Everyone feels good with a brand new outfit – confidence-boosting, mood-lifting, visually-striking new threads. They are especially desirable when you have an event to attend, a date to impress, or when starting a new job. But it can seem difficult to look good all the time when you’re shopping on a budget.

With a trained eye, some helpful hints, and a willingness to put in a bit of handy-work, you really can make your $20 outfit look like it cost $100 (or more!). Here we round up some tips to help get you started with a beautiful budget wardrobe.

What To Look For

With so many retailers, styles, and fashion advertisements catching our eye, it’s easy to get confused when we’re shopping. The most important thing to always seek out is something that unquestionably suits you. As cliché as it sounds, when something fits you perfectly and flatters your figure, you’ll feel a sense of self-assurance that can carry your outfit into designer status quicker than an expensive label. With that said, it also helps to gain inspiration from those top designers to learn how to spot a good cut, a smart choice of fabric, or an interesting detail that adds a uniqueness to an otherwise ordinary outfit.

Sometimes, high fashion designers actually use astonishingly cheap fabrics for their creations. But their unique ability to craft, conceal, twist, and turn a toile into something desirable is what leaves us desperately craving a piece of expensive wearable art. With a bit of research and just the right amount of copying, you can also fake it till you make it with your fashion choices.

Common Shopping Errors

Often, shoppers fall into the trap of purchasing fake branded goods. An obviously counterfeit logo can make your fashion credibility plummet as others are likely to recognise the imitation. These purchases cheapen an outfit and are typically pieces that you will likely discard quite quickly as you outgrow the desire for that particular logo.

When shopping mindfully, it’s also important to be careful of purchasing goods with loose threads, seams, or irregular stitches. Sometimes these garment flaws can add character, particularly in vintage clothing, but there’s a fine line between something that looks as if it has an intriguing history, and that which just looks like it needs a repair. If you find something that is otherwise perfect, you can always find a willing seamstress to help polish up your stylish gem.

Where To Shop

Shopping with a limited budget can be a surprisingly enjoyable task. Whether it’s sale season and you’re raiding high-street rails, or stuffing a bag full of thrifted threads at a vintage fair, when you’ve got the eye for what you need, you can take joy in the thrill of those unexpected finds.

A fail-safe option is to hit the charity shops for classic pieces which will be long-lasting, staple items for your collection. Scout out a timeless trench coat or a leather handbag and you’ll find yourself with an outfit that, once upon a time, actually did cost $100. You can rejoice in the knowledge that you’ve grabbed yourself some covetable fashion treats for next to nothing, and are being charitable at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.

The Secret Is In The Styling

Sometimes you’ll find that you can throw together an outfit for almost nothing with a bit of sweet-talking and smart styling. Maybe you’ve found yourself a form-fitting, gorgeous dress, but you’re lacking the right pair of shoes and accessories to go with it. Perhaps it’s time for a clothes swap. By teaming up with your friends and family, it’s likely that someone in your circle will have something for you to borrow – and chances are, you’ll have something that they’ve been looking for, too. This tactic is both ethically conscious and good for your purse strings; saving on new purchases minimises harm to the environment as you will not discard items that you’ll likely wear only a short time. 

If an exchange isn’t an option, try layering your clothing as they do in magazines – this results in an intriguingly classy outcome. Always invest the most in your outerwear; a striking coat can work wonders regardless of what you’re wearing underneath. The same goes for shoes. Always take pride in dressing from the bottom-up. Another option when hoping to transform an outfit is trying your hand at embellishment and customisation. Try raiding your mother’s or grandmother’s old sewing box to see what you can find. With a few online tutorials and a bit of scrolling on Pinterest, you’re likely to find the inspiration to transform a dull piece into a sophisticated, sparkle-studded garment, with minimal effort and a little bit of trickery.