If you know how to make cheap clothes look expensive, you’ll never have to shell out the big bucks at the mall or online again. That means more money in your pocket for other necessities or to treat yourself to a nice dinner with your hubby, your favorite perfume, or a great new book.
There’s no shame in buying clothing on sale or at a secondhand store; you can save big on designer goods if you know what to look for. The problem arises when you’re so drawn in by the dirt-cheap price tag that you end up treating yourself a little too often after a hard day at work or just because. The good news is you can get your clothing budget back on track with a few simple tricks. In fact, the allure of a big red sale sign may lessen once you’ve given your closet a makeover.
1. Get your clothes tailored.
There are many reasons your clothes may not fit: you bought something online without trying it on first but didn’t return it, or your clothes have shrunk or stretched over time. Instead of letting these items clutter your closet, take them to a tailor and have them customized to conform to your unique body shape.
You can make alterations yourself if you’re skilled behind a sewing machine. This will save you even more money, plus you can market your skill to friends and family and offer to alter their clothes for a small price.
2. Swap out buttons.
Collard shirts often come with extra buttons, but you may want to ditch those cheap-looking plastic buttons in favor of something more sophisticated. Visit your favorite trimming or craft stores to peruse a huge selection of fashionable buttons, or head to eBay or Etsy for accessories with a more vintage feel.
And don’t worry about not knowing how to replace buttons. The clerk at your dry cleaner will most likely be able to do it for a few bucks. Or, save yourself the cash and politely ask a family member to do it for you.
3. Wash your clothes properly.
One reason clothes wear out so quickly is due to not being washed properly. Unfortunately, not everything can go through the washing machine, so be sure to read the tag before you throw it in. Investing in a drying rack is also a good idea for delicate items that may rip or change shape if you run them through the dryer.
Another laundry-washing tip we love is to clean with vinegar. Not only does this magical cleaning agent brighten whites, but it also keeps your darks dark. Additionally, adding a splash of vinegar before hitting start can prevent lint and pet hair from sticking to your clothes, naturally soften fabrics, remove any off-putting mildewy odor, and even clean out your washing machine.
4. But don’t wash them too often.
How often should you wash your clothes? It’s totally OK to re-wear clothing as long as it isn’t drenched in sweat. In fact, washing your clothes too often can weaken fabrics and lead to holes.
Exercise clothes, underwear, and socks are the only items of clothing that should be tossed in the laundry after each wear. Work shirts and slacks can be worn four to five times before they need to be dry-cleaned. Casual pants and sweaters are good for up to five wears before they should be cleaned, T-shirts can go two wears between washes depending on how much you sweat, and jeans can last between four and five wears before they get smelly.
5. Get rid of wrinkles with a steamer.
It’s very frustrating when you realize an item of clothing you want to wear is a bit too wrinkled to wear in public. So instead of tossing it in the dirty laundry pile, give your steamer a whirl. You can even use your steamer in a pinch if you need something to wear tomorrow but nothing’s clean. Simply steam the garment and hang it in front of an open window. The clean, cool night air will carry away any lingering odors on your clothes.
We recommend a model with a garment rack attached as this allows you to hang your clothes while you steam. These versions are a bit more expensive, but they’ll save you from accidentally burning your finger with the hot steam.
6. Invest in basics; skip the trends.
Now that you know how to take care of the clothes you own, let’s talk about what to look for when buying new items. Our best piece of advice is to invest your money in closet staples: a classic white button-up, a flattering pair of jeans, or comfy shoes you can wear to work and at home. These timeless pieces will last you far beyond just this season, which is why you may need to spend a bit more to get the quality.
As for trendy pieces, skip them or buy second hand. These clothes will only clog your closet once they’re no longer fashionable. If you’re determined to have whatever this season’s latest “it” item is, check Goodwill or Salvation Army first. Chances are they will have something similar at a fraction of the price.
7. Pay attention to fabrics and workmanship.
Certain fabrics, like cotton, faux suede, and linen, can add an air of lavishness to any item of clothing. Plus, these materials are all washing machine-safe so you don’t have to pay extra to have them specially cleaned.
The next thing you want to look at is workmanship. Does the zipper work? Is the stitching even? Are the buttons loose? Even “cheap” clothes have to be made to a certain standard, so avoid buying anything that doesn’t look or feel like it’s high-quality.
8. Accessories can make all the difference.
A statement bag or stylish jewelry can instantly make an outfit look more put together. And fortunately, accessories are always on sale. Just make sure to avoid pieces that are obviously fake, as this will appear too much like costume jewelry.
9. Make sure you look put together, too.
Even the fanciest of outfits can look unkempt if your hair and makeup are sloppy. You don’t have to splurge on an expensive blowout every few days, but you should still make an effort to look well-groomed. A neutral manicure and classy, natural makeup can go a long way towards making you look your best.
One last important lesson is to remember that “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” You can look like a million bucks — no matter the price tag — as long as you’re confident.