How to Buy Budget Fashion that Looks like Designer Fashion

June 20th, 2008

Here at Omiru, we ask why you would spend $500 when you can spend $50 (or less) on great looking clothes.  But how do you build a wardrobe of budget pieces that actually look expensive?  Here’s what to look for in cheap chic clothes that can (almost) double for designer pieces:

Issac Mizrahi Taffeta Couture DressFit
The most important thing for an item of clothing to appear expensive is correct fit.  In fact, without correct fit, even the most expensive item of clothing (even that perfectly made designer shirt) will look cheap.  So don’t compromise when trying on clothes in the dressing room.  If that dress shirt fits just okay–but it doesn’t fit perfectly–leave it in the dressing room.  Trust us–you’ll thank us later when you have a closetful of clothes that fit you to a T.  Fit truly makes the difference.

Pictured: Issac Mizrahi Taffeta Couture Dress | $49.99 at Target

Subversive Silk Crystal Beaded NecklaceColor
The trick with color is realizing that some colors are available at all price points, and some colors are mainly seen at higher price points.  Basic black, white, beige, and even navy can be found at all levels, from budget to couture.  But some colors–such as that gorgeous shade between peach and rose pink or that deep jewel toned blue aquamarine–tend to be more common at higher price points.  Sure, colors like them are seen at lower price points, but the hue is often a bit off.  But occasionally, you’ll find these gorgeous colors at budget price points.  Snap em up–they’re instant chic.

Pictured: Subversive Silk Crystal Beaded Necklace | $59.99 at Target

Jessica Stripe Skirt DressPattern
Have you ever noticed that some patterns look expensive, while other patterns look cheap?  I look for clean shapes, and patterns that are classic-yet-quirky.  Stripes, for example, can be a cheap looking, boring, vanilla pattern.  But get the right stripes–perhaps in an interesting color palette, or maybe in varying widths–and suddenly they look like they belong on the runway.

Pictured: Jessica Stripe Skirt Dress | $24.80 at Forever 21

Boy Meets Girl Dress

The beauty of clothes is largely in the details, as they give garments that extra special touch.  A plain vanilla shirt, for instance, can be taken to a whole new level with special details like tiny pleating, shirring, or even something like topstitching.  So when you’re shopping budget lines, look for special detailing.  You’d be surprised how often you can find designer-type detailing on low priced lines.

Pictured: Boy Meets Girl Dress | $39 at Twelve by Twelve

Have a great tip about how to buy affordable clothes that look expensive?
  Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: How To,Men,Men's,Women,Women's

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Yvonne  |  June 20th, 2008 at 4:52 am

    The comment about fit is excellent! If you have a good tailor who can help you achieve fit for $20, then you’ve still got a bargain that looks like a million bucks!

  • 2. ShopLittleGifts  |  June 20th, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Love the Target dress. I actually ordered it online but it didn’t fit me well. I think for dresses like this you really need to tailor it afterwards. Shorten it or make sure the waistline sits exactly on your waistline. Another thing, when I buy strappy dresses I try to find ones with an adjustable strap. It makes such a big difference.

  • 3. W  |  June 20th, 2008 at 11:15 am

    love this post!! thank you :)

  • 4. Anonymous  |  June 20th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    If I only bought things that really fit me, my closet would contain maybe 3 items – the most expensive ones.

  • 5. Trisha  |  June 21st, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Great tip about the adjustable strap. And it’s true that it’s often hard to find budget clothes that fit just right. What you save in price you often pay for in extra time.

    Alternatively, you can always take your clothes to an affordable tailor :)

  • 6. Christa  |  June 21st, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Jeans in my opinion have to be designer to look good. (agree, disagree?) All about the fit and the washes. I exclusively wear 7s because they fit me great. Everything else, I pretty much get from Target.

  • 7. Karo  |  June 22nd, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Fabric is so important too. Crisp cotton looks much better than polyester, especially if tailored properly. Although a hint of stretch in a natural fabric also will give it a better fit even without tailoring.

    Any fabric that feels bad to the touch or looks cheap up close makes the piece look bad, even on a pricy piece of clothing.

  • 8. Trisha  |  June 22nd, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I’m totally with you on fabric, Karo. Good quality fabric makes a difference, and there’s not a strict correlation between price and fabric quality. While designer pieces generally use better quality fabrics, it’s not always the case. And you can find some pretty great fabrics at affordable price points, if you look around.

    Christa – I think it’s easier to find a designer pair of jeans that fit well, but it’s certainly possible to find non-designer jeans that fit just right. It depends on your body type, of course, but also in how much time you want to spend looking.

  • 9. Rachel  |  June 24th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Yes, it takes a LONG time to find non-name-brand jeans that do the trick. If I happen to find inexpensive ones that fit well, I will snatch them up whether I need them or not — because if I ever NEED some within a few days or weeks, I’ll deffo have to shell out the big bucks.

  • 10. Tashina  |  June 25th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    This was a great post. :) These tips are things that I learned along the way and have tried and tried to pass along to others. It’s nice to see that someone else agrees with all of the above as well. :)

  • 11. Tressie  |  June 26th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I write a blog called So Frugalicious ( so I’m all about cheap chic. It is very important for clothes to fit right. I bought a Forever 21 top for my bridal shower and had it altered to fit perfectly. Everyone thought I spent a fortune.

    I also started an inexpensive website to provide gorgeous clothes at great prices. Please check out and let me know what you think.


  • 12. Christa  |  June 27th, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Update: I just bought a pair of ultra-dark skinny jeans from (gasp!) Forever 21.

    Backstory: I have been stubbornly anti-skinny-jeans since they became trendy (on principle.. I’m 25 and tall but not interested in looking like another L.A. hipster). But a friend got me to try a pair finally, and at $12.50, they looked good enough that I couldn’t say no. I am actually surprised by the fit and feel of the fabric of such inexpensive jeans. The back pockets are also well done.

    So although I will still stick to 7s for my usual bootcut, I am pleased to have a little foray into the au courant that actually look good, and set me back for the price of a movie ticket. So I concede, Trisha, you are (again) right. :)

  • 13. Brianna  |  April 11th, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    What about all those New Yorkers who wear ill-fitting clothing just because it’s designer? Ya know, they’ll buy anything designer at sample sales and such just because of the label, and end up looking like the homeless. In fact, I usually assume someone is wearing designer labels when everything’s a size too big or just all around awkward…

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