I’ve always loved expensive things—I can’t help it. I adore quality and craftsmanship and simply, a well-made item.
When it comes to my style, I’ve always considered myself an expert at making what I wear look expensive even if it’s not. Although, like I said, I do appreciate the finer things in life, they do come with a price tag—and the high prices that generally come with top-quality products are not always within the budget of day-to-day life.
Splurging here and there is awesome, but as much as I love expensive things, I also love an affordable find too. Getting something on a major clearance sale or finding a designer item at a thrift store literally gives me an adrenaline rush. It’s a sport. You know you love it too. Who doesn’t like saving money?
So with my expertise in dressing “expensively” alongside my love for a bargain, I’m here to give you my tips on how to shop, dress, and style your outfits for less while still looking like you spent a fortune and how spending a little more on certain items now can save you money in the future.
Let’s Look Fab.
WHERE TO SHOP:
My favorite Madewell dress came from Savers with tags still on it and I found an Alexander McQueen top at Goodwill for four dollars.
Knowing where to shop is a fundamental component of dressing yourself expensive. We all want to look good but we don’t want to spend a month’s rent doing so. Finding stores that fit your personal style (your ideal look, the way you want to dress and the type of look that makes you feel your absolute best) is the first step. I like to consider my personal style a bit London meets Paris, edgy but not grungy, classic but not grandma, and taking from the current trends what suits me but not being a total slave to them. I’ve found stores that are affordable that I love to shop at because they fit my style and they aren’t ridiculously expensive—I’ll list them in a minute.
Another part of knowing where to shop is knowing about thrift, consignment, and off-the-rack stores. I love hunting for a good deal at Savers, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army. Some people think second hand shopping is weird or gross but it really isn’t. You can find brand new or even designer items for a fraction of the price (my favorite Madewell dress came from Savers with tags still on it and I found an Alexander McQueen top at Goodwill for four dollars). Take them home and wash them and they’re good as new! If you’re concerned about the environment it’s also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint by recycling. Other great stores to find discounted high fashion are TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Saks off Fifth, and Nordstrom Rack. These items are perfectly ready to wear and up to current fashion trends. You can find really high end products here for amazing prices.
I am a huge fan of shopping consignment as well. I bring all of my old clothes to consignment stores because you get a decent price from them; that’s because they don’t pay you immediately to get them off your hands, you have to wait until they’re sold (a great way to have $$$ to buy those new clothes is from selling at consignment stores!). My favorite online retailer for designer consignment shopping is Vestiaire Collective. I’m always hunting for something on Vestiaire and it’s the only online store I trust for designer purchases because each item is sent to Paris to their highly trained workers to distinguish and confirm its authenticity. You pay a little more for this in shipping but it’s 100% worth it. I do not recommend buying designer goods from Ebay, Depop, Mercari, or Poshmark (or any other app for that matter). You have no idea if what you’re buying is authentic and you have no way to get your money back post-sale. Vestiaire Collective is also amazing for finding vintage pieces or a rare item that you can’t find in stores or that is sold out everywhere! The prices are generally much cheaper than what you’d spend in store as most items are pre-loved or simply just purchased then re-sold. Make an account with them from this link and you’ll get $15 off your first purchase!
Stores I love to shop at are ASOS: I am a diehard fanatic for ASOS own brand as well as the other designers they sell on the site—high end and high street! Free shipping and student discounts make it super affordable (something to look at when purchasing online!); Mango: great for tailored pieces and trend items that aren’t tacky and are über feminine. It’s a perfect store for the “expensive” look as clothing is made with quality material. Buy during their seasonal sales!; Zara: I have a love-hate relationship with Zara because I know their production practices aren’t ethical (Google Rana Plaza 2013) and their sizing isn’t the greatest for women with curves (My boobs make me an XL sometimes?). They’re also a massive fast-fashion producer aka trend city aka designer knock offs. But their suiting and classic pieces can be beautiful and look very expensive; All Saints: this is a pricier store—the place you’ll buy a higher quality, long-lasting item to stop buying multiple cheap versions. For example, I bought my first real leather jacket here—I haven’t since made a “leather” purchase because it’s the only one I need–I don’t need a bunch of different faux leather jackets from Forever 21 lying around. My hack to save money (that I totally understand not everyone can do) is to always purchase during the sale (they do 20% off sales seasonally) and to always purchase in the United Kingdom (their home base so items are wayyy cheaper) & get my VAT tax back at the airport; Madewell: their denim is amazing! You can feel comfortable splurging here on a pair of jeans you’ll feel so good in (so you can stop wasting money on other cheap brands and minimize how many pairs you own!) or you can be like me and troll the clearance rack for a marked down pair in your size.
WHEN TO SPLURGE:
There is a time and place for making an impulsive or very expensive purchase—something not all of us can do too often. But when the moment is right, make sure this item fits your personal style, is made of high quality material, and will be worn and worn and re-worn and recycled and worn again. Designer goods can (obviously) be a major help in making an outfit look expensive. Even if you’re entire look is from Zara, a Gucci handbag will bring it up a serious notch. My advice when purchasing your first designer item or making a habit of purchasing designer though: buy accessories. Like stated earlier, you can find affordable clothes that look pricey in the right stores, however, throwing a designer label into the mix via an accessory will make this outfit look straight off the runway (that sounded so old school…how about “straight off of your Instagram explore page”).
Getting into the habit of wanting designer items after your first designer purchase is pretty much inevitable. It’s an addiction. But being addicted to buying a handbag or pair of shoes every year isn’t as bad as needing all your clothes to be from Dolce & Gabbana. Accessories can be the some of the cheapest items sold by a designer. Slowly work your way into the land of luxury by making a starter purchase like a scarf or pair of sunglasses before you go balls to the wall and buy a full couture outfit with matching handbag, coat, and hat. One of my first designer buys was an Alexander McQueen scarf from Vestiaire Collective–I saved so much by buying secondhand. My point: stick to purses, shoes, scarves, and sunglasses (and try to find sales or stalk Vestiaire like me!) if you want to keep your spending to a minimum. Keep your clothes from the high street until you can afford more.
HOW TO STYLE YOUR LOOK:
You can’t just buy any old thing from H&M, toss on a Burberry handbag, and call it a look. Styling is key to looking expensive. By styling I mean what are you wearing that makes your look unique or stand out? Why did I look at you and think “chic”? One of my favorite ways to show my style is by wearing all black. It’s powerful, it’s classic, and it’s definitely “fashion.” When done right (say a black turtleneck under a black blazer and black skinny jeans) it will basically scream stylish.
If you’re not into the whole all black everything thing, another way to look expensive (and something to make sure you’re keeping an eye out for when shopping!) is by purchasing clothing in solid colors. Lots of patterns can make clothing look cheap. It’s an easy giveaway that something isn’t designer, honestly. A white tee and black jeans could be from Topshop or could be from Acne Studios. No one knows but you. Speaking of tees and jeans—having a solid repertoire of basics is a great way to start that capsule wardrobe of expensive-looking affordable clothes. Find them in the aforementioned stores and combine with higher end pieces to look like a street style star.
A final note about styling to look expensive is finding tailored, classic pieces that flatter your body. For example, I adore blazers. I have for years and I continue to buy them in all shades and styles. Longline, boyfriend, double-breasted, they’re all an amazing way to make your look stand out and make you look confident. You can find great suiting at Zara and Mango. Pricier stores to buy that Holy Grail blazer you can’t wear enough of are French Connection, J. Crew, and Reiss. Not all clothes and styles work for every body type, so figure out what works best for you and roll with it. On my wish list is a Balmain blazer–I reckon I’d get some serious wear out of one although they are a pretty penny!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
When searching for clothes that are affordable but look pricey, one of the key factors is the quality of the material. Expensive clothing just doesn’t lose its shape in the wash like a v-neck from Pull & Bear does. One thing in particular that bothers me about “cheap” items is the look of faux leather. It’s almost always done poorly. Be very discriminative about fake leather (especially in boots)—it can be done well to look real but it’s hard to come by. Also fakey leather jackets are the worst. I could go on and on about the little things that bother me about “cheap” clothing (that metallic yarn in cable knit sweaters, ugly hardware on zippers and buttons, faux fur that looks like you just gave a stuffed animal a buzz cut, coats that don’t actually do anything for warmth, handbags that try to knock off a designer logo…) but you get the gist—quality is everything and you can find it in affordable stores! You just have to pay close attention. Think, “would I see this on a mannequin in Nordstrom or Barneys?” if not, put it down.
AND FINALLY…SPEND MORE ON ONE QUALITY ITEM AND SAVE IN THE LONG RUN:
I used to be so obsessed with trends and, for some reason, obsessed with having this massive repertoire of clothes to choose from.
When shopping, focus on high quality, timeless pieces that flatter your body. They may be a bit pricier than things at say, Forever 21, (but still not a fortune!) but in the long run you’re saving money because you’ll be able to re-wear and recycle for years to come. With this idea in mind, you’ll stop blowing money constantly buying new, trendy pieces that will go out of style and fall apart, and you’ll end up with a more streamlined wardrobe with pieces that are interchangeable and resilient to wearing and washing often. Pushing yourself to spend $150 on a pair of jeans you absolutely love, that fit you, and will want to live in is much better than owning 12 pairs of $30 jeans that don’t sit right on your figure, stretch out in the wash, and are likely just plain cheap—making you look cheap in turn. Learn where to splurge and how it will affect you in the future. Expensive items generally have a better fit and feel than most affordable clothes too, so you’ll be more drawn to wearing them and getting your money’s worth.
As we grow, we should learn to do more with less—less clothing in your closet means less decision-making in the morning when picking out an outfit. You’ll have your style down pat and won’t need 17 different options for your jacket or skirt. All your clothes will work interchangeably and will be very you.
This was a tough concept for me to adjust to because I used to be so obsessed with trends and, for some reason, obsessed with having this massive repertoire of clothes to choose from. Over time, you learn that trend pieces and fast fashion come and go way too quickly to even get proper use out of them. Trends also definitely don’t suit everyone. Now, at age 23, I move annually, I don’t have tons of closet space, I live out of a suitcase half the time, and I’m very particular how my very hard earned money is spent, having a small wardrobe that consists of high quality items and clothing of simple styles and colors allows me to dress myself easily and look like I spent a lot of money doing so. I of course splurge on expensive or designer goods here and there, but they’re things I know will work with the majority of my wardrobe and that I will get countless re-wears out of.
That’s a bit of my fashion philosophy right there. This year I really tried to stop spending constantly on super cheap goods and spend a little more on my clothes but shop less frequently. The purchases I’ve made will last a lot longer, and since they’re in simple colors and patterns, I won’t be afraid to wear them season after season. I still do the majority of my shopping during sales, which is a great way to save a few bucks.
Thanks for reading, I obviously have a lot to say about this topic! I know many of you will enjoy this post, so please comment below or on social media what you think! Thanks!
Stay tuned for more fashion and travel posts.
Xx Jet Set Bets