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How to Shop for Clothing & Accessories that Look Expensive

April 8, 2020

Hello, and welcome to Dressed for My Day. Today I’m sharing with you a “gift” that I have. But instead of giving it to you with the price tag that usually accompanies it, I’m going to do you the favor of flipping it on its end before I hand it to you. Let’s talk about how to shop for clothing and accessories that look expensive, but really aren’t.

How to Shop for Clothing & Accessories that Look Expensive...but really are not

What’s my gift? Well, my husband would say it’s more of a curse. Hahaha! I have an eye for the expensive! Yep, I can immediately spot the most expensive pieces in a store, without even trying. I just naturally gravitate to the clothes and accessories with the highest sticker price.

Do you have that gift, too? LOL!!! I bet some of you do!

But today we’re going to think about what it is that causes us to move towards those luxury items to begin with so that we can use that information to our advantage. Once we determine what draws the eye to something that is indeed expensive, we can then learn how to shop for clothes and accessories that look expensive…but really are not.

In fact, readers often ask me how I spot the items I find in places like Target, Walmart, Marshalls and other bargain stores when they don’t seem to be able to find pieces they like as well. The key is looking for those same qualities that draw the eye to the more expensive items.

One more thing, though, before I spill the beans. Please don’t think that I necessarily believe we all need to look like we paid big money for our clothing. I absolutely do not. So when I talk about an item looking expensive, I’m really just suggesting that it appears to be a higher quality. I’m using the term “looks expensive” because most of us relate cost to value. Okey dokey?

Let’s look at 7 keys that will help you spot clothing and accessories that look expensive – or of high quality, exquisite, chic, etc. – but really are not all that pricey.

Key #1 – Choose muted colors or neutrals

When I shop in places like Target or Walmart or other bargain stores, I only look at items in muted colors or neutrals. Why? Well first of all our eyes generally associate these softer shades and neutrals with luxury to begin with.

(By the way, most of the illustrations I’m sharing are not low quality items. Honestly, I don’t buy or own that much that I would consider to be poorer quality. But I’ve chosen these items because they simply illustrate the points I’m making.)

Italian Merino wool rib polo // necklace set // See more of this post.

Also, you have to factor in the truth that cheaper clothes and accessories will in fact be of a lower quality. They will have some flaws or be made of a poorer quality fabric. And they may have lower quality buttons and other hardware.

But fabrics in neutrals and muted shades will appear to be of a higher quality, off-setting the flaws and other poor qualities in the garment. While more colorful pieces don’t have that richness about them and draw attention more to the flaws.

Key #2 – When in doubt, choose black

While I always reach for muted colors or neutrals at discount stores, I go for black if in doubt. The pants below were available in several shades, but I knew the black would look richer, more expensive than the dark pink or cream.

choose black when in doubt
high rise wide leg crop pants // See more of this post.

I often purchase hard-working wardrobe essentials like basic t-shirts at more economical stores. But black tees especially – as long as they’re a true black – will look rich and expensive from these lower cost retailers.

black t-shirt
black v-neck tee

Key #3 – Select pieces with minimal embellishment

Again, these pieces are inexpensive for a reason. They generally are not sewn with as much finesse and you’ll notice loose threads, poor stitching and lower quality fabrics. So you don’t want all of that accented with embellishments.

minimal embellishment
cotton short-sleeve popover shirt

Instead, look for shirts, pants, dresses and jackets with as little embellishment as possible. Look for clean lines, minimal stitching and a pared down silhouette. The simplicity alone will translate as more expensive. But this minimalistic approach also provides fewer opportunities for the eyes to notice flaws.

#Key 4 – Choose natural fiber fabrics

Even when I did my last try-on post from Target, I searched and searched for clothing made from natural fiber fabrics. That’s easier said than done, at any store! But when you select pieces made at least mostly from cotton, silk, linen or wool, they’ll look like they are of a higher quality. That’s why I like this ivory linen blazer I found at Target.

linen blazer
ivory linen blazer // See more of this post.

No, truthfully this ivory linen blazer is not produced with quite as much finesse as the one I have from Talbots. If you turn it wrongside out you’ll see that the lining doesn’t fit or lay quite as smoothly as the one in the Talbots jacket. And the stitching is not as clean and the button holes aren’t as smooth. But it’s also a fraction of the price.

But if you’re going to buy a blazer from Target, one made of a natural fiber like linen is the one to choose. Why? Because our eyes associate natural fiber fabrics like linen with wealth and high quality.

Key #5 – Check out the hardware

One of the things we first notice about truly expensive handbags, belts, even jackets and coats is the luxurious or at least solid hardware. We expect expensive items to feature stout hardware.

So if you’re attempting to purchase a piece that is less expensive but you want it to look high quality, select a jacket, handbag, belt or other item that has decent hardware. Or select a piece that has minimal hardware. Bottom line, don’t settle for poor or tacky hardware. It will give you away every time.

denim jacket hardware
cotton short-sleeve popover shirt // Levi’s original denim trucker jacket

There’s nothing poor quality about my Levi’s original denim trucker jacket, but it’s also not the most expensive denim jacket on the market by any means. The reason this jacket has endured and is recognized as a high quality jacket even though it’s not that pricey is largely because the hardware is hearty, classic and consistent.

Don’t skimp on hardware.

Key #6 – Go with dainty jewelry

Again, when I’m challenged with selecting jewelry at Target or other bargain store, I always choose the daintiest pieces I can find. Even if my eye is initially drawn to something bulkier or more colorful, I go with whatever I can find that is dainty and “fine.”

Why? Our eyes are trained to believe that jewelry that is small and dainty is undoubtedly real, even when it’s not. So even if we can tell intellectually that a piece of jewelry is not real gold or silver, our eyes are tricked when we take in the total look.

dainty jewelry
multi-strand necklace // See more of this post.

The necklace set above is not cheap, but it’s not terribly expensive either. and it’s 14k gold, but plated over brass. It’s not pure gold. Still, our eyes associate this necklace set with quality more than, say, a chunky beaded necklace…even if the beaded necklace cost more.

Key #7 – Take the structure

Finally, if I need to find a handbag or shoes from Target or other bargain retailer, I look for structure. In fact, I’ve purchased several pairs of shoes from Target, and they’ve all been basic pumps or simple flats. These translate more chic and upscale than the trendier versions.

And when I look for a handbag at Target, I follow the same rules. I look for structure, minimal embellishment, understated hardware and a neutral color, like this grey satchel.

black crop pants // pink ribbed short sleeve crewneck t-shirt // plaid blazer // grey satchel handbag // See more of this post.

Like I said, I don’t know if it’s a gift or a curse to be drawn to expensive items. Ha! But when we stop and analyze why our eyes are drawn to certain pieces of clothing and accessories we can better understand what to look for when shopping discount. That way we can purchase pieces for a fraction of the price, but still create those high quality, luxurious looks. Just remember, in the end quality is quality. And we do generally get what we pay for.

Do you have questions or comments you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you today!

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Blessed for My Day

I’m enjoying having my grown daughter staying with us for the past couple of weeks. It looks like she will be here a couple more. I can’t help but reflect on how much she and her brother have grown up since they lived at home. I always told them that I’d know they’d truly become adults when they stopped thinking only about themselves and began considering how things affect other people as well.

I think that’s true of the Christian life, too. We become more and more like Christ as we stop thinking so much about ourselves and consider other people first. But that’s not natural, is it? Let’s ask the Lord today to help us see areas of our lives where we are being self-centered, me-focused or ignorant of others around us. Let’s ask Him to help us grow up in our attitudes towards other people.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:20

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xoxo, Kay
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19 thoughts on “How to Shop for Clothing & Accessories that Look Expensive

  1. Beautiful BFMD, Kay, and so true. Good to reflect on, thanks! I fear I have the same “gift,” to the point it’s laughable. But you helpfully pinpoint just what it is we are drawn to.

    1. Hahaha! Yes, I’ll go into a shop and immediately go to the most expensive thing there! But yes, it’s good to flip that gift and make it work for us. Thanks for reading!

    2. I do share your gift for finding the most expensive item in a store, catalog, or boutique. According to my husband, it’s a curse. Thanks for the tips about finding less expensive clothes and accessories.
      The happiest people I have ever known were those people who gave themselves for others. The Lord Jesus being our example. Thanks for the reminder!
      A blessed day to you and your family,

  2. Hi Kay greetings from Namibia! We are also in a lockdown here in my country in south western Africa. Your post of today made me immediately think of my wonderful mother that died in 2017 at the age of 81. Untill the end she was always very concerned about what she wore and she was really very good at choosing the right outfit for any occasion. By the way she was a redhead. Anyway what I really want to share about her is her comment that clothes and accessories needn’t be expensive as long as they looked expensive!
    Be sure that we are also very much affected by the COVID-19 especially since our economy is already not doing well. Tourism which is one of our main incomes has vanished overnight.
    Thanks for helping to keep me positive and hopeful during this time.

    Best regards

    1. Ahh, thanks so much for sharing about your mother, Larette. That’s precious. Please take care of yourself and stay healthy. This is indeed a worldwide pandemic and so tragic on many fronts for so many. Bless you dear gal!

  3. Thanks for today’s post. I’ve always been more attracted to dainty jewelry, it just suits my look, lifestyle and personality more. And I think understated jewelry tends to look classier, as a general rule. Of course most of us have an occasional moment where we prefer something flashier!

  4. Thank you, Kay, for BFMD. I, too, am drawn to the pricier items. My dad used to say that I had a champagne appetite on a beer budget. Ha! As a teacher in a very small Christian school, I always try to stay “in budget” when I’m shopping, so I appreciate the tips today. Have a blessed day!

  5. Love the BFMD! Kay, you shared some very valuable tips that I believe all of us can put into practice. In case your daughter has not heard, as of today our stay in place order has been extended to May 14. Governor Kemp will be doing a press conference at 4 this afternoon.

    1. Oh my. She was just asking that this morning. I’ll let her know, but she may already have heard. Well, we gotta do what we gotta do! Thanks for sharing.

  6. love the tips. It really made sense to me. Sometimes I don’t know what goes together and it seems others do it so much better then I. But this makes sense and I think I can apply it on my own.

    1. Great to hear, Kristin. I really think if you’ll keep these 7 things in mind when shopping discount retail it can make a big difference. The problem is I see other things that fall outside of these rules that I’m attracted to and sometimes purchase, but then I regret those purchases.

  7. Kay,
    I ordered my first Kendra Scott necklace today from your link, It’s a teardrop aqua stone with a gold chain. Got a great deal, on sale and a extra 15 percent off for a first time purchase!
    Im excited to see it in person, I have heard good things about Kendra Scott jewelry.
    I still enjoy making Easter baskets for my family members ( adult children and their significant others and my hubby) and this will be my own little Easter basket gift! Lol ???
    Wishing everyone a blessed, healthy and happy Easter even if we have to keep our social distancing.

    1. Hi Kimberly. How wonderful. I love to attach jewelry purchases to some kind of special milestone or event myself. I think that’s a lovely way to commemorate Easter. I hope you enjoy the necklace. And thanks so much for shopping through my links! ?

  8. Hey Kay hope you and family are well. I enjoy your blogg. Great ideas and wonderful devotional .
    I have a question can you give me gudaince for starting a blogg. Any help would be most thankful.
    Stay safe and well during this time.

  9. I noticed at an early age that seams were terrible and design elements never line up on cheaper clothing because I learned how to sew. It took me a while to realize that expensive clothes were not in the same colors that inexpensive stores carried them in. It’s a difference even in neutrals like gray or navy sometimes. But I do think black and white are close to the same.
    I didn’t notice the feel of the fabric until I got older. Fit is the worst unless you get basic lines in garments. I do buy but I’m careful. It just takes more time to separate the wheat from the chaff but I do love a bargain.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Eve. Yes, I see too, and I think that definitely affects the way I see clothing in the stores.