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Simple, yet Opulent

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It might not 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 note 

When something costs a lot of money, but doesn't bling itself out. It might appear plain, but upon close inspection is made with high-quality materials and expert workmanship. On the other hand, it could be something that is clearly expensive (or at least clear to people at the time), but still doesn't overload itself with bells and whistles. 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 vehicles, but they (usually) aren't tricked out enough to count as a Pimped-Out Car (though would certainly count as a Cool Car).

Fashion is particularly rich with examples: Dresses of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, during the post-French Revolution mania for "Greek-style" and "Roman-style" clothing. Or evening dresses from 1920's onward. Many of the latter abstain from the frills and trimmings that were previously typical of evening wear, so they wouldn't qualify as a Pimped-Out Dress. However, they're made from high-quality fabric, so they would still cost a lot.

Men's fashion often falls into this: The difference between a bespoke suit and an off-the-rack one (which costs a fifth to a tenth as much) is that the bespoke suit probably has better fabric (hard to tell without touching it), and it fits really, really well. If you don't know what to look for, you don't know there's anything luxurious about the suit itself—the man wearing it just looks really good.

This trope also applies to high-quality minimalist architecture and design.

In fiction, it appears for three main reasons:

  1. To reflect Real Life styles and trends, like Minimalism.
  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 and effort saving, especially in animation. A ball gown with lots of trimmings would be a lot more complicated to draw than a dress with clean lines (same with such an outfit in a video game, with or without No Flow in CGI). Also, a house that has simpler decor makes for simpler backgrounds.

This can easily overlap with The Rich Have White Stuff or Symbolic Glass House when something has few trimmings or decorations, but being white or transparent still marks it as opulent.

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

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

Contrast Impoverished Patrician (who can't afford even these things), All That Glitters (which looks grand but isn't), Affluent Ascetic (which is when a wealthy person lives modestly, no opulence involved), and Ermine Cape Effect (opulent and obvious, to show one's power).

Compare / Contrast Costume Porn.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh: Chiyo-chan's house isn't loaded with fancy decor, but is still quite impressive — with how much land costs in Japan, the very fact that her house has a front yard automatically marks her family as at least upper-class.
  • Bleach:
    • Byakuya Kuchiki accents his captain's uniform with a simple white scarf, which happens to be a family heirloom crafted by a master weaver and worth more than ten mansions.
    • Captain Shunsui Kyouraku is an Agent Peacock in a gaudy, cheap floral kimono. His plain hairpins, however, are precious heirlooms from his Lieutenant's family, and are one subtle hint of the Hidden Depths beneath his friendly demeanour.
  • Heat Guy J: Clair wears very simple-looking, unfussy clothes, a long shirt, and a pair of pants. The shirt appears to be made of silk, and the pants appear to be made of leather, two materials that are costly now and likely even more costly 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • 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.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: In the manga adaptation, Zelda first appears in a blue, puffy-sleeved dress with a pleated front. She later appears in her more typical dress. It's based on art used in the manual and player's guide, but the game's sprites only depict her in her more famous pink and white dress.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: For someone who is the daughter of a prominent Duke and engaged to a member of the ruling house of the kingdom, some of Catarina's dresses in the anime certainly count. There is also at least one that has one jewel at the collar but is otherwise unadorned. Subverted during formal occasions like her 15th birthday, the graduation party, or the international assembly ball, she wears outfits that really fit on her station.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: Played for Laughs. The guys of the Host Club find the Fujiokas' simple apartment to be far below their standards and in desperate need of improvement, but they know that Haruhi will object strenuously to any attempt they make to give her luxurious things or make what they consider appropriate upgrades to her living space. They hit on the idea of secretly renovating the apartment while Haruhi and her father are out, replacing everything from floor to ceiling with replacements made to look exactly the same, down to replicating the scratches on the windows, but with higher-quality materials and craftsmanship. They've only just begun enacting their renovations when Haruhi returns home early and they're forced to abandon the project with only a single door replaced, leaving Haruhi to later wonder in bemusement whether or not that doorknob was always that nice-looking.
  • The Rose of Versailles:
    • The dress Oscar puts on during the only time she wears women's clothing has some trimmings, but it's not nearly as frilly as the other noble ladies' dresses featured in the story.
    • Maria Theresa of Austria is always seen in simple dresses with few decorations aside from a purple sash, earrings, and a diadem to announce she's the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. She expects her daughter Marie Antoinette to adopt a similar style as the queen of France (seen in an Imagine Spot), and upon finding out her preferences she's appalled, anticipating she'd end up alienating the people.
  • Sailor Moon: The moon queen's and princess's dresses are actually simple dresses, especially compared to the Frills of Justice outfits in the series.
  • Slayers: In both the first opening, and an Imagine Spot, Lina is wearing a simple-looking frilly dress.
  • Voltron (and its Japanese counterpart GoLion): Princess Allura's and Princess Romelle's dresses aren't particularly grand, but are still grand enough for a princess.

    Arts 
  • The Lady of Shalott (Waterhouse): The Lady's white dress is laced and has golden embroidery on the sleeves. The laced details are subtle and meant to not stand out. Yet, the texture of the cloth and the golden threads speak of high-quality material.
  • Nefertiti Bust: Nefertiti's crown cap looks simple enough at first glance, but there's a magnificent level of detail that shows quality. From the green-and-red band encircling the rich blue base to the golden uraeus reaching down across the front to the elegant two strips of red cloth at the base of the back, it all speaks of grandeur. Because the bust is leading in how the crown cap is imagined in today's world, the lack of the uraeus and the easily missed strips of cloth (both of which are prominent in carvings) cause those parts to be left out of modern depictions of Nefertiti a good amount of times.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Scrooge McDuck 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).
    • The clearest example is the Money Bin itself: while the details can vary, it's always a large cube with few decorations filled with cash and with a number of well-maintained war residuate artillery pieces on its top, and while at first it's not ostentatious the very fact he can afford to keep cash to occupy "three cubic acres" just sitting in one place and defend it with cannons whose ammunitions and part have to be custom-made (the most modern cannon mentioned is the Cannone da 149/40 Modello 35, that went out of production in 1944) is quite telling. Then there's DuckTales (2017), where the Bin needs a magical defense budget of $ 15,000,000,000 per year...
  • Robin Series: When Tim's father remarries his bride Dana, who is normally only seen in workout clothes, she wears a strapless white floor-length a-line dress with a long-tailed silk bow in the back accessorized with short bridal gauntlets and a veiled hammered silver tiara.
  • X-Men: Jean Grey's wedding dress is just a mermaid dress, accessorized with gloves and a long hooded cape.

    Fan Works 
  • The Night Unfurls: Princess Prim Fiorire's white and pink dress is not extravagant, but finely made regardless. The work of the finest tailors of Feoh and Ur, it should cost a lot.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Since Vicereine Wallflower's family ruled the Canterlot region before it became the capital, she is the one pony (unless you count the Princess) with enough Canterlot real estate to "waste" on things like gardens.
  • Sugar Plums: In this Naruto fic it explains that the quality of a ninja's clothing is this based on the amount of kakri content, which is chakra receptive cloth. Civilian clothing will only have at most ten percent kakri mixed in with other textiles because it makes it sturdier and easier to clean. Shinobi clothing as a standard has about thirty to fifty percent making it very sturdy and resistant to damage in casual ninja combat. Any shinobi who uses full transformation techniques HAVE to wear clothing made of a hundred percent kakri cloth otherwise it won't change form with them and they'd end up naked, said clothing is priced as the same cost of clothing a countries 'daimyo' would wear.
  • Star Wars: In the fanfic Wilhuff Tarkin, Hero of the Rebellion, it's noted that both count Dooku and pre-Clone Wars Tarkin preferred this style: at a reception for Dooku's state visit on Eriadu, they wear respectively simple and plain clothes and a reservist military uniform (plus Tarkin's robes of office as the Seswenna sector governor), only made of rather expensive materials and lined with armorweave.
  • Harry Potter: In the fanfic Slithering, modern high-class wizard fashion is "polished and subtle and subdued, the expense and quality of the fabric and tailoring only visible to a connoisseur". Fresh out of a highly classist wizarding war, Draco shoves it all to the back of the closet in favour of gleefully grandiose 18th-century garb.

    Films — Animation 
  • Anastasia: Anya's dress for the ballet is a simple long, sleek column of sparkling navy blue with white opera-length gloves.
  • Brave: The dress Merida was forced to wear for the three Lords' visit. Despite its simplicity, it's still too much for her. Its simplicity actually makes it worse from her perspective; the design is so basic that it severely limits freedom of movement.
  • Disney Princess' signature dresses are often this. This includes Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Rapunzel (in her princess dress at the end), Anna and Elsa.
    • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Atonement: Keira Knightley wears a simple green dress that later became famous.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: Famous for the Little Black Dress worn by star Audrey Hepburn.
  • Charade: Starred two icons famous for this style, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The screen was practically saturated with Simple Yet Opulent.
  • Cinderella (2015): Its enormous skirt and innumerable silky layers notwithstanding, Ella's blue dress for the ball is virtually free of adornment, apart from some stitched-on butterflies. Prince Kit's ensemble arguably qualifies as well, being a simple, white military-style uniform decorated only with touches of silver embroidery.
  • The Fountainhead: In the film version, 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.
  • James Bond: The films tend to dress Bond in suits that look normal but are bespoke to fit perfectly, with the full outfit often costing thousands of dollars.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: When the Pevensie siblings arrive at Aslanís Camp, they are given Narnian clothes. While the dresses worn by Susan and Lucy donít quite fill the ďopulentĒ half of this trope - at least not obviously - the experience of wartime rationing in England clearly made them feel so:
    Lucy: "You look like mum."
    Susan: "Mum hasnít had a dress like this since before the war."
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • Many of the dresses in the series (though not all of them) fit this trope.
      • Galadriel's gown in Lothlorien is pure white and deceptively simple, but sheathed in dripping gossamer lace.
      • Eowyn's gowns are often simple in design but richly colored, and decorated metallic/jeweled touches.
      • Arwen's blue gown in the flashback sequence of The Two Towers is made of such delicate fabric that her slightest movement causes the layers to ripple and flow.
    • Legolasí two bows arguably fall into this trope. The one he brings from Mirkwood is simple but elegant in design, and decorated with gold engraving fashioned to look like ivy. The one he is given by Galadriel in Lothlorien is, upon first glace, made of plain wood and completely unadorned. Looking closer, the whole stave is intricately carved with entwining leaves and vines.
    • Costume designer Ngila Dickson intentionally dressed Denethor in extremely lush fabrics and furs to convey his vanity, but limited his colors to blues, greys, and silvers.
  • Monte Carlo: Countess Helene's dress for the opera has simple lines and virtually no adornment, but it's made of some very shiny material like lamé.
  • Parasite (2019): The Park family keep premium-quality Hanwoo beef sirloin in the fridge but think nothing of adding it to instant noodles. Rather than a sign of discernment, it shows them to be Sheltered Aristocrats who thoughtlessly throw money around.
  • Roberta: Ginger Rogers usually had a Pimped-Out Dress for her dance numbers, but some of them fall into the Simple Yet Opulent category. In this film, she wears a simple, dark-colored satin gown with a jeweled clip for the dance to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes".
  • Thor: The Dark World: Loki habitually opts for pure opulence, but after his royal rank is revoked and he's jailed as a war criminal, he's forced to tone down his garments. Of course, his idea of "plain and simple" is still more elegant than anything Thor, the Crown Prince, or Odin, the King of Asgard, wears.
  • What a Girl Wants: Daphne Reynolds' dress for the debutante ball - which she modified from its original design - is a simple, almost sheath-like gown in silvery-grey which leaves the right shoulder bare. Its lack of adornment and the fabric's weighty sheen instantly makes it stand out from the more ornate and heavily embellished gowns of her fellow debutantes.
  • Working Girl: Tess's friend, Cynthia, is shocked that a dress would cost $6,000, despite not being made of obviously expensive things.
  • X-Men Film Series: Professor Charles Xavier's signature aesthetic (whether it's his clothing, vehicles, or other material possessions) is to be immaculate and graceful. His taste is plain, yet sophisticated, and it's a measure of his old-world affluence.

    Literature 
  • Aunt Dimity: Fairworth House, Willis Sr.'s Georgian-period home, is described this way, mostly due to its architecture and moderate size.
  • The Belgariad:
    • In keeping with the setting's Modest Royalty, Brador, the Chief of Internal Affairs to the Mallorean Empire, wears plain brown robes of extremely expensive fabric, decorated with his gold chain of office.
    • Belgarath the Sorcerer's clothes fit this trope despite making him look like The Tramp. The mismatched boots and patched robe cost him a fortune and were designed for comfort and durability — and since he's been Walking the Earth for seven thousand years, he has very high standards on those counts.
  • Beware of Chicken: Maple syrup is a brand-new luxury foodstuff, with the highest-end restaurants in the province serving it in thimblefuls. So when the Lord Magistrate casually empties an entire cup of the stuff over his pancakes in front of guests, it is a very tasteful yet incredibly opulent gesture.
  • Catching Fire: When embarking on her Victory Tour following the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen dresses in a wide range of outfits created by her stylist, Cinna. Her first traveling outfit is simple in design - especially by Capitol standards - but certainly opulent compared to the everyday clothing worn by most of District 12:
    Katniss: Flowing black pants made of thick, warm material. A comfortable white shirt. A sweater woven from green and blue and gray strands of kitten-soft wool. Laced leather boots that don't pinch my toes.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
    • The Magician's Nephew: The crowns of Frank and Helen, the first monarchs of Narnia are made of gold and decorated with gems, but opt for simplicity over extravagance.
      Not ugly, heavy things like modern European crowns, but light, delicate, beautifully shaped circles that you could really wear and look nicer by wearing.
    • The Horse and His Boy: The society of Calormen is much more stratified than Narnia, and this is reflected in their respective clothing: The attire worn by the Narnian embassy to Tashbaan - including King Edmund - is shockingly simple when compared to the lavish silks, jewels, and armor worn by the Calormene ruling class, yet it far outshines the dusty, bland clothing worn by commoners.
  • The Dark Side of the Sun: The narrator explains that a new Chairman of the Board of Directors of the planet Widdershins traditionally has a meal of bread, salted fish, an apple, and a glass of water, in keeping with the tenets of the environmentalist religion of Sadhimism. The narrator then describes the absurd Conspicuous Consumption that went into this meal (water from a comet; bread, salt, and apple all coming from different worlds; only the fish is local because Widdershins is known for fish), with the sardonic note that "Some kinds of simplicity cost more than others".
  • Discworld:
    • Lady Sybil Ramkin lives 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. Over the ten years, a good pair of boots will last someone who buys cheap boots will not only have spent twice as much money thanks to the frequent replacements, he would still have wet feet because they wear out so fast. In the same vein, he calculates that Sybil's day-to-day expenses living in a mansion are about half what his are living in the Watch barracks (not counting servant salaries), simply because things her ancestors bought are still perfectly good.
    • The Assassins' Guild all wear black silk but avoid jewelry and other overly flashy things that would make them more noticeable. (Granted, the black outfits themselves are still not invisible, but being able to identify Assassins is part of how they operate, so that's all right. Being able to hear Assassins before they inhume you is not.)
  • Drenai: Chareos' sabre is the work of one of the best swordsmiths in existence, cost more than a good horse, and is perfectly balanced and insanely durable. However, the furniture is completely unremarkable, with no decoration whatsoever. The smith in question explains that he puts the fancy hilts on his apprentice's work and sells them to people who don't know swords and are just interested in the brand name, as it were, and sells his own blades in plain fittings to people who actually know and intend to use his swords, and to whom gilt and jewels would just be a hindrance.
  • The Dresden Files: In Skin Game, Hades' private chamber is described as one that could belong to a Spartan king: minimum decorations, purely functional furniture of finest craftsmanship and best (and insanely expensive) materials, and a couple of bookshelves (filled with books that, probably, any museum worker or historian would kill for).
  • Dr. Greta Helsing: The billionnaire art historian Leonora Van Dorne typically wears tastefully understated yet tremendously expensive designer clothes, accented with a single piece of authentic, priceless Ancient Egyptian jewellery.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Virtually any heroic character with money fits this trope. Solaris, head of state of Karse, has plain, undecorated furnishings made with exotic, expensive materials. Lydia's wedding dress in Redoubt is also described this way.
    Quite good enough for a princess, but it said without words that this was a lady who would not break the Treasury for the sake of a dress.
  • Honor Harrington: Opts for this when she has to start wearing dresses while on Grayson (after a lifetime of wearing trousers). Her dresses are very plain by Grayson standards but since she's a Steadholder they are very opulent.
  • The Inheritance Cycle: Katrina wears a blue dress "of a simple cut" when she marries Roran, but the dress is accessorized by a lace train 20 feet long.
  • Kushiel's Legacy: Favrielle no Eglantine's dress designs. Especially notable is the costume she creates for Phedre to wear to the Longest Night masque at the palace - Favrielle herself describes it as "simple", but it's made of dyed-to-order silk and so expensive Phedre isn't actually sure how she'll pay for it at first.
  • The Silver Lotus: Seen when the main protagonist, Lady Yee, and her daughter attend a party hosted as a major diplomatic event. Although the narrative recently called her the wealthiest Chinese woman in the Americas, her dress is remarkably low key compared to the other attendees:
    "Some senior diplomats of the old imperial school sported cocked hats and egret feathers, but those of the highest rank, and therefore beyond all common comparison, were inevitably plumed in black swallowtail coats, starched white linens, satin cravats, gold and jeweled appointments, long evening capes, and tall silk hats."
    "Lady Yee, on the other hand, being a mother and a widow, was modestly but elegantly gowned in cobalt-blue satin, very subtly embroidered with flying cranes picked out with silver thread. She wore full-length white kid gloves, and a silver shawl made of the finest Chinese silk, edged in freshwater seed pearls the color of malachite."
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In the Free City of Braavos, poor people wear gaudy, colorful clothing to stand out, while the aristocrats prefer more dark and austere clothing, presumably of very high quality (the exception is the city's elite swordsmen, or bravos, who tend to have flamboyant personalities and dress to match).
    • King Stannis expresses this in the unusual form of his preferred drink. Although by modern standards ice water with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt would be a very Spartan beverage, in a medieval setting having such reliable access to clean water, ice, lemons, and salt would be something of a luxury when one lives on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere. Compared to the expensive wines and other beverages drunk by rival nobles, it can still be considered somewhat Spartan.
  • Spelljammer: In the novel The Radiant Dragon, it's mentioned that the studs on scro armour are usually brightly painted, and some high-ranking scro even replace them with gemstones for Conspicuous Consumption. General Grinnosh's armour, however, is studded with a dull, grey, and really expensive metal.
  • Star Wars Legends: Discussed in the X-Wing Series. When Imperial Intelligence agent Kirtan Loor visits the director's office, it strikes him as spacious, but he finds the decorations almost ridiculously spartan, and wonders why it isn't filled with expensive, intimidating artifacts. Then it occurs to him: on a City Planet, being able to afford that amount of space and not use it is the height of conspicuous consumption.
  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: Solon in One Good Knight 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.
  • Tortall Universe: King Jonathan tends to wear very simple but clearly expensive clothing. So does his queen, Thayet, unless she's at a court function.
    • Pierce likes this style for nobility; it also shows up frequently in the Circleverse series (particularly Sandry and her family). However, Pierce's penchant for describing any clothing in meticulous detail can sometimes lose the reader on whether an outfit is elaborate or not.
  • Village Tales: Played with a straight bat for the upper classes. Lady Agatha resembles an animated aristocratic, tweedy jumble stall held together with diamond brooches and booted in wellies; the Duke (his Savile Row tailors being Anderson & Sheppard) is unshowily bespoke to his very socks; old Lord Mallerstang has tweeds as old as he is, and so on. The Nawab in English dress follows suit; his sherwani, on State occasions, is also subfusc Ö but the lining is in the MCC colors, as befits a great cricketer. The trope also applies to the ducal motorcars, and to the ducal properties, Hugo Mallerstang's Hellgill Hall, Lady Agatha's Plas Buallt, and the like.
  • 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.
    • Aviendha tries to balance a debt with Rand by giving him a king's sword that's encrusted with a fortune in gold, gems, and ivory. He infuriates her by returning all the precious decorations and accepting only the blade itself... which, unknown to her, is a magically forged relic from the Age of Legends: absurdly sharp, indestructible, and vastly more valuable than the ornamentation. Once it's put in a more sensible setting, it becomes his favored weapon for the rest of the series, including in the Final Battle.
  • The Wise Man's Fear: Kvothe notes that the Maer Alveron wears simple, high-quality clothing that always looks new. He realizes that each outfit is brand new, and the Maer wears them only a single time. Kvothe is amazed at this understated display of wealth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Baby-Sitters Club (2020): Part of the conflict in "Kristy's Big Day " occurs when stepfather-to-be Watson buys Kristy this sort of bridesmaidís dress instead of the cheaper one that makes her look like a banana. He bought her older brother the car equivalent earlier in the episode. Their mother has a class-based freakout that mirrors the ones Kristyís been having all season, but Tom Boy Kristy feels really pretty in it.
  • Dolley Madison: Americaís First Lady: At Washington DCís first ever inaugural ball, Dolley Madison wore an off-white gown made of fine velvet, which was in line with her upbringing as a Quaker (expensive fabrics like silk and velvet were perfectly acceptable, but bright colors and ornamentation were strongly discouraged).
  • Firefly: In the episode "Shindig", this is how the Alpha Bitch can tell Kaylee doesn't belong in high society: Kaylee's ostentatiously frilly dress is store-bought, whereas the high society women's more conservative dresses are custom-made. Fortunately, a Cool Old Guy among the other guests spots this cruelty, drops some high-class insults on the Alpha Bitch, and ends up part of a whole circle of folks listening fascinatedly to Kaylee's extensive engineering know-how.
  • Frasier: Played with this when Martin'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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Despite being the head of the richest family in Westeros, Tywin Lannister's clothing seems to prioritize functionality 90% of the time. When seen up close the garments are obviously made of fine materials, but they are never particularly ostentatious. This was deliberate on the part of the costume designer, as a way of setting the Old Money Lannisters - and Tywin specifically - apart from other houses (i.e. they didn't need fancy clothes to show off how rich they were).
    • When dispatching Brienne of Tarth to locate the Stark girls, Jaime Lannister gifts her a new suit of armor. While almost entirely devoid of ornamentation, the highly quality workmanship is clear, and it was actually made to her measurements (unlike her previous armor, which was largely assembled piecemeal to accommodate both her unusual height and feminine physique).
    • When Bran Stark is installed as King of Westeros at the series' end, he wears a simple dark robe (can appear blue, grey, or black depending on the lighting) made of rich velvet, with a wide embroidered collar that drapes down the shoulders.
  • House of the Dragon: When Queen Alicent arrives at her stepdaughter Rhaenyra's pre-wedding celebration, she is wearing a gown of deep green as a political statement. While the gown has no major adornment beyond gold touches, the fabric itself is intricately woven with subtle relief patterns, and the long hanging sleeves are a clear signifier of wealth.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks, in the few episodes where she wears an evening gown - most notably, the strapless evening gown she wears in "Suzy Prentiss".
  • Outlander: For her first party at Versailles, Claire Fraser wears a truly unique dress: Ruby-red and lacking any notable ornamentation, its design stands out amidst the pastel colors and copious frills favored by most other women. The garmentís opulence is clear in its extremely wide and structured skirt (likely requiring some kind of interior framework to maintain the shape).
  • Succession: The Roy family heavily favors "stealth wealth" clothing; rather conservative-looking with no logos, in neutral colors like blues, blacks, and browns, but whose pieces can easily cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. In this case it's meant to convey both their old school upbringing (where showing off wealth is considered gauche), as well as their lack of creativity and overall disdain for culture and self-expression.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Expensive equipment is generally either understated or over-the-top, since most of the value lies in rare materials and enchantments. For example, a Robe of the Archmagi is a simple white, grey, or black garment with defensive spells worth nearly a ton of gold.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Some Best-Quality gear is ornamented to match its massive price markup, but for some, the value is entirely in good workmanship. Dwarven hobnailed boots can cost upwards of a year's wages but are guaranteed to last a lifetime — and for a dwarf, that means centuries.

    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).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In the manual for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Zelda's pink dress has some fancy elements (the puff sleeves and the ribbons on the poofy skirt), but just a few, so the dress looks mostly simple.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while Princess Zelda has a traditional Pimped-Out Dress, she also has two outfits that fall under this trope: a field outfit with trousers and a white ceremonial dress, both of which seem much simpler than the aforementioned dress but have subtle gold trimmings that hint at how expensive they are. The simple blue outfits she wove for the Champions also count; not only are they made with a special blue shade associated with the Royal Family of Hyrule, the high defense stat for Link's Champion's Tunic indicates that they are made from very durable material as well.
  • Seems to be a big theme in the Myst series: All of the live-action (and sometimes CGI) characters seen in the games wear clothing that are very detailed. For example: Atrus wears a frocked coat at times, and even his normal clothing is very high-class. Same with his wife Catherine (Katran), who is best known for wearing a red-colored, different kind of coat with embroidery, over a simple blouse-like dress. Their sons, Sirrus and Achenar, were later retconned to wear clothing that would not look out-of-place at an aristocratic ball. Atrus' father, Gehn, is probably the biggest offender, as he is best know for wearing a simplistic military coat, but is decked out with all sorts of trim and details, without being too flashy. Even in the future games, Yeesha, Atrus and Catherine's future daughter, wears an overall-vest and skirt combo with leafy embroidery, and boots. In Myst V, Esher dresses in a simple burlap-like suit, but has a decorative belt, red scarves, and a loincloth in gold and blue.
  • In Super Mario Bros.:
    • Rosalina goes for this instead of the Pimped Out Dresses that Peach and Daisy wear. Rosalina's dress is invariably a cyan gown that never gets anything more than a star motif added on, (as is the case in Super Smash Bros.) yet still is an elegant attire befitting of the Mother of the Cosmos.
    • Unlike the three ladies mentioned above, Pauline is an ordinary civilian, so she is usually seen wearing a simple red dress. For her newly-appointed position as the mayor of New Donk City, she increases her wardrobe with a nice suit and pants. Both outfits are striking nonetheless.
  • Street Fighter V has two rich characters, Rashid (the eldest son of a respected Middle Eastern family) and Karin (the heiress of a very rich Zaibatsu). Both of them have alternate outfits with this theme. Rashid has a casual shirt-slacks-sandals ensemble with some bling added on the chest and feet, and Karin has a Little Black Dress with an expensive-looking pendant and Modesty Shorts.
  • Fate/stay night's Caster wears a figure-fitting and floor-length dress in solid purple, and either a simple gold brooch or an even-darker-purple hooded cape with a gold clasp. Simple, yet elegant, and given the price of purple dye in real-world ancient Greece, it would have cost a fortune in the Age of Gods.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Goldie Gold and Action Jack: Goldie is part of the Fiction 500, but she has a Limited Wardrobe. Some of her outfits are grand, like her white fur coat and Stylish Protection Gear, but she also has simple outfits, like her red evening dress.
  • Legend of Korra: Suyin Beifong of the Metal Clan wears a simple yet commanding set of green robes most of the time, complete with a necklace set specific to the group. If out in battle, she will add steel plates to the ensemble. The rest of the Metal Clan also follows this aesthetic as well.
  • On My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rarity manages to do such a thing accidentally when she is working on a dress for Twilight Sparkle's birthday in Canterlot, but keeps getting distracted by hanging out with the Canterlot elite. In the end she procrastinates so much she barely gets past the first step in making it, only managing to produce a simple featureless yellow dress with white trim and a pink ribbon. However what she did make is still made to the highest quality possible and of the finest materials, and Twilight absolutely adores it because it is so simple and practical.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield: When the Simpsons are about to be sponsored for a country club membership and Marge accidentally ruins her only suitable outfit, she purchases a Chanel gown out of desperation; a sleeveless lavender number with a stripped bodice and no other decoration, it still costs $3300, and the family ended up declining the membership (thankfully she had saved the receipt).
    • The Burns and the Bees: Mr. Burns attends a billionaire's camp that seems pretty much like a regular camp- the billionaires food fight with ketchup and mustard, go skinny dipping, and tell ghost stories. However, they also practice archery on valuable paintings, roast jewels, and even play Quidditch.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Omi's "formal" robes are the same design as his everyday ones but with a slightly higher thread count, creating a notable sheen.

    Real Life 
  • In Pre-modern Europe, simply wearing clothes that had colors other than those natural to a textile (e.g. brown and gray and most especially off-white) was a sign of wealth, and wearing bright colors even more so. It's why colors known by such names as "Royal Blue" and "Royal Purple" exist. This is because until the advance of chemical industry and the invention of artificial dyes, permanent dyes in certain bright colors were extremely difficult to produce from natural sources. Only the most extremely wealthy and/or powerful could afford them.
    • The Roman toga is a pretty simple design, a single roughly semicircular piece of wool, 12 to 20 feet long and up to 8 wide. In pre-industrial times it would be expensive for the sheer amount of material.
    • Royal crimson was generally made with the bodies of various insects. Large amounts of laboriously-collected bugs would be needed to make even a small amount of dye, so even the cheapest forms—produced from the Kermes scale insects that can be found on many oaks—were still prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of the population. If you wanted the best stuff, you had to import it from Poland or Armenia—until a new species was discovered in Mexico, where it fortunately grew in large enough quantities to reduce the price to the point that (for instance) it could be used for the uniforms of non-commissioned officers in the British Army (usually mixed with cheaper plant dyes).
    • White also signified wealth because even though it usually didn't need dye, cleaning or replacing it was expensive.
    • In most Chinese Kingdoms and Empires, yellow has been a royalty-only color, as it symbolizes gold and the dye can be made with saffron, an absurdly expensive spice that was ridiculously fussy and labor-intensive to harvest and (for China) had to be imported from Iran.note 
    • Likewise, Purple was a King/Emperor-only color in the Roman and Byzantine Empires. So powerful was "the purple" that the title Porphyrogenitos - "born in the purple" was given to imperial princes born after their father ascended to the throne, and this could give them higher status than firstborns who were born prior, and when possible, empresses were brought to a special chamber in the palace with walls of porphyry (a kind of reddish-purple stone) to cement the "purple" status of such princes. It was made from sea snails through a process that was lost for a very long time outside of a few small communities in Egypt and Tunisia. Lost for even longer was the technique for using these snails' secretions to produce a blue dye, which the Phoenicians knew how to do but didn't leave any record of the process; the technique was rediscovered by Jewish researchers looking for the identity of the historical tekhelet (a blue dye used to color the tzitzit — fringes — of the tallit — prayer shawl), widely suspected to be this dye. In the heyday of the Roman Empire, purple was, pound for pound, three times as expensive as gold.
    • In east Asia particularly, black was a royal color. Giving fabric a true black color that doesn't wash out is much harder than it sounds.
    • There were a lot of cheap plant dyes, like red madder and blue woad, which the masses could afford (at least in good times). However, these colors tend to fade, leaving only a faint trace of their original hues after a while. This is also why red is associated with soldiers, especially in the Roman and British Army. When the only purpose of a uniform is easy identification and psychological association, states tend to choose the cheapest dyes possible.
  • Beau Brummell, a leading style-setter in early 19th-century England, made this the basis of his look, which became quite influential. Men's styles of the 18th century were much more ornate and used a wide variety of colors; Brummell rejected overly ornate fashions and instead went for understated, but perfectly fitted and tailored garments. The cornerstones of his style were dark coats, full-length trousers (rather than knee breeches and stockings),note  immaculate shirt linen, and an elaborately knotted cravat. So influential was he that the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) would spend hours with Brummell each morning to take notes on how he got dressed and ready in the morning, and he was called upon to write up the dress code for several of the major social clubs of London, which all called for his sober but elegant style—to the point where this dress code—or at least the principles underlying it—became the basis of modern men's fashion, to this day (think: what's a business suit but a highly-derived version of a dark coat, dark trousers, linen shirt, and cravat?).
    • Brummell's influence can be tied directly to the period in which he was living—namely, the early 19th century, right when the Industrial Revolution was just getting into full swing. At that time, the rising industrial class was getting richer and richer and so more and more were able to buy the kinds of fancy clothes which were once the exclusive province of the aristocracy. The new industrialists both had the money to buy expensive fabric and had made the fabric itself much cheaper (since the textile industry was one of the first to be revolutionised, and making lots of cloth with intricate, fancy patterns was a solved problem by the 1810s thanks to industrial spinning and weaving and the Jacquard loom). Meanwhile, much of the traditional aristocracy, which at the time mostly made income by selling agricultural goods, found itself in an increasingly bad financial position thanks to historical mismanagement, aristocrats getting killed in the wars with Napoleon, competition from new markets like Russia and the Americas (which depressed grain prices), and the introduction of the potato (which depressed grain prices further).note  Moreover, wealthy industrialists became increasingly prominent in government, winning seats in Parliament and demanding reforms that would further increase their power. While the old aristocrats fought hard to keep control of the state, it seemed clear that their influence was on the wane.

      Brummel's style was an impressive aristocratic response to this—now that anyone from anywhere could make the money to buy the fancy fabric, Brummel deftly shifted attention from cost and rarity of material to workmanship and rarity of labour. After all, even if you could buy a ton of the best cloth, this was useless if your tailor was crap—or worse, out of fashion. And even if you did know who the right tailor was, he only had so many hours in the day, and he would usually prefer to work with the old-money aristocrat (whom he knew and whose custom could be used to advertise) than a new-money industrialist (who was a nobody and whose custom would not bring in more business) unless the industrialist could substantially outbid the blue blood.note  Thus shifting the emphasis to what "Society" viewed as "tasteful" kept the aristocracy's social prestige in an era when mass production and globalisation had chipped away at their traditional sources of economic and political power.
    • Some are now blaming Brummell for being the reason men's fashion is so boring. Some people have placed the blame on other causes, though.
  • A. Lange & Sohne watches from Glashütte are considered the absolute pinnacle of horology, with every part handmade from the best alloys and precious metals. Though from the outside they look just as plain as any classic watch, they're thought to put more opulent watches like Rolexes to shame.
  • Cary Grant, widely agreed to be one of the best-dressed men of the twentieth century, based his style on this principle.
  • Givenchy's dresses. Audrey Hepburn loved that style.
  • The Little Black Dress, in its well-known modern form, was developed and popularized in the 1920s by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel and Jean Patou. It has its origin in black mourning dresses (which were very much in evidence during and immediately after World War One), but Chanel and Patou transformed the garment into a simple, elegant outfit that can be accessorized to any degree necessary for any kind of formal or informal occasion.
  • Since the early 20th century, modern furniture has become quite simplified and lacking superfluous ornamentation, but obtaining high-quality furniture in a modern style from a renowned designer or brand can be quite expensive.
  • The first missionaries in Japan gave Oda Nobunaga a flask of candies as tribute while asking for permission to do their work. But back before Japan had its own industry, sugar was incredibly expensive. Even now, the traditional thank-you-for-coming gift from the Imperial House of Japan is a box of konpeito.
  • Denmark and the Netherlands have what is often called "bicycle royalty", meaning rather than putting on ridiculous getups and getting driven everywhere, the royals take a bike like their subjects do (both countries are very bike-friendly). That of course does not mean they don't know how to put on a stunning outfit or make a graceful public appearance.
  • Most of the remaining royalty in Europe and Japan dress in this fashion, with tailored suits and reasonable dresses, and only put on their elaborate robes or badge-studded military uniforms for special ceremonies.
  • This article on the dress Michelle Obama wore on the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
  • Brooks Brothers is a fine example of simple-yet-opulent menswear: fine materials impeccably stitched together into classic designs, never excessively trendy or flashy. It is quite telling of the quality that many people who could easily afford bespoke shirts still choose to buy off-the-rack shirts from Brooks Brothers.
  • Yves Saint Laurent famously designed a collection of simple shift dresses with color blocks in the style of Mondrian paintings. The dresses were a huge hit, defining the mod style of the mid-sixties.

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