now appears to be back on track.

To play her stealth-wealth character in Anatomy of a Scandal, Sienna Miller told Harper’s Bazaar she deliberately draped her coats over her shoulders. Hair should look effortless and shiny, make-up sheer and sun-kissed. Anything with the word balm rather than foundation is irresistible (try Merit’s Flush Balm, £30), as are Victoria Beckham’s new longwear crease-proof Eye Sticks (£30).

Jet-set white: Wool blazer, £1,000 and trousers, £528, Another Tomorrow at Matches Fashion; Gold vermeil earrings, £114.50, Galleria Armadoro; Suede pumps, £745, Manolo Blahnik

Red lipstick livens up the beige crew no end – Oonagh Connor, the make-up artist on the shoot used Mac’s Ruby Woo (£20), and raved about Maybelline’s Light/Medium 4-in-1 Glow Light, an ultra-light foundation, which she used to make my skin look expensively pampered (at the bargain price of £12.99). Tweakments must appear natural.

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The ultimate stealth-wealth hack is to mix things up – head-to-toe 10-ply cashmere is as tryhard as wearing a tiara, matching earrings and nipple tassels. A bit of vintage, a bit of Brunello, a wodge of Joseph (there’s currently a good selection of sale items on its website) and a bit of high street should do it. Remember, the genuinely wealthy want to hang on to their filthy lucre. It’s the noovs who chuck it around.


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