How To Look Expensive On A Budget

Want to know the formula for how to look expensive on a budget? Follow these tips and tricks to get a classy and bougie look…for less!

Woman wearing white jeans, tan loafers, a black blazer and a brown scarf walks through the city.
@emmahill

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How to Look Expensive on a Budget

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look (and feel) like a million bucks. In reality, class is not a matter of financial status; it’s a state of mind.

By following certain methods and adopting specific habits, you can present your most expensive-looking self…without breaking the bank. Below are the points I’ll cover for how you can look bougie on a budget so not only you and your wardrobe looks great, but your bank account too.

  • Invest in fewer staple pieces 
  • Go with neutrals
  • Focus on a flattering fit
  • Keep accessories sleek and to a minimum 
  • Find the right fabrics
  • Launder with care
  • Shop the right brands
  • Buy and sell used items
  • Start a Pinterest board for inspiration
  • Study the pros
 

image comparing two outfits, one expensive with designer items and the other with budget-friendly pieces

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How Can I Look Expensive and Classy?

Classy fashion is defined by timeless pieces that create a simple, sophisticated, and chic appearance. 

Those outfits that look as though they were effortlessly thrown together? That’s the magic of organizing crucial elements for an ultra-flattering effect.

When trying to style these outfits, you’ll want to consider several factors, including fabric, fit, and funding. Below are the best tips for dressing classy on a budget.

Tip #1: Invest in Fewer Staple Pieces

Your fashion staples are the most valuable clothing items in your closet – the ones that lay the foundation for every great outfit. Quality over quantity is key in how to look expensive on a budget, so don’t swipe your credit card until you’re certain the piece will complement your wardrobe. 

While spending more on certain items might seem counter intuitive, when you purchase fewer high-quality pieces rather than more fast-fashion items (think a $50 quality-made white t-shirt vs. a $10 poorly-made white t-shirt) it will serve you better in the long run and you will actually save money. 

Often, pricier items are more likely to remain in good condition throughout the years and they can also often be sold on sites like Poshmark or The Real Real when you are ready to move on.

Some staple pieces to consider for your classy wardrobe upgrade are:

Outerwear:

Don’t feel pressured to invest in these items all at once. Instead, slowly collect staple pieces over time, and you’ll have your closet stocked with them before you know it.

Woman wearing a tan trench coat, black jeans, white sneakers and a white t-shirt sips coffee in the city.
@lydiajanetomlinson

get the look for less:

Tip #2: Go With Neutrals

Next on our list of how to look expensive on a budget — choose neutral colors. Neutrals answer the age-old question of how you can look expensive, but still achieve a classy, minimal look.

While bold colors are fun to incorporate into your outfits every once in a while, you’ll get far more outfit combinations from fewer clothes. Neutral colors to consider are:

  • Black
  • White
  • Grey
  • Olive green
  • Brown
  • Taupe

These shades are extremely versatile and will anchor your looks, resulting in an effortlessly expensive-looking put-together outfit. 

get the look:

Since neutrals complement a variety of other colors, they’re a must-have in your wardrobe and you can add simple accessories to elevate the look even more. 

Also, neutrals never go out of style, so you can maintain that classic look for years to come. I recommend stocking your closet with neutral pieces and punctuating them with the occasional pop of color.

Photo: @clairerose

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Tip #3: Focus on a Flattering Fit

Perhaps one of the most defining elements for how to look expensive on a budget is ensuring your clothes fit you properly. A classy overall appearance typically features well-tailored, polished garments that subtly highlight your curves.

Here are some tips:

  • Avoid overly baggy or tight clothing, or combine a more fitted piece (straight leg jeans) with a slightly oversized piece (chunky sweater)
  • Take time to find pieces that flatter your body shape. For example, if you have an hourglass figure, you’ll want to stick to high-rise bottoms, which will accentuate your waistline. If you’re on the short side, take the time to find a tailor to achieve the best hemlines so you don’t find yourself drowning in fabric. 
Close up shot of a woman wearing two gold chain necklaces.
@fiveandtwojewelry

Tip #4: Keep Accessories Sleek and to a Minimum

Tasteful accessories have the potential to elevate your outfit from basic to expensive looking. I recommend you stick to dainty, sleek accessories that are ideal for everyday wear like a dainty gold cuff bracelet, croissant earrings, or a pearl drop necklace

Less really is more, which is beneficial to those trying to stay within a budget.

The right handbags, sunglasses, and shoes also have the ability to really elevate an outfit and create that expensive look, but you don’t have to break the bank to find them. 

Focus on neutral colors, simple cuts, and an overall minimalist look and you’ll be able to achieve that chic appeal. Try these accessories:

shop accessories:

Tip #5: Find the Right Fabrics

Fabric choices have the potential to either make or break your outfit. An expensive-looking style is complemented by luxurious materials that will see you through many seasons. My favorite fabrics to consider include cashmere (these are the best affordable cashmere sweaters), linen, silk, wool, and cotton

To stay on budget, try to find pieces made with high-quality fabrics at the end of the season on sale, shop used on sites like Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, or The Real Real, or find items that have a blend of fabrics. 

Rather than buying an item that is 100% cashmere which would be expensive, you can often find pieces with 10% cashmere blended with other materials that are more affordable but still have an expensive look. 

Woman wearing white linen pants, a black t-shirt and white sunglasses sips on a drink while sitting on a patio.
@stylememos

Tip #6: Launder With Care

When you see someone who looks polished and expensive, you’ll notice their clothing looks crisp and of good quality. How you launder your clothing plays a big role in how it will look in a complete ensemble.

Be sure to read your garments’ labels closely and properly care for and launder them to make sure they last. By doing this, you will minimize the need to purchase replacements and your outfits will always look more polished and put-together. 

Woman wearing a camel colored trench coat, carrying flowers and fruit wrapped in brown paper.
@makelifeeasier

get the look:

Tip #7: Shop The Right Brands

Shopping intentionally, and with brands that offer classic pieces at a great price point, is key to looking expensive on a budget.

Rather than buying random items on a whim, make a list of your favorite brands that have quality items that fit your budget (or slightly higher). Then you can join their email lists and get notified when they have sales, so you can scoop up pieces you love for a better price. 

Below are my favorite brands that offer high quality, classic, polished pieces as competitive prices:

  • Quince – offers timeless pieces made with luxurious fabrics like linen and cashmere at a fraction of the price of designer brands. 
  • Mango – offers classic pieces and more trendy items in 100% cotton and linen fabrics, and has great sales all the time. 
  • Madewell – a great brand for quality denim and accessories, and often has great sales. 
  • Massimo Dutti – beautifully made, quality pieces at competitive prices. 
  • H&M – while this brand is less sustainable, it is improving, and offers great wardrobe basics – look for 100% cotton and linen-blend pieces. 
woman wearing a camel coat with knit crewneck sweater, jeans, and ankle boots
@style.your.occasion

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Tip #8: Buy and Sell Used

One of my best tips to looking expensive on a budget is to purchase truly expensive well-made items, without paying full sticker price. 

If you haven’t looked already you would be shocked to see how many “like new” items can be found on buy & sell sites like The Real Real, Fashionfile, or Vestiaire Collective for 50% or more off retail price.

I buy many of my favorite expensive items very gently used (sometimes they still even have the tags attached!), wear them for a season, then sell them and invest in more items with the profits. 

Combining gently used designer handbags, sweaters, shoes, and other classic pieces with simple neutral staples can help you easily achieve that expensive look and stay on budget. 

get the look:

Tip #9: Start a Pinterest Board for Inspiration

When you are working to define your personal style and lay down the foundations for your wardrobe, it is very helpful to have visual inspiration to guide you. 

I always recommend starting a Pinterest board and filling it with images of outfits that look expensive and that you are drawn to. I have a few of my own boards I refer to often here and here

Then, before you go on a shopping trip, look through the images you’ve pinned and make a list of a few staple pieces to buy – perhaps a great pair of jeans, a chic black handbag, or a pair of leather flats. 

Keep these items in mind when you are shopping so you’ll be able to re-create the expensive looks you’ve pinned with more ease and less overwhelm. 

Tip #10: Study The Pros

Similarly to the last point, having inspiration is always a great idea when it comes to looking expensive on a budget. If there’s a fashion influencer (or a few) that you love, and always think they look super chic, try recreating their outfits!

Also, pay attention to what it is about their outfits that you love so much. Do they always wear a great mix of accessories? Is their style casual-chic? What are the elements they use when creating their looks? 

By paying close attention to the style pros, you can learn a lot!

woman wearing a black one shoulder tank, pleated ivory pants, black sandals, and a straw bag
@style.your.occasion

get the look:

Remember, achieving the expensive look on a budget takes time and a bit of trial and error. There’s no rush! The best wardrobes are always the result of a thoughtful, slow, curated process!

Interested in more ways to save or stay on budget? Check out this 52 week saving plan to help you on your way.

 

Our Fave Budget-Friendly Staples

 

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Collage of clothes that will make you look expensive, but. are budget friendly.

 

Check out more Look-for-Less posts:

 

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About

Hi! I'm Christal - Editor-in-chief, published author, and minimalist fashion enthusiast! Welcome to Style Your Occasion, your styling inspiration go-to for every occasion, event, party, and trip! Click below to meet the rest of the Style Your Occasion team.

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