How to make cheap clothes look expensive


We live in age of fast fashion. I can buy my clothes alongside my milk at Coles. An outfit worn by a celebrity will be re-interpreted in the chain stores within weeks. There are new jeans that cost less than a sandwich.

I feel uncomfortable about fast fashion for a number of reasons. Primarily the means by which stores can sell things so cheaply. It promotes a generic look along with a throw-away mentality. And, of course, it’s very difficult for independent designers, brands and shops to compete.

On the flip-side, I know that for a lot of people cheaper fashion means they have access to clothes they didn’t before.

Whether you are buying your clothes from Mix or from an Op Shop, here are seven ways to make a cheaper garment look more expensive and less generic:

  1. Change up the buttons

    One of the ways that garments are manufactured so cheaply is to use poorer quality closures. By changing the buttons you can immediately elevate a jacket.

  2. Add fringing

    By adding your own spin to your clothes you avoid look like everyone else. Fringing is big this season and can be added to cropped jeans or shorts for a funky look. I have a Pinterest board on point.

  3. Tailor it to your shape

    A well-tailored piece always looks more expensive. It’s really not too tricky to nip a garment in where it’s needed or to take it up. And if you aren’t handy with the Singer, make friends with someone who is.

  4. Change the slip

    If you’re buying something inexpensive and sheer with an inbuilt slip or singlet, that slip is unlikely to be of great quality. Just swap it out for one that you already own. I do this often because the slips provided with cheaper clothes are often also very short.

  5. Embellish

    Adding some embroidery or a few beads around a plain neckline will instantly take an shirt from drab to fab. I share a couple of ideas here and here.

  6. Look for good quality fabric

    Just because an item is cheap, doesn’t necessarily mean that the fabric is terrible. Look for cottons with a good weight to them, t-shirting that isn’t practically transparent and denim with a nice softness. I love this very comprehensive guide and cheat sheet to recognising good quality fabric.

  7. Keep accessories clean and polished (literally)

    Leather (or look-alike leather) shoes and handbags will always look more polished, if they are, ahem, polished. Likewise, tarnished costume jewellery looks cheap and tacky but you can keep it looking lovely by wiping it after use and storing it properly. These tips are awesome.

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Do you have any tips for making less expensive clothes & accessories look more so?

17 thoughts on “How to make cheap clothes look expensive

  1. Libby Boyle says:

    I buy almost all my clothes in “fast fashion” stores. Target, in particular, as it suits my styles and the sizes fit me. Lately, I’ve also bought a few pieces from K Mart. I like your ideas of adding fringing and lace. Both of those tops look fabulous. I think I might be giving some thought to how I could embellish basic pieces.

    • Robyna says:

      Those tees! I have actually found Target’s quality to be pretty good. And I have a white t-shirt but out of a silk fabric rather than stretch from Philosophy Australia and it’s great.

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