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14 Simple Fashion Upgrades That Make You Look Expensive

You don’t have to spend a fortune to look like you did. Top stylists share their secrets for elevating any wardrobe without completely overhauling it.

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Tiny tweaks, big results

If you’ve ever wished that you could be one of those people who always looks on-trend and incredibly put together, we’ve got some news for you: You can—and you can do it on a budget. And thank goodness for that, because life is expensive enough as it is without having to overhaul your entire wardrobe every season! The key to looking like you spent a fortune without bankrupting yourself is to shop smart. By knowing some clever style tricks, mixing the right pieces, and investing in a few well-made staples, you can completely transform and elevate your look. That is, as long as you also avoid these outfit mistakes that make you look messy.

Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.

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Opt for better fabrics


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You don’t need to plunk down all your spare cash on designer labels—as long as your fabrics are mostly natural and high quality. Nailing the perfect business-casual look, going-out ensemble, or weekend wear comes down to using better fabrics in chic ways, says Ashley Michelle Miller, a celebrity wardrobe stylist who works with everyone from major talk-show hosts to regular Janes in need of wardrobe refreshing. “It’s all about organic and true fabrics,” she explains. “Cashmere is the way to go, and while those fabrics need a little more love and care with handwashing and dry-cleaning, they can make all the difference and last so much longer than synthetic versions.” Opt for cashmere basics like this versatile Mongolian Shrunken Cashmere Sweatshirt from Quince, which is beloved by fashionistas and surprisingly affordable.

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Wear dark denim


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Whether you’re into trendy cut-off hems, boyfriend fits, or slim and tapered ankles, stylists say that a sophisticated dark wash can take you from a runway-worthy day to a night out with friends. The key is choosing the right size and a high-quality dark wash that won’t soon fade. Try these White House Black Market Ultimate Sculpt skinny bootcut jeans with a turtleneck and ballet flats for a chic and classic Hollywood look. And yes, bootcut is back!

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Mix textures and patterns


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“Mastering the art of mixing textures and patterns is one of the keys to looking expensive on any budget,” says Bernadett Vajda, an internationally acclaimed model and professional image consultant. “Pair natural silk with other rich fabrics in the same color scheme like denim or cashmere. Wearing the same color scheme in different textures will elevate any look.” Try pairing this Lilysilk Alluring Asymmetric Pleat Skirt, which is made of natural, printed silk, with a similarly hued turtleneck for a crisp, magazine-worthy ensemble. And make sure you know how to wash clothes properly so your new favorite garments last for years.

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Splurge on a strong black coat


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“Invest in classic, high-quality outerwear in timeless black or camel colorways,” shares Vajda. “It will last you decades. Classic styles never expire and will carry you through every decade—warm.” This Fjallraven Nuuk Parka will be your new favorite wintertime essential, keeping you toasty and on top of your style game for years to come.

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Accentuate your shape


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“People tend to gravitate toward black or oversized garments to disguise their insecurities,” explains Vajda. “But the key to looking chic is making sure your clothes fit your curves. Don’t hide them or try to cover them up or even try to camouflage. Wear clothes that you’re comfortable in that accentuate your body properly.” Try these curve-hugging Jacqueline Coated Pants from i love tyler madison to flatter, flaunt, and accentuate tastefully.

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Choose undergarments you feel confident in


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It turns out that the most important layers when making an outfit seem expensive are the bottom and top ones. Underpinnings and coats both pave the way to the most put-together looks. Vajda tells her clients to invest in good, trustworthy shapewear they’ll feel comfortable wearing beneath their favorite pants, dresses, and skirts. The goal is to present a smooth silhouette and highlight your body’s natural shape. These affordable Soma Smoothing Shorts will work perfectly under most of your favorite looks. You should also read up on the best underwear to flatter your butt shape.

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Buy a well-fitting bra


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Both Miller and Vajda agree that a supportive bra is necessary for any outfit to deliver an expensive-seeming appearance. If you’re bulging, wearing the wrong size, or not investing in the right cup style for your assets, even the best cashmere can look cheap. Check out these signs that you need to buy a new bra, and then invest in staples like this Vanishing 360 Perfect Coverage Bra, which looks just as elegant under a T-shirt as it does under a special-event dress.

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Add a colorful dress to your wardrobe


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That little black dress you already have is great, and Miller suggests making it look expensive with the right shoes, jewelry, and beauty routine. But it’s equally important to have a colorful dress in your closet, too. “If evening engagements are a regular thing, you need a little colored dress—an upgraded riff on everyone’s favorite LBD,” she says. “Getting a solid-colored dress in a shade that complements your skin tone is a power move. You’ll stand out from the rest and look radiant.” Try a rich jewel tone like the vibrant green of this Venus Eyelet Sleeve Detail Dress. Also make sure you have these classic dresses every woman should own.

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Buy great-quality shoes


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“Always spend a little more money on quality shoes, as your feet take you everywhere,” explains Vajda. “Do not cheap out on shoes. They are the ‘sole’ of your entire look.” Puns aside, she suggests investing in real leather and handmade shoes that offer trend-forward styling in a last-for-years shape. Try this walking-friendly Ruzgar Chelsea Boot from Naot, which looks just as great with dark jeans as it does with a pencil skirt and cardigan. Plus, the flexible insets and arch support will make every outfit a comfortable one.

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Care for your shoes properly


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Take care of the shoes you invest in by cleaning, polishing, and hydrating their materials each season so they can keep you walking tall in your most treasured outfits for years to come. Try BootRescue Protector Spray for leather, suede, and fabric shoes of all kinds. This all-natural product won’t damage your best kicks, and just in case your dog gets his mitts (and mouth) on your shoes too soon, the formula is non-toxic. Stylists suggest using it on your favorite purses, as well. Here are another 11 genius tricks to make your shoes last longer.

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Accessorize with an authentic purse


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Both stylists stress that purses constructed from high-quality natural materials like leather and canvas are immediate style statements that shouldn’t be squandered. Vajda won’t let her clients sport knock-offs, either. “A good handbag is worth a thousand words, so don’t buy fake,” she says. “Save toward a quality bag that will go from day to night.” And quality doesn’t mean logos. Instead, focus on the way the bag is constructed and if you’ll be able to wear it throughout the day and with a variety of looks. This Clove and Revel Ash Saddle Bag is a definite style upgrade. Your choice of accessories can be very telling, and this is what your favorite handbag says about your personality.

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Don’t neglect your hair


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If your hairstyle is on-trend, don’t forget to rock it as a part of your look. You can play up your style with accessories like clips, hats, and hair ties, but unforgettable shine and tamed flyaways are the hallmarks of good hair in any era. Try portable Anti-Frizz Sheets from Nunzio Saviano to keep hair shiny and lustrous anywhere you go, thanks to natural oils and UV protection.

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Elevate even the simplest basics with details


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Think there’s no way to make run-of-the-mill weekend sweatshirts look more expensive? Think again. Finer details like specialty linings, prints, and unique stitching can make all the difference. This Aviator Nation Five-Strip Hoodie is the stuff cuddle-worthy style dreams are made of, and it’s just as great for running to the gym as it is when paired with your favorite new jeans and casual kicks.

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Focus on radiant skin and understated makeup


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Don’t forget to play up your natural features and highlight glowing, radiant skin. “Natural beauty is always in style, and you’ll look expensive just showcasing a well-rested version of your own skin,” says Vajda. “Wear makeup that shows off your own beauty, and don’t go overboard with trends.” Try Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Face Wash, which gently exfoliates skin and leaves it fresh and vibrant. You’ll cut back on overdone makeup and save priceless time on your morning routine. Next, learn the makeup secrets of women who always look put together.

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Bryce Gruber
Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.