I’m a budget-shopper, you’re a budget shopper. But no one wants to actually look like they’re wearing a $4.99 blazer, no? They key to looking well-dressed is making sure you’re choosing excellent items for their value, that you can spice up with a bit of budget-friendly DIY prowess. Here are 7 ways you can look like a million bucks on a budget (even if you only spent $20!):
1. Embellishment that looks expensive
Embellished sweatshirts and jeans are a trend lately, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. THE WRONG WAY = anything with Hotfix crystals. Unless it’s a Judith Leiber-esque purse, hotfix crystals scream low-end. THE RIGHT WAY = gems in settings. Even Fendi, Marni, and Louis Vuitton use set rhinestones in their pieces – and unless you’re examining the crystal quality up-close, you really can’t tell much of a difference.
DIY SOLUTION = hand-sew some set rhinestones to your sweatshirts, pants, skirts, shirt collars, even bags – and add some metal beads for extra points. (In a pinch you could glue with fabric glue, but I’d really recommend the sewing for longevity and the high-end look.) Above image: detail from my Stripes and Rhinestones Outfit.
2. Articles of clothing that fits you well
Nothing says I bought this at mass market louder than ill-fitting, baggy, or bunching items. Just NO! Even if one can’t afford bespoke tailoring, having an item taken in at your local dry cleaner’s, pants hemmed properly, or a dress fitted to your shape will do loads for your image.
DIY SOLUTION = tailor the item yourself. I have a tutorial from awhile ago on re-fitting a too-large shirt to your size, and on adding fabric to a T-shirt dress to make it bigger. There are also great tutorials out there on hemming pants or shortening skirts.
Above image: from my Vampirella Meets Banana Republic Outfit, circa 2009 when my hair was super-short. I liked that haircut but it was a major pain to style.
3. Darker-colored clothing
Unfortunately, it’s a fact: lighter-colored items of clothing, like white, khaki, or pastels, can look really cheap when rendered in cheap fabrics. Go figure. (They can look really superb when tailored (#2) and crisp, though!) Darker colors, however, tend to hide the weave or the flimsiness of fabrics that are less than desirable. When in doubt, go for a piece in a darker hue – it will appear sleeker, better fitted, and hide a multitude of sins. (Plus not show stains or wear for longer!)
DIY SOLUTION = dye it! As long as your fabric is a natural fiber, you can dye it darker fairly easily. RIT makes the most economical and easiest-to-use dye, though I also like Jacquard dyes. You can also dye leather or suede items as well, or give bags or shoes to a cobbler to do the dye job.
Above image source
4. Clothing made from good and FORGIVING fabrics
What does that mean? Anything made from rayon or viscose LOOKS cheap and flimsy. Go for fabrics that are a blend, have a bit of stiffness or weight to them, and that hold the garment’s shape even when crumpled. There’s nothing like meeting your new favorite work trousers…only to find out that after a day of sitting at your desk, the backs of your pant knees are a mass of crumples and now the pants need to be ironed. To save yourself time, headache, and maintenance, opt for the easier, better fabric every time.
DIY SOLUTION = Not much when working with an existing piece. Better to just buy well in the first place, and choose items carefully. Even at the thrift store or Goodwill, you can find clothing made of excellent fabrics for an amazing steal.
Above image source
5. Pair with cool-looking, focus-pulling jewelry
Sometimes a statement piece can be the ultimate piece-de-resistance. Plus, it can pull attention away from some less-than-high-end-looking items.
DIY SOLUTION = MAKE your own statement pieces! Sure, you could buy from H&M, ASOS, BaubleBar, or Forever 21 (statement pieces don’t have to be break-the-bank pieces!), but you could also make your own, like this Mixed Media Rope Necklace, Acrylic 80’s-Style Earrings, Pamela Love Crystal Necklace, or Quartz Wrapped Bangle. Featured above: My DIY in 5 Acrylic Purse Handle Necklace.
6. Make sure your clothing is not in disrepair
No worn, torn, or dirty stuff, please! Clorox with oxygen is great for getting stains out and keeping colors bright, washes in Oxyclean can help freshen up whites, and baking soda and peroxide rubbed in with a toothbrush can help remove deodorant buildup and underarm stains. And pilling? No thank you! Use a dedicated fabric shaver (NOT those cheap ones, but one like The Gleener that actually works!) to remove any pilling and wear. Mend any tears, patch any holes.
DIY SOLUTION = above. If you don’t have time or would rather not, the dry cleaner’s can accomplish many mending tasks for cheap. Featured above: tacking on the ends of the sequin trim on my DIY Sequin Trompe L’Oiel Peter Pan Collar T-Shirt.
7. Mix your cheap pieces with your expensive pieces
The very definition of high-low, there’s nothing better to hide a garment’s cheapness than to wear it with something higher-end. So pair that Forever 21 blouse with that Michael Kors camel coat; those H&M brogues with your favorite Seven For All Mankind jeans…and no one will be the wiser. Often even 1 item of clothing or 1 accessory that is crisp, tailored, well-fitted, hangs beautifully, and of a good-quality fabric, with some details unique to the piece, can balance out the lower-end stuff.
DIY SOLUTION = mix, mix, mix! (It’s more of a styling solution, but…) Sometimes it’s helpful to hang cheaper items onto more expensive items in your closet, and mix them up to see if there are any pairings that might not have occurred to you. Or have a girly get-together with a friend, and each go through each other’s closet and create different outfits that appeal. I guarantee you both will come up with new pairings for the other person you never thought about!
Above image source
Hope that helps you look at your wardrobe in a whole new light – and figure out ways to improve the perceived value of your pieces. So have that needle and thread (or tailor, or dye, or creative mix-master hat) at the ready!
Top image source. All other images by me. If I’ve used your image and you would like me to credit you, please just let me know!