Simple Yet Opulent
Something doesn't have to look extravagant to be extravagant.


(permanent link) added: 2013-07-06 14:20:46 sponsor: DragonQuestZ (last reply: 2013-07-14 15:38:23)

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This came from a discussion about whether Aurora's dress in Sleeping Beauty counted as a Pimped-Out Dress, and looking over the ykttw I made for that trope, yeah it doesn't quite fit. But it does fit here.

Rolling Updates
Doesn't look like much, but how much did all those yards of silk and lace cost? And what about all the work to make the dress?

"6,000 dollars? It's not even leather!"
Cynthia, Working Girl

Simply put it's when anything cost a lot of money, but doesn't bling itself out. It could be something that looks like an everyday thing but was made with high quality materials and workmanship, or it could be something that is clearly expensive (or at least clear to people at the time) but doesn't load itself with extra things. So it's still Conspicuous Consumption, but not "In Your Face" conspicuous.

Take a Bentley or Rolls-Royce. The look of those cars clearly shows that they are luxury cars, but they (usually) aren't tricked out enough to count as a Pimped-Out Car (but would certainly count as a Cool Car).

Or take many evening dresses from at least The Thirties onward (or dresses of the late 18th and early 19th centuries). Many are free of the frills and trimmings that were typical of evening dresses, so wouldn't qualify as a Pimped-Out Dress, but still are made of high quality fabrics, so they would still cost a lot (although a Pimped-Out Dress and Fairytale Wedding Dress can count as this trope as well, if they have just enough trimmings to count as pimped out, but no more).

Or how a Big Fancy House can be light on the fancy and big, but have just enough to count as a mansion.

In fiction, this is done for three reasons:
  1. To reflect Real Life styles and trends.
  2. To contrast Old Money characters buying things this way with Nouveau Riche characters buying flashy cars, gaudy houses, and Impossibly Tacky Clothes (like the above point, this also is Truth in Television).
  3. Simple cost saving, especially in animation. A ballgown with lots of trimmings would be a lot more to draw than a dress with clean lines (same with such an outfit in a video game, with or without No Flow in CGI). Or a house that has simpler decor makes simpler backgrounds.

A Sister Trope to Modest Royalty, Mundane Luxury, Little Black Dress, Sharp-Dressed Man (as such a nice suit wouldn't be cheap), Ominous Opera Cape (as the cape used to be a sign of a high class gentleman), Opera Gloves.

Compare Simple Yet Awesome, More than Meets the Eye, Worthless Yellow Rocks (something is only opulent to some cultures).

Contrast Impoverished Patrician (who can't afford even these things), All That Glitters (which looks grand but truly isn't).

Compare / Contrast Costume Porn.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Azumanga Daioh, Chi-Chan's house isn't loaded with fancy decor, but is still quite impressive (especially with how much land costs in Japan).
  • In Interstella 5555, Stella wears a fancy dress to an awards show, but aside from the frills (including edging the Showgirl Skirt), it's this trope.
  • Lady Oscar's dress in Rose of Versailles is both this and a pimped out dress, because it's got some trimmings, but it's not nearly as frilly as the other noble ladies' dresses featured in the story.
  • The moon queen and princess dresses in Sailor Moon are actually simple dresses, especially compared to the Frills of Justice outfits in the series.
  • In both the first Slayers opening, and an Imagine Spot, Lina is wearing a simple looking frilly dress.
  • In Voltron, Princess Allura's and Princess Romelle's dresses aren't particularly grand, but are still grand enough for a princess.

Comic Books
  • Scrooge McDuck of the Disney Ducks Comic Universe is largely The Scrooge (as he was named), but he does have some expensive things, like his mansion and limo, but they aren't that ostentatious (just old fashioned, as he would have had them for years).
  • Jean Grey's wedding dress in X-Men, which just has a mermaid dress, gloves, and a long hooded cape.

Films-Animated
  • In Anastasia, Ayna's blue dress for the opera i just a blue dress with white gloves.
  • The Disney Princess main dresses are mostly this. Although some count as pimped out dresses as well, most are also simple. This includes Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, and Rapunzel (as in her princess dress at the end).
    • In Beauty and the Beast Belle's ballgown is outright pimped out, but the green and pink dresses she wears count as this trope.
    • Same apples to Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. Her green dress isn't simple, but her blue dress is.

Film-Live Action
  • In the film version of The Fountainhead, Dominique wears a Little Black Dress and hooded cape that are only trimmed with white ermine at the neckline and hood respectively. Otherwise the outfit is just a long evening dress and cape.
  • In Working Girl, Tess's friend, Cynthia, is shocked that a dress would cost $6,000, despite not being made of obviously expensive things.

Literature
  • In Discworld Lady Sybil Ramkin live like this, as she's described as being so rich, she can afford not to look rich, even though she doesn't buy things cheap (even her dragon caring gear). She does annoy her husband, Vimes, by getting him grander clothing than he likes to wear. In Men at Arms, she is described as such:
    Women who were merely well-off saved up and bought dresses made of silk edged with lace and pearls, but Lady Ramkin was so rich she could afford to stomp around the place in rubber boots and a tweed skirt that had belonged to her mother.
    • In that same book, Vimes notes that really good boots cost a lot, but it's mainly so that they last far longer than low cost boots (which Vimes prefers anyway), rather than the boots being obviously fancy.
  • Solon in "one Good Night" of Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms is in love with this trope. His "simple wool and linen" clothing is actually fine lambswool and silk, his plain furniture was custom-made to his exact measure, the mattress on his bed is softer than it looks.
  • In the Tortall Universe by Tamora Pierce, King John tends to wear very simple but clearly expensive clothing.
  • In The Wheel of Time, this is how the borderlanders approach decoration. Not having time to waste on frills, they mark status with gilt and fine materials, but don't bother to work these into fancy shapes.
  • Discussed in the X-Wing novels. When Imperial Intelligence agent Kirtan Loor visits the director's office, it strikes him as ridiculously opulent even though the room is mostly empty space. Then it occurs to him: on a place as crowded as Imperial Center, wasting that amount of space is the height of luxury.

Live-Action Television
  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig", this is how the Alpha Bitch can tell Kaylee's dress was from a store, as it was extremely frilly compared to the other moderately frilly dresses (that didn't save them from getting appropriately put down by an older gentleman).
  • Frasier played with this when Mile's favorite chair is destroyed, and Frasier ends up paying a small fortune to recreate it, due to how out of date the materials were. Thus the new chair became the most expensive thing in his apartment.

Video Games
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, Princess Medea's dress and cape aren't too grand, but still more grand than the peasant women's dresses.
  • Ada's red evening dress in Resident Evil 4 doesn't have much decoration other than the butterfly embroidery, but it doesn't look like an off-the-shelf dress (not to mention she likes Kicking Ass in All Her Finery).
  • In the manual for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Zelda's pink dress has enough trimmings to be a pimped out dress (the puff sleeves and the ribbons on the poofy skirt), but just a few, so the dress looks mostly simple.

Western Animation
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