How To Look Fancy On A Budget

by Toria Sheffield

There are two hard truths that I know for sure: Expensive clothes look really good, and I usually cannot afford them. Which often leads me to the age old trick of trying to make cheap clothes look expensive (and I'm not ashamed to admit it!).

And I'm by no means a slave to brands; in fact, my friends often tease me for not having heard of most designers, and I can honestly tell you I couldn't tell a Kate Spade from a Vera Wang dress if you paid me. However, I have noticed that pricier brands are usually just made better and from more quality materials, meaning that — as much as I hate to admit it — they just make us look better.

The good news is, there are actually a few pretty simple hacks for making less expensive clothes look more quality, meaning you'll also end up feeling better about how you look in them, regardless of the actual price. It's often just about mixing and matching higher end and lower end items and knowing the kind of cheap clothes you should just never buy.

If you're looking to spruce up your wardrobe but don't exactly have couture-level funds, here are eight ways to make your clothes look way more expensive.

1. Get Things Tailored

Harper's Bazaar editor Joyann King said her number one tip for looking chic on a budget is simply tailoring your clothes. "Taking the extra two days from purchase to have your neighborhood tailor nip and tuck your latest great find, versus ripping the tags off and wearing right away, will elevate the final product way beyond its original price tag," she noted. Plus, if you find a super quality piece at a store like TJ Maxx or Marshall's but it's a little big, you'll probably still save money in the long run by getting it altered to your size.

2. Keep Your Outerwear Classic

ASOS Coat With Funnel Neck and Belt In Wool, $82, ASOS

King also recommended always investing in classic and timeless coats as opposed to giving into seasonal trends. "Focus on purchasing coats that are forever," King wrote. "Classic camel, navy pea, black moto, belted trench, raw denim—every time you reach for a topper, you won't regret it.

Also consider: Madden Girl Classic Hooded Trench, $49.99, Amazon

3. Invest In Structured Bags

Davina Ivory Structured Bag, $69.99, Amazon

On her website, stylist Chriselle Lim said you should always opt for a structured bag if you're trying to look elegant. "Whether it’s a large or small bag, there’s nothing more expensive looking than a structured bag. They’re chic and timeless," she wrote. "I like to buy structured bags in neutral colors like black, white or tan because they’re the kind of colors that can transcend seasons and only get better with age!"

Also consider: Aldo Superfly Top Handle Bag, $65, Amazon

4. Get Into Neck Scarves

Lim also suggested using neck scarves as accent pieces for your outfits, and even has a neck scarf tutorial in the above video. "This simple accessory can make all the difference in elevating your outfit and add a touch of sophistication to your look," she wrote.

5. Elevate With Pricy-Looking Accessories

Factory Crystal Bouquet Bib Necklace, $33.50, JCrew Factory

On a piece for, style budgeting expert Jacqueline Curtis recommended elevating basic ensembles with more elaborate statement pieces. "Accessories are a great place to allot some of your clothing budget because they can change an entire look," she wrote, adding, "A good rule of thumb for purchasing accessories that look expensive is to go for something that isn’t too obviously fake. A huge necklace made of cheap gemstones would be out of your price range if it were made from real diamonds, but a nice pair of cubic zirconia stud earrings are more realistic, so they actually look more expensive when worn because they’re not obviously fake."

Also consider: Snow Flower Crystal Statement Necklace, $21.99, Amazon

6. Go For Monochromes

All Season Stretch Two Button Jacket, $169, Ann Taylor

Curtis also noted that a monochromatic outfit always looks chic if done correctly. "Neutral colors look best for this trick: White worn with shades of khaki, or dark-wash jeans worn with a lighter chambray top easily trick others into thinking you spent a fortune on pieces that can be found at a huge discount," she said, and also that "when in doubt, go for black."

Also consider: Anne Klein Black Suiting Blazer, $129, Amazon

7. Avoid Embellishments

In a piece for Cosmopolitan, Senior Style editor Charles Manning said when you're cutting costs on clothes, try to avoid pieces that have a lot of embellishments, like beads or textured patterns, as they're really hard to do well on a budget and will likely obviously look cheap. Instead, he said to just stick to simple basics.

8. Invest In A Steam Cleaner

My Little Steamer Go Mini, $32, Amazon

And finally, Manning recommended investing in a steam cleaner, as it's the absolute gentlest way to keep your clothes looking fresh and will avoid the wear and tear of the washing machine. "Wrinkles can make anything look cheap, but ironing is a hassle and many synthetics can't be ironed. A good steamer can blast wrinkles out of just about anything in a couple of minutes," he wrote.

Style and elegance don't have to be about price tags. It's simply about knowing how to wear and pair the reasonably-priced items you already own, and often just taking good care of your clothes. So don't stress if you can't go on a shopping spree at Gucci — with a few of the above tips you can still look totally chic, even if you're also totally broke.

Images: Giphy (2)