They've become my go-tos for putting together something great.

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Expensive Outfit Tricks
Credit: Courtesy

Growing up, I was never that person who showed up to school wearing the latest "It" items. My parents were pretty frugal, and for the most part, my wardrobe was made up of pieces from JCPenney and Payless, with the occasional investment item gifted to me only for very special occasions. I'd like to say I was gracious and lovely despite the fact that I rarely owned that "cool" thing everyone else was wearing. But, this was the late '90s and early '00s — if you didn't have a Coach baguette bag in black, you felt like a total loser.

Still, sticking to the sale section at mall stores definitely had its benefits. On top the obvious (saving money), I was forced to get creative when it came to styling. I'd play around with accessories, layer, and color-coordinate, making the most out of $5 finds. No one was the wiser — people actually complimented my outfits! — and I quickly learned that it's rarely about the price tag and more about how you wear something. This challenge, and the rush when it works out, is part of why I fell in love with fashion in the first place.

Old habits really do die hard, and years later, even as a fashion editor, it's tough for me to justify dropping hundreds on a T-shirt. Most of my clothes are affordable vintage finds, and I still enjoy the Zaras, Targets, and American Eagles of the world. However, just because your shoes are $40 and your top is $20 doesn't mean that you can't look like a million bucks.

Here are six tricks I rely on when getting dressed, ensuring my outfits are elevated and appear expensive — even if the whole thing is under $100.

Create a Color Scheme

Some people will tell you that all-black everything always looks sleek, and that does tend to be true — but I personally prefer bright colors. This orange Target dress was just $45 (from the 2021 Designer Dress Collection!), but I amped it up by pairing it with white shoes and accessories, along with sunglasses that were in the same color family. It created a cleaner, more focused appearance, and something similar can be achieved by going monochromatic, styling pieces of similar colors (ex: a green top and a green bottom) together.

Focus On Just One Detail

It's easy to overthink things or pile on the accessories, but often, the best, most classic outfits aren't doing too much and include one big standout piece or detail. In this case, I wanted to wear a cutout top, so I styled it with some basic vintage jeans for a bit of balance. When you have something special that you want to be the main focus of your look, stay away from adding too many little extras, such as jewelry, which can be distracting or feel chaotic. Without all the excess, your key piece can shine all on its own.

Add a Hat

Whenever I feel like my outfit is missing something, my ultimate trick is to throw on a hat. Wide-brim options gives off a glamorous vibe, while berets feel super sweet and cute. Both, however, have the ability to instantly transform even jeans and a T-shirt, so the next time you're in need of a fashion-forward twist, try experimenting with this accessory.

Stick With White Sneakers or Boots

This is more of a personal opinion, but you can't really go wrong with white footwear. Whether you're more into sneakers or boots, this classic, clean colorway feels sleeker and more streamlined, while neutral shoes have a leg-lengthening effect. My go-to pairs are either platform Converse or $50 slip-on Vans, which fall well within my budget and have proven to be more versatile than I could have imagined.

Pay Attention to Shape and Fit

Any designer or stylist will tell you that fit is the key to creating a winning ensemble — clothes simply look better when they're hugging your body instead of dragging on the ground or appearing extra bulky. Still, at 5'0, I'm admittedly terrible at going to a tailor. Instead, I opt to roll, tuck, knot, and belt things to my liking, or purposely wear something oversized so it comes across as intentional, rather than sloppy. Another trick I enjoy? Tops and dresses with straps that tie, this way I can easily alter the length, no cutting or sewing required.

Play Around With Layers

There are certain items that can instantly elevate any outfit, and longline blazers and crisp button-downs are definitely on that list. Whether they're worn over sweat suits or a sundresses, they give things a sharp, polished feel, and you'll find that a classic color or pattern, such as black or plaid, will come in handy time and time again.