Not everyone who loves fashion has the money (or time) to spend on curating the perfect wardrobe full of high-end pieces. We’re all about finding good deals on essentials and keeping your shopping as simple as possible. But even when we don’t have extra room in our budgets for a pricey dress or a new top, we still don’t want to look like we’re wearing sale finds and fast fashion pieces. So what else can you do to make even your cheap clothes look expensive?
It turns out that there’s a lot you can do, even when you aren’t in a position to run to the mall (or go on an online shopping spree). The tips ahead will keep your ensembles looking high-end even when your bank account balance is dangerously low and help your wardrobe to feel more designer than fast fashion even if the opposite is true. It is true that you can feel put-together even when most of your outfit came from the sales rack.
1. Make sure everything fits
The first step to making even cheap clothes look expensive? Make sure that everything fits impeccably. If you’re choosing between pieces on the sales rack, go for the one that fits better. If you’re getting rid of old clothing and are choosing between two versions of something — like two white shirts or two black blazers — keep the one that’s cut better or looks more flattering with your favorite pair of trousers. If you find it difficult to find clothes that fit you exactly correctly, then it may be time to consider finding a tailor. Many minor alterations, even ones that don’t cost much, can make a major difference in the way your clothes fit.
2. Take care of your clothes
Even if your clothes weren’t expensive to purchase, they still may require specific care. Make sure that you follow the care instructions on each tag, and always hang up your clothes instead of leaving them on the floor of your bedroom or balled up in the corner of your closet. Taking proper care of your clothes will ensure that they last longer, which is important both for investment pieces and for the less-pricy garments in your wardrobe.
Ensuring that your clothes are always clean and properly ironed or steamed will also go a long way toward making them look more expensive. A top that’s wrinkled and creased will make you look disheveled, but steaming that top (even just by hanging it in your shower) will make your ensemble look much more polished. Lint-rolling a black jacket before you leave the house will make it look less worn and more chic. Similarly, getting your winter coat cleaned once a season or dry-cleaning your blazers every once in a while will make you look better each time you wear them.
3. Choose the right accessories
Now that we’ve said our piece about making sure your clothes fit and are well-maintained, we’ll also add that your clothes aren’t the only thing that matters when you’re trying to look and feel put-together. Your accessories are a just as important part of the equation, and the great thing is that accessories are typically cheaper than clothes. Plus, you’ll get lots more wears out of the perfect bag, a great pair of shoes, or a stylish pair of sunglasses than you would any single piece of clothing.
If you have room in your budget to make a few upgrades, go for a sleek leather bag for work or for an everyday handbag. Choose a pair of sunglasses that are classic in shape and sturdy in construction. Or pick up a pair of shoes that you’ll want to wear everyday, and that will actually stand up to that abuse. If you want to take the opportunity to add some high-end pieces to your rotation, forget about paying full price and instead, look to Off Fifth by Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s Warehouse, and online destinations like the Outnet, The RealReal, or even eBay.
4. Wear a signature piece (or two) of jewelry
Just as the right accessories can add a major measure of polish, the right jewelry can also elevate an ensemble. The key is to choose a small number of understated pieces that go with everything in your closet, instead of amassing a wide collection of costume jewelry that’s very limited as far as versatility. And as always, when you’re choosing something that you can wear almost every day, it’s important to choose quality over quantity.
Whether you favor silver, rose gold, or yellow gold, you can find delicate pieces that steer you far away from trendy territory and into the realm of choosing classic pieces that can become your signatures. A versatile pair of earrings, a simple necklace, a small ring, or a unique bracelet are all great pieces that you’ll wear again and again. And if your jewelry means something to you, each piece will feel like a personal talisman — which makes it an even more integral part of your look.
5. Pay attention to your skin and hair
Even the most artfully put-together outfit will always look better if you pay attention to your skin and hair. Getting a blowout is a great way to look chic and polished, and even the shortest hair cut will look better with some extra pampering. If you don’t have the time or extra dollars for a professional blowout, try to achieve the effect yourself by taking extra time and care at home.
Additionally, great skin care (and good makeup) are key if you want your look to read “luxurious.” For most women, less makeup is really more, so taking good care of your skin is of paramount importance. Great skin is always better than a face full of heavy makeup, so add great skin care products into your cosmetics budget, and figure out a minimal makeup look that works for you.
6. Consider a uniform
If you’re really hoping to look like a fashion insider despite a small budget, it may be worth reconsidering your approach to your closet and adopting a personal uniform. If you already tend to wear the same pieces and silhouettes over and over, that’s a great sign that you’ve figured out what works best for your figure and your lifestyle, even without investing in expensive pieces. Opting for a uniform will keep your look consistent and keep your outfits looking high-end, even if you opt for low-priced versions of your favorite essentials.