Last Edited: 20 Feb, 2024
Author: Cristina Holm

How to make an outfit look expensive

Firstly, ignore the label!

Designer wardrobe without the cost?  Yes please.

It only takes a few small tweaks to take an outfit from ragged to runway without emptying your pockets every time you go shopping.

Here are my top-tips for elevating an affordable wardrobe.

Know your body shape

The best fashion advice I can give you is to understand your body shape.

Especially when only 1 in 3 women accurately know their primary shape (there are just six to choose from), which is quite a problem as it’s vital to dressing well.

This is where I always start when working with a new client. It is absolutely fundamental that you are aware of your proportions and what to wear to flatter your shape.

Once you have read this article make sure you grab a tape measure and head off to my website to find out what shape you really are.

“The best fashion advice I can give you is to know your body shape/type.”

If you are now wondering why your body shape matters, it’s because basic styling rules still apply.

The most expensive designer outfit can look awful if it doesn’t suit your body shape.

For example, women who have an inverted triangle figure should avoid shoulder embellishments, and those with big bottoms should avoid detailing on their back pockets of jeans and trousers.

So take a little extra time to understand your frame as dressing in harmony with your body type is essential if you want to achieve that luxe, chic look.

Focus on the fit, not the label

Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean bad quality, so don’t shy away from buying basics in High-Street stores.

Let’s face it, clothes that you wear and wash frequently will wear out over time anyway, so it’s not always worth an extortionate price tag.

Instead of looking at the label, I challenge you to find clothes that actually fit and flatter your shape.

This is no easy task which is why I created My Secret Stylist as this does all the searching for you.

For more information on the six primary body shapes, go to my blog on “how to dress for your body shape” and see how it will save you a huge amount of time as well as money.

Why order or try on the wrong clothes only to be left disappointed as they just don’t suit you?

Whether it’s Primark or LK Bennett, get the fit right and the designer label will become irrelevant.

“Take time to understand your frame, as dressing in harmony with your body shape/type is essential if you want to achieve that luxe, chic look.”

Take note of the fabric

Better quality fabrics such as cotton and linen are not exclusive to high-end brands, and can be found in most stores these days.

Ideally look for clothes with a high percentage of cotton and low percentages of rayon, acrylic or polyester.

It is much harder to disguise an affordable outfit as expensive if the material is shiny or wears out after two washes.

Even if this bumps up the price by a few pounds, it is worth your investment, trust me.

Look after your clothes

It is always worth taking care with your clothes, no matter how much they cost you.

It may take a little more time and effort, but it will do wonders for your purse.

Washing your clothes less frequently is a great way to lengthen the life of your wardrobe, so why not consider getting individual stains out by hand instead?

Smooth and seamless clothes immediately give the illusion of luxury, so don’t forget to iron your clothes when the occasion needs.

Hand-steamers are so much more affordable these days (fashion stores often use them) and are great at removing creases from all the tricky areas, like shoulders.

Make sure to fold or roll your clothes when putting them away, and use padded hangers to avoid those dreaded shoulder-bumps on your jumpers and cardigans.

Designer DIYs

Don’t be afraid to get creative and transform your old clothes into something new and fresh.

You may want to whip out a needle and thread and add some simple embroidery?  This can look great on denim, and is often seen on the runway.

If sewing isn’t your forte, why not buy some iron-on patches to elevate a boring t-shirt?

But remember: always have your body type in mind, being careful not to enhance certain areas.

If you already have a large bottom, for example, avoid adding details to back pockets.

You can also swap cheap-looking buttons for something classier, or sew on some ruffles at the hem of your jeans.

And don’t worry if you get it a bit wrong, the distressed look is very on trend!

Accessorise & size

Accessories are my go-to when I want to look expensive, and are such an easy way to make a basic outfit look chic.

Simple jewellery can take an outfit from High-Street to Designer quicker than you can spell ‘accessorise’.

I always recommend investing in a few good quality basics, like little gold hoops or a pendant necklace, but even more affordable jewels can look the part.

Scarves, bags, and sunglasses will make you look more put-together too.

Be careful with accessories with regard to your scale.  Taller women can afford to explore more statement pieces.

However women with a smaller frame should balance with smaller accessories and not over do it with too many accessories as these could swamp you.

Well-fitted underwear

There are many benefits to wearing the correct bra size, but the key reason why I encourage it so much is because it completely elevates how your outer clothes look on your body.

If you haven’t already, book a bra-fitting and start wearing the right size!

The same goes for underwear, and it is worth investing in seamless knickers when wearing something more tight-fitting.

Wearing underwear that actually fits you smooths out any lumps and bumps and creates a sleek silhouette.

With this solid ‘under garment’ foundation, it is far more likely that cheaper clothes will fit your body in a flattering way.

To summarise

By making sure you get the basic rules right, you can transform even the most basic of garments into stylish and unique outfits.

Always remember to dress for your body shape, and make sure your underwear provides a smooth scaffold for the clothes that will cover it.

Crease-free clothes always look sharper, and by adding embellishments in the right places you can turn dull into designer!

Then to finish your look,  pay attention to your accessories, and see how that once plain top and trousers can now easily be mistaken for boutique heaven with just a simple belt, buckle, bangle or scarf.

Check out my new YouTube channel here:

You’ll find some ideas and inspiration on how to upcycle a staple garment to look like an expensive designer style, just at a fraction of the cost.

How great is that?

Cristina Holm

Cristina Holm is one of the UK’s leading personal stylists. Cristina is based and operates from her studio in Warfield, Berkshire (United Kingdom).  She serves clients locally and internationally.

Cristina is also the founder of My Secret Stylist, the UK’s best kept clothes shopping secret.  For only £35.99 per year, you can find and ‘see in seconds’ clothes which complement your body shape across all the popular brands.  For more information, go to