Today, I want to share some of my tips for selecting inexpensive items that look expensive. This post and corresponding video, focus specifically on how I shop for high-quality, luxe looking pieces at lower to mid-range shops like Target, Asos, Topshop, H&M, Zara and more. In an ideal world, we would all be able to purchase ethically sourced pieces that will last forever. Unfortunately, our budgets often don't allow for this so I want to share how you can still make well educated purchases at lower price points that will ultimately allow you to purchase less overall.
Before I hop into the tips though, I want this post to signal the beginning of a new series of sorts in which I share how I build my wardrobe without breaking the bank and I'd love to know what you'd like to see next along these lines. I'm already planning a video all about how I've never spent more than $300 on any single item in my wardrobe - including my designer pieces but I'd love to know what else you're interested in. So, without further ado let's hop into it!
That's right! Including my designer items, I have never paid more than $300 on any single item in my wardrobe. In order to still achieve that luxe look without having to break the bank, I've honed in on some tried and tested tips that ensure my pieces don't look cheap - even though they often times were.
My first tip is to familiarize yourself with high-end designers and their styling. Whether you're more Chloe or Ralph Lauren, find a designer or two that you aspire to and get to know the silhouettes and styles they tend to use. Once you've honed in on some cuts that you like, you can look for those styles at lower end shops like Zara and H&M.
Along those same lines, become familiar with style tweaks that set certain designers and fashion icons apart. Then, implement these into your own outfits. Even if you're wearing a $40 blazer, you can easily style it up to look much more luxe. For example, I love to drape blazers over my shoulders, roll my sleeves and belt my tops and vests for an elevated look.
Next up, I recommend opting for neutrals like black, white, grey, cream and even pale pink and olive green. Often times when you hear tips for looking luxe on a budget this one tops the list. The justification is usually because these colors inherently look more luxe, but I think that's missing the mark just a bit.
The reason you want to look for neutral colors when shopping at a lower price point, isn't because they automatically feel more "rich," instead, it's because it's easier to maintain the integrity of those dies when working against lower operating costs. When shopping at places like H&M, Topshop and the like, they tend to have very low operating costs which is what allows them to charge so little for each item. These low costs often make it difficult to uphold the richness of more complex colors which can often times make them appear more dull and less vibrant. Of course, there are always exceptions to this but on the whole this is a good thing to keep in mind when shopping at lower end retailers.
The only exception to this is if a neutral piece already looks faded. For example, let's say you're shopping at Target and are deciding between two black tees - one is richly died and the other is more faded looking. If you're looking for items that feel more luxe, you'll want to go with the richly died tee and leave the faded one.
Next up, is to look for simple patterns. When dealing with lower operating costs over all, the first things to suffer are typically the craftsmanship and elaborate dies. In order to overcome many of the craftsmanship flaws that accompany lower end items, you'll want to opt for simple patterns like thin stripes, checks, polka dots and even some delicate florals. Like neutral dies, these simple patterns are often easier to maintain when up against low operating costs.
A very important thing to keep in mind when looking for these patterns, is to ensure that the patterns line up along the seams and shoulders. These areas are some of the first that you'll notice when looking at a garment and ensuring that they're lined up helps it look more finished - which ultimately makes it look more elevated.
Along those same lines, you'll also want to ensure that no threads or buttons are coming loose, and that all of the seams and hems are clean and finished. All of these factors all help a piece look luxe - despite the cost.
Just like little details such as loose threads and uneven seams can make an item look "cheap," certain buttons can do the same.
To the right, I've included some examples of what "cheap" and "expensive" buttons look like so that you can get an idea of what you should opt for when going for that luxe look on a budget.
Also, if you ever find a garment that checks off all the boxes but is lacking in the button department, don't hesitate to swap them out for some new ones.
This small tweak usually costs no more than a few dollars and instantly elevates an other wise simple piece.
For example, when I was in college I picked up this great jacket from Charlotte Russe for about $20-$25. It checked all the boxes for a luxe looking piece at a low price and even felt reminiscent of Chanel - so I loved it even more. The only thing I thought could be better were the buttons so I picked up some at the craft store and swapped them out. I am not exaggerating when I say that every time I wore that jacket at least two people would ask if it was Chanel - just by swapping out the buttons.
Like I mentioned above, the craftsmanship is often one of the first things to falter when working against low operating costs. In order to overcome these often inevitable flaws that accompany more complex silhouettes, it's a good idea to opt for classic, clean tailoring such as pockets (preferably with lining), clean shoulders, even collars, darting, belt loops etc.
As you can see in the $50 blazer below, it has delicate pockets, a clean collar, crisp shoulders, even wrists and darting in the back. All of these touches help make the blazer feel far more luxe that it's $5o price tag.
Similarly, when it comes to pants you want to look for many of the same things. In addition to these things though, you'll also want to also opt for clean hems that suit your height. Along those same lines, you'll want to take anything that isn't quite perfect for you to a tailor. By taking your pieces to a tailor and having them literally tailored to you, you instantly elevate the effect of even the most inexpensive pieces. When an item fits you well, it feels bespoke and custom, which automatically feels luxe.
Whether you're shopping high-end or low-end, certain fabrics and textures instantly feel more luxe and help to elevate your overall look. When done correctly, these fabrics include leather and faux leather, suede and faux suede, faux fur and chunky knits.
Now, in order to ensure these maintain their luxe quality and don't veer too far into faux territory, you're going to want to ensure that the seams are aligned, the hems are neat and that there aren't any scratches or scuffs.
When dealing with knits, you're going to want to do the same except you'll also want to ensure that the knit pattern is clean and even. Also, you want to make sure that there aren't any major gaps in the knit either.
My final tip for finding luxe looking pieces at a low price point, is to steer clear of sheer. Unless of course sheer is the look you're going for, thinner fabrics have a tendency to feel less expensive than heftier materials.
Let's say for example, you're looking for a classic white shirt at a low end retailer like Forever 21. First of all, it's very possible to find, you just have to keep the tips mentioned above in mind and also avoid purchasing a shirt that's too transparent. A good way to determine if something will be too sheer, is to hold it up to the nearest light source and place your hand inside of it. If you can see your hand very clearly, then that piece will be too see-through when you're wearing it and you should keep looking for the perfect option.
And that's everything! Those are my tips for finding luxe looking pieces at low prices. I hope that you found this helpful and like always, I also outlined my tips in the corresponding YouTube video below. Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you in my next one!