How To Make Your Clothes Look More Expensive When You're Broke In 7 Different Ways

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 29: Ana wears Raceu hat, a Monica Lendinez Kaftan, a Zarass sandals, Nuna Bascon Bcn basics bracelets, a Just Cavalli handbag and a Baprincess collar during the 63rd Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell at the Real Club de Tennis Barcelona on April 29, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Miquel Benitez/Getty Images)
Source: Miquel Benitez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Finding unique and personalized ways to look more expensive when you're broke can be a tricky thing. How exactly does one afford luxe items when she's got a budget that wheezes every time she tries to stretch it a little further? It's like trying to pull the How To Marry A Millionaire con: Assume the position of either Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, or Marilyn Monroe and acknowledge that you barely have more than two dollars to rub together. But — with flirtatious smiles and fast lines — swindle your way into renting a penthouse in New York City and put on furs that only go with red lipstick, Chanel No. 5, and drinking champagne for lunch. 

But what if you don't quite have the savvy to jimmy a penthouse? Or don't have a reason to put on a dress like you're on a cruise ship in the 1940s? There are still clever little ways that you can add touches of expensive flair to your look, without the need for a hairbrained scheme. Here are five easy ways you can make any outfit feel more expensive without breaking your budget. So if you're broke or just staying afloat, you can still have the pleasure of feeling like a million bucks.

1. Pair Chic Leather Sandals With Minimalist Pieces

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It's no secret that shoes can either make or break an outfit, so when you're focusing on creating something minimalist or dabbling with plain basics, make sure to add a touch of refinement by choosing well-tailored shoes. Go with on-trend leather sandals that make use of simple lines and thick but unfussy straps. They make a statement but in a quiet way, and add a more expensive flair than, say, ballet flats or sneakers. 

For example, I'm a big fan of wearing vintage dresses, both short mod-like ones and long dramatic ones. The fastest way I add a touch of polish to the quirky and sometimes overly-sweet looks is to add a solid, clean-lined minimalist sandal. It instantly makes the look feel more classic and simple because of the no-nonsense quality of the shoe.

2. Mix High & Low Styles 

If you offset your cheaper pieces with higher quality items, you not only balance out the bargain items but also create a fun contrast in your look that adds interest. For example, pair your sneakers with your most immaculate coat, match a pair of strappy heels with sweatpants, wrap a luxe belt over a casual dress, or juxtapose your sharpest blazer with worn-in baggy jeans. The key here is to limit the more expensive pieces you buy so you're not spending a ton of money, and then supplement those items with a large variety of affordable pieces.

The quality weight of one item will raise up the cheaper feel of the other. According to fashion writer Nicole Kliest at WhoWhatWear, "Sport a pair of sneakers with a fancy dress or skirt for the ultimate unstudied vibe." No one will be the wiser that that gold cuff was $5 from H&M if you pair it with an immaculate knit dress. It'll blend in naturally and assume the same luxe-like shine.

3. Top Off Your Look With A Sleek Blazer 

A girl can never go wrong with a well tailored blazer. It just oozes class and quality, which means it'll add polish to even the most casual of looks. Why do you think you see so many street style stars wearing it with cotton tees or ancient jeans? It's because it's a fix-it-all kind of item. If you want to look more expensive, Kliest says to, "Drape a blazer in a sophisticated fabric over your shoulders." Then step back and be amazed how your decade-old boyfriend jeans transform in the mirror. Try hitting up discount stores like Nordstrom Rack to find a structured, well-made blazer at a much cheaper price.

4. The Belt Matters 

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Just like with any accessory, the belt has the potential to either elevate or bring down your look. If you choose a cheap plastic one, it might not ruin your outfit but it won't help bring it out of the "budget" category. Try instead going for something made with supple leather or shiny patent leather material, or go a step further and cinch your waist with a statement belt instead. It's an accessory that typically doesn't have to cost a lot of money — head in almost any thrift store and you'll find loads of vintage leather belts that have been discarded.

According to style writer Joyann King at Harpers Bazaar, "Insouciance is something we're always pursuing in the style department, but in the case of looking like you know what you're doing, tuck in any shirttails or a baggy sweater hem and cinch your waist with a chic belt for maximum impact." Your belt is like your cherry on top — it's not completely necessary, but it sure does make the package more of a treat.

5. Tie Your Outfit Together With A Cross Body Bag With Hardware

A little metal goes a long way when adding polish to your look. Adding some chrome to your outfit will help inch it away from fast-fashion territory  and make it look more timeless and thought out. According to King at Harpers Bazaar, "There is just something about structural, gilded extras — whether a bag or jewelry or both — that make you look like you stepped out of the pages of a magazine." So choose a structured bag (which are available at every price point) and give your outfit a sleek look with its gilded touches, whether in the form of a shiny buckle or chain-link straps. 

6. Layer With A Supple Knit

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There's nothing quite so luxe looking as a thick, supple knit snuggled over your shoulders. Thin sweaters are nice and are wonderful layering pieces, but if it's an expensive look you want then go for a thicker, heavier material. Look for a thick wool or, if you want to splurge on one nice sweater for the season, a heavier cashmere knit.

According to fashion writer Nayiri Mampourian at WhoWhatWear, "Knits that pill or are too thin don't look expensive, so when shopping, look for a heavier jacquard knit that's sturdy and won't slump." The more structured and overflowing it is, the more quality it brings to the table.

7. Choose Minimalist Booties

The simpler you go with design, the more expensive a piece appears. So when looking to elevate your outfit, reach for booties with clean lines that can easily look triple the amount you paid for them. Fashion writer Elana Fishman at Lucky described one pair of boots by saying, "Their luxe-looking materials and sleek silhouettes make them almost identical to those thousand-dollar designer alternatives." Even though she's talking about a particular pair in this blurb, the idea can apply across the board — simplicity can make pieces look more expensive, even when the materials may not be so expensive. Instead of reaching for the trendy pieces with all the buckles, laces, bells, and whistles, go for the understated Chelsea boot or unfussy block heel. Simplicity is elegance. 

No money? No problem. Try one of these simple tricks when heading out the door and you'll be surprised just how much your outfit can evolve. 

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