How to look expensive for cheap and have great style on a budget? I have written a whole book on this subject, The Chic Factor, which has become an Amazon bestseller in a couple of months.
Unfortunately, the book is only available in Italian so far, but could be translated in the future. The aim of the book is to put an end once and for all to the chaos in the wardrobe and to help readers to express their personal style in an ideal way. The eternal question “What should I wear now, and how to look expensive for cheap?” is thus finally put to an end!
Americans even have a special expression for it: dress expensive. In my country, most women simply want to look good, and with as little money as possible.
But the basic idea is always the same: how can one look chic and elegant and, why not, even expensive without having to spend a fortune?
The dilemma is only apparently superficial and may seem to some to be completely overrated, which is of course absolutely legitimate; but the truth is that in our image-obsessed society there are many situations (for example in the workplace) where looking elegant can have concrete advantages.
In addition, I am personally convinced that, without going too far (because exaggerations are usually not at all chic), a cultivated image is above all a sign of respect for ourselves and others.
But apart from all possible points of view on this topic (by the way, I would also like to hear your opinion on this!) I have put together 15 helpful tips and ideas to always look elegant and chic without big investments and that, by the way, independent of your own style.
1 – TO LOOK EXPENSIVE THERE IS NO NEED FOR EXPENSIVE INVESTMENTS
Although I have now reached an age where I can afford certain luxuries if I so desire, I firmly believe that good style cannot be bought. There are endless examples of this: it is enough to take a quick look around to see for yourself.
What really counts is good taste in choosing, a good eye, and knowing yourself very well. So it’s more a question of investing your time well and constantly developing your own taste; analyzing new trends and, above all, how we can make the best out of our type even on a small budget.
2 – EVERYTHING WITH MEASURE
Fitting, i.e. how the clothes “fit” on our bodies, is perhaps the most important element of an elegant appearance (even more so than the good quality of the fabrics and materials or how a particular garment is made).
When a garment fits perfectly, it simply looks more luxurious. That’s why it’s worth concentrating on those brands that simply suit us best and simply forget about all the others. It is also a great advantage to have good contacts with a really good seamstress!
3 – BASICS AND EVERGREENS ARE THE A AND O OF AN ELEGANT WARDROBE
Of course I understand that you simply have to strike at certain trends – I am not immune to them!
However, when at the beginning of a new season the new trends suddenly start to appear, it is important to think carefully about how best to spend your budget to consolidate the basics of your wardrobe: the basics may of course look different depending on the style, but almost every woman will probably need at least one or two pairs of jeans, 2-3 good T-shirts in different colors, a warm wool sweater in a neutral color, a good quality coat and a great handbag.
However, based on this, it will be relatively easy to acquire a nice wardrobe and also to integrate fashionable and special pieces. And at the beginning of each new season, these “cornerstones” will always provide a fabulous basis for new and up-to-date outfits!
4 – INVEST IN ACCESSORIES AND KEY PIECES, SAVE ON TRENDS
I have practically always followed this rule: in my wardrobe I have high-quality classics (for example, my Moncler down jacket or my Fay wool coat), on which I have certainly spent more money, but which I wear with pleasure every new season.
But I also own trendy pieces that I have bought in chain stores like Zara, Asos, etc. Even with the higher quality pieces you can save a lot of money, especially when buying online (see my list of recommendations below).
5 – PLAIN IS BETTER
Plain clothes and accessories are of course more versatile and can be combined splendidly with each other; it is most likely that it is the clothes that you wear most and that will also go out of fashion much later.
Thus, the choice of uni colored pieces is always an asset when it comes to creating an “expensive” wardrobe on a small budget. Plain-colored pieces are also very important for lovers of wild patterns and decorations: they can be combined with more neutral pieces and are therefore even more expressive!
6 – SHOES AND HANDBAGS: PREFERABLY IN LEATHER
Unless it is an ethical decision, I would not use imitation leather for handbags, shoes and belts: this makes accessories in general look cheap. Besides, leather accessories simply have a much longer life span.
By the way: bags and shoes are two of the very few things you shouldn’t save too much on, because it almost always comes at the expense of quality (but there are really many ways to save money in other ways, as we’ll see below).
7 – TRY SECONDHAND AND VINTAGE
It’s a great, environment friendly and inexpensive alternative, especially for HANDBAGS!
See here for the widest choice of secondhand luxury handbags and accessories worldwide!
8 – TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL EXISTING SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES
By this I mean that you can actually find good bargains all year round without having to wait for Black Friday or the clearance sale.
Even among the most famous online stores and chain stores there are always discounts, coupons and other ways to save money: for example on auf Asos, one of my favorite stores (which by the way also ships free of charge; returns and customs duties are also free).
You can find great and trendy pieces for your style here, for example, at Intrend, the online shop for quality clothing from the Italian fashion group Max Mara. Here you can find fantastic clothes, coats and accessories of various Max Mara brands (Max & Co., Marella, Max Mara, Sportmax etc.).
Without tags and labels, but in the usual top Max Mara quality: Intrend – Diffusione Tessile . Intrend has recently started shipping throughout Europe.
9 – TIDY UP AND DECLUTTER THE RIGHT WAY
“Shop your closet!” is my slogan here. Also, if you don’t want to keep any of the brand name or designer pieces, you should sell them. This will free up new resources for future purchases.
10 – LESS IS MORE
Depending on the personal style, it may be that not every woman likes this advice either.
For some, luxury is synonymous with “richly ornamented”, “overdecorated”, but the fact is that true elegance is almost always characterized by simplicity and a minimalist allure.
Whether the sweater costs 200 euros or 30 euros, an outfit made up of simple pieces and minimal accessories will always look luxurious. In the example in the photo below, it is the woman who stands out for her elegant simplicity instead of being hidden by the details of what she is wearing.
11 – MONOCHROMATIC LOOKS ARE SIMPLE AND CHIC
Even this advice may not please every woman. How often do women who often and gladly dress in black hear comments like “how sad, you always wear black!”
I, who love neutral colors, was once told that I should “dare” to wear color (translation: “wear crazy clothes and multicoloured patterns, mixed wildly with each other, preferably all together and at once, because it’s obviously a sign of (fashion) courage!”), as if wearers of rather neutral colors had no courage!
12 – EVERYTHING WITH MEASURE
Without wanting to take anything away from more cheerful colors, solid shades, especially when combined in a monochromatic look, have the magical power to make the wearer look chic, elegant and slim.
Other advantages of neutral shades: they go perfectly with strong colors and patterns and underline them; these shades never go out of fashion; they are by definition chic, both in a monochrome version and combined with each other; neutral colors emphasize our facial features and also a beautiful silhouette.
13 – SIMPLE IS ALWAYS CHIC
See points 5, 10 and 11.
14 – COMBINE DIFFERENT TEXTURES
This advice is certainly something for advanced users, as it overlaps with some of the other more basic tips. However, stylists, actresses, models and fashion editors often use this advice: combining garments in different textures and materials, preferably tone-on-tone or in similar shades (and often – oh wonder – in neutral shades), makes the look immediately luxurious.
For example, faux fur details look great with cashmere sweaters and coats, but also fringed leather bags with a smooth fabric jacket of the same color, or even skirts, dresses or sweaters with special hems immediately make the look more interesting and chic.
15 – NEVER WITHOUT MY BLAZER (OR, IN WINTER, WITHOUT MY COAT!)
Here you can find a whole post about Blazers .
In this post you can immediately see that blazers are anything but old-fashioned, too classic or boring! When it comes to how to look expensive for cheap, a great blazer or a beautiful coat is a great key piece for every woman!
16 – TRY THE RULE OF THREE
The rule of three is one of those typical tricks of many stylists, which probably many of you already intuitively follow. Essentially, this rule says that in order too look expensive, a third piece should always be added.
Often this “third piece” is a spectacular accessory, for example a pretty designer handbag, a flashy piece of jewelry or a nice Pashmina scarf, but also a great coat or a pair of shiny sandals.
I recommend experimenting with what we already own: Sometimes it is enough to simply add a third “ingredient” to achieve a magical and above all chic effect!
P. S. Did you enjoy this blog post? Pin it on Pinterest!
Do you speak Italian?
If yes, have a look at my new Style and Wardrobe Management E-Course! It will show you step by step how to transform your wardrobe in a small luxury boutique and create many fantastic new outfits that suit you and your style!
Want to declutter your wardrobe the right way and learn how to look expensive for less?
The Chic Factor, my bestselling book (in Italian only) about decluttering, style and shopping, is here!
P.S. : Sign up now for free access to my media library, where you find a collection of fashion, beauty, wellness and shopping guides (in Italian only)!
By registering you get exclusive and free access to 10 MINI GUIDES + all the material that will be published in the future!
P. S. Do you want to save even more money?
Here you find a very useful guide of the best budget-friendly clothing sites of 2020.