To Top

How to Fake an Expensive Wardrobe

Image source: Adam Katz

We’ve all known that girl who can somehow make bargain-bin finds look like Barney’s splurges. The secret to such a cultivated style isn’t magic: It’s knowing how to spot the design details that make clothes seem cheap and the ones that make them look way more expensive than they are.

Here are our tips on how to spot a piece that is of low quality, and how to be sure that even your on-the-low finds look luxe.

The piece: Sweaters
The culprit: Fine knits

Though a soft, whisper-thin cashmere knit is something of a closet staple, nothing makes your basic cotton or wool look cheaper than when your undershirt shows through. When you’re bargain-shopping for sweaters, make sure you choose thick, substantial knits. Even better if the top has textural details like ribbing or cables.

The piece: Jackets
The culprit: Skimpy fabric

There’s a reason hemlines rise during tough economic times: Fabric’s not cheap, which is why low-priced manufacturers often skimp on volume and length. So, if you find a moderately priced wrap jacket, duster, or cocoon coat, jump on it — it’s that surfeit of fabric that makes high-end clothes feel so luxe.

The piece: Jeans
The culprit: Stretch

Jeans with too much stretch can look thin, ill-fitting, and more youthful than you intend — you don’t want to retreat to those teenage days wearing $10 leggings.

Instead, choose weighty denim like Levi’s that will hold its shape, a good ratio to look for is 98% cotton, 2% elastane (also known as Lycra or Spandex).

The piece: Rings
The culprit: Fake stones

We all been there – who doesn’t love a cool, chunky cocktail ring that you can pick up for $3 next to the cereal isle? But, unfortunately this plastic purchase isn’t made to last and next thing you know its shiny faux-jewel will plop out of its setting, leaving you the proud owner of a glob of glue on a fake-gold band.

Instead, make your statement with a set of stacking bands. Extra points for finding ones that have a hammered finish so that’ll hide the inevitable gold-plate rub-off.

The piece: Faux-leather bags
The culprit: Patent-leather

Whether you’re looking for a bargain or an ethical buy, there’s nothing wrong with fake leather. But stay away from patent, which even in a $2,000 form still tends to look cheap.

Instead opt for a pebbled or textured style, because it will more closely mimic the matte finish of the real stuff. Try a structured shape, too — a satchel, duffle bag, or shopper tote will make the best of faux leather’s tendency toward stiffness.

The piece: Boots
The culprit: Shiny hardware

Nothing cheapens a pair of boots like a bunch of glaringly fake, too-shiny gold accents all over the place. Choose a muted, everyday ankle boot, and avoid the studs, buckles, and exposed zippers that would probably snap off in a week anyway.

More in Budget tips