There are four words that inspire lust, longing, and a flash-mob-like frenzy among fashionistas like no other: new Chanel nail color. Every season, thousands of women, from college students to grandmas, plunk down a healthy portion of their paychecks to own the hint-of-mint Jade or greige-made-sexy Particulier.
I remember scoffing at the idea of paying $25 for one small bottle of Chanel Vamp back in the mid-90s—really, the equivalent of drinks and lattes for two for a color I’d only seen on dominatrixes and guys with an unhealthy love of Nine Inch Nails? But of course, when I swiped on that dark, moody, black-red burgundy, I was transformed into someone far more fabulous, mysterious, and glamorous than I had any right to be. (Yes, it really is that amazing.)
But still, paying retail is for suckers. And thankfully there are plenty of polish companies that agree. This fall, Chanel’s trio of “it” colors—metallics that fuse high fashion with a rock and roll edge—are all available in knock-offs that’ll save you so much you can own all three colors for the price of one Chanel original. Don’t worry—your secret’s safe with me.
My personal favorite this season is a limited-edition to-die-for greenish gold that’s just the right blend of fatigue olive green and 24k gold shimmer, a surprisingly stunning combo.
Less: Revlon’s Gold Coin, $4.70 at drugstore.com
Get the same effect with this drugstore brand (seriously!). To keep the look office-appropriate, wear your nails short and file to a soft edge somewhere between an oval and a square—this shade plus talon-like nails can be a scary combo.
This deep, sooty charcoal gray laced with silver and gold shimmer plays with the light, and its sheer tone allows you to layer to change its level of transparency. (I like two coats for fingers and three for toes.)
Less: OPI Your Royal Shine-ness, $9 at nailbeauty4u.com
With this doppelganger version of the original, you’ll have enough money left over to afford a salon manicure! It might be worth the investment—colors this dark are about as unforgiving as a jilted ex when they end up on your cuticles.
Luxe: Chanel’s Quartz, $25
A taupe-y metallic shimmer with a gorgeous pearly sheen, it’s a true neutral that appears silvery in the right light—though it’s more a warm, pinky beige than the greige tone that was last year’s obsession.
Less: Nails Inc. Old Park Lane, $9.50 at Sephora
This budget-friendly alternative is a bit pinker, making it easier for those with fair skin to wear. Another added bonus: Nails Inc. skips parabens, sulfates, GMOs—all the harsh ingredients you want to avoid.
And remember: whether you choose to indulge in the original Chanel (to be fair, you won’t come close to owning anything else with those classic double Cs for $25) or go for the look-alikes and save, nail color is one of those great buys you can reach for knowing it will always fit—even without your Spanx.