How to Be Stylish on a Budget & Look Expensive for Less
How to Be Stylish on a Budget & Look Expensive for Less

How to Be Stylish on a Budget & Look Expensive for Less

Look, I am really good at spending money. Like, should probably put it on my resume level good. I keep toying with the idea of “no spend” weeks or even months, to which my mom is probably saying DO IT and my friends say “NO THAT SOUNDS AWFUL.”

So because straight “no spend” sounds too extreme, I have decided to spend less instead. And I am not on an Acne/Alexander Wang budget by any means. Heck, I am barely on a Madewell budget….why do you think my Instagram bio says “Champagne taste on a tap water budget”?

In my efforts to look good without going broke, I’ve picked up a few tricks to shopping at places like Forever 21, H&M and Target without making it so super obvious that I shop at places like Forever 21, H&M and Target. Here’s how to be stylish on a budget and what to watch out for at fast-fashion stores:


Solid colors are your friend. Looking chic on a budget is much easier if you stick to neutrals like black, grey and white. Patterns can quickly become loud and cheap-looking, while solids are more timeless. If you do wear color (unlike, ahem, me), be careful with super bright colors like neons and stick to deeper shades for a sophisticated look.


Take a peek at the hem, the fabric, and buttons and zippers if there are any. If you’re looking for a trendy piece to wear for one season only, cheaper construction may be okay. But if you pull at a hem and can already see that it’s loose or likely to unravel, maybe move on to a different garment.

Look for natural/”real” materials like cotton and linen where you can. Synthetic fabrics can start to look really cheap really quickly! I did get a fabulous faux leather jacket from Who What Wear x Target that I often get compliments on, but generally, you’ll have to be careful with pleathers and polyesters at low price points. And also sheer fabrics that maybe aren’t supposed to be sheer. You’ll run into a lot of those in the Wild West of fast fashion.

Similarly, TRY. STUFF. ON. Fits can vary retailer to retailer…I always have to try on dresses from Forever 21 and I don’t even bother with many of their skirts, because one of their cost-cutting measures seems to be “let’s just make everything really short!” Fit makes all the difference in a garment’s appeal, and how it’s constructed is a huge part of that.

Crazy Details

As in, avoid them — from weird patterns to unnecessary lace or other additions (looking at you, Forever 21). If you want to be stylish on a budget, keep it simple. From wardrobe basics like t-shirts to bags that are constructed with very clean lines, basic pieces look much more expensive than ones with lots of crazy details.

Because, really, how many people can tell the difference between a $75 t-shirt and a $7 one, at the end of the day? And if it’s white, you’re probably just going to spill coffee on it anyway, so might as well get the cheap one!

Honestly, fast fashion is kind of a jungle, and it takes patience and a well-trained eye to pick out the good buys. Luckily, you can totally train yourself to have “the eye” and these tips are a perfect place to start!

Shop picks that look way more expensive than they actually are:

Do you have any secrets on how to be stylish on a budget? Let me know in the comments!

Image: Damsel in Dior