14 Simple Fashion Upgrades That Make You Look Expensive
Achieving that old-money aesthetic doesn't take a trust fund. Top stylists share their best tips to get you looking polished, without spending a fortune.
Get the quiet-luxury look
Dressing well has always been more about perception than price tag. And style experts know that making your clothes appear more expensive than they are—and you beautifully pulled together—is an easy feat when you learn how to wield some style know-how. According to professionals, looking expensive and achieving an old-money aesthetic that radiates timeless elegance and gives you a certain alluring mystery is less about having vast resources and more about smartly curating your ensemble with easy fashion ideas and style tips.
The key lies in dressing strategy and avoiding outfit mistakes, making sure that your outfit looks sophisticated and thoughtful without overtly screaming opulence, says style pro Donna Means. Overall, looking luxe is about exuding a quiet confidence, signaling a life well-lived and commanding respect without uttering a word.
How to dress expensive
“When it comes to leveling up your look, it’s all about the details. The rich aesthetic can be achieved with quality fabrics, proper fit, subtle patterns and even fine details, like buttons and stitching,” says Alison Lumbatis, fashion advisor and CEO of Outfit Formulas, an online personal styling program.
On top on that, you want to be real about who you are, says Katherine Miller, creator of the workwear style blog The Docket. “Dress for your body, your colors and your comfort level—this is a rule to live and style by,” she says. “Trends fade, but style is forever. Every trend is not going to look good on you, and that’s okay. When you embrace your own personal style, you look happier, more confident and expensively elegant.”
No matter your budget, the following advice has long-term staying power to elevate your wardrobe. Every woman can dress well with some classic staple pieces, says Means. Want to look expensive? Here’s how to dress the part.
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An outfit that looks like it was made for you goes far in achieving that moneyed appeal. “A proper fit is pivotal if you’re striving to look sharp,” says Lumbatis. “Even off-the-rack pieces can emulate custom or designer-made with the right tailoring. It implies you’ve really invested in your personal style and gives an effect that reads as only the best for me.”
Constantly having to adjust your clothes is not a high-end vibe, agrees Miller. “One tailored piece is worth 10 items that don’t fit well and you have to keep adjusting.” Ensure blouses are nipped-in properly, trousers break right and dresses trace your silhouette. You might want to do a closet audit before taking clothes to the tailor. Think about wardrobe pieces you can toss as you weed out anything that’s overly worn, has holes, looks tired or is just not broadcasting refinement.
Turn to the steamer
This is your wardrobe’s silent hero. One of the simplest yet most transformative style secrets is ensuring clothes are impeccably smooth. “Wrinkles bring down your look,” warns Miller. “Not only do wrinkles scream ‘I don’t care,’ but they make what you wear look cheap.” A well-steamed outfit is a clear message that you value your personal presentation, an attention to detail that’s crucial when aiming for a rich aesthetic.
Wondering which is better: steamers or irons? For easier de-wrinkling, our experts tend to recommend steamers, and Miller even suggests getting a compact travel steamer, so you look great even on the go.
Just add a blazer
This structured jacket never fails to say you’ve got it all together. “A classic blazer thrown over virtually anything provides an immediate upgrade,” says Means. “It’s the perfect go-to because a good one will truly work with every outfit. Add a blazer to a summer dress, a crisp shirt, a T-shirt and jeans. It also looks great with shorts—suddenly they’re no longer casual loungewear, it’s now an ensemble.”
A blazer can also add some vibrancy to otherwise simple staples—a key to dressing to look younger. For the most multi-purpose option, Miller suggests a classic, fitted one-button style in a solid neutral color. If you have it in your budget, add a second. Lumbatis’s pick is a subtle patterned or textured blazer or one with luxe touches, such as brass buttons or stitching.
Choose handbags that fit
You wouldn’t immediately consider body type when choosing a handbag, but Means says the right style for your stature will make or break your ability to pull off an expensive look. Bags are statement pieces, and you want that statement to proclaim how graceful and in-check you are, she points out. “Picking a design that best fits your height and weight makes all the difference. A giant bucket shoulder bag looks incredible on a woman 5-foot-7 and above, but can instantly make a more petite woman look frumpy. For those women, something small and structured will work really well.”
A universal handbag shape for everyone is a simple medium cross-body or shoulder bag. In all cases, avoid too much hardware and keep things structured and classic, so you wear it and it doesn’t wear you. Another tip: Ensure you’re taking care of those handbags, meaning you have proper purse storage and they’re not being squished, scratched or damaged.
Edit your jewelry
Jewelry follows many of the same rules as a capsule wardrobe. A few standout pieces of jewelry are foundational pieces that you can continually turn to. The perfect studs, classic hoops, a sleek watch and a delicate necklace or something more eye-catching all register instantly as expensive, as long as they’re quality—not tarnished, plastic or costume.
“Adding jewelry will always make your outfit look finished, and it’s so easy to do,” says Miller. She suggests going with whatever pieces complement you, regardless of the trends. “Gold is in right now, but pick the material and design that looks best with your coloring, skin tone and shape. I stay away from chokers because I think they make my neck look short, but I’ve seen them on some women and they look amazing.” Play around with styles, and when you find what feels comfortable, your whole look with click.
Make monochrome moments
A neutral palette looks thoughtful and intentional—it’s a timeless style trick and a ready-made way to look totally chic, says Means. Plus, it’s flattering on everyone. You’ll see this TikTok style hack across the platform, but monochromatic moments have been making their mark in the world of fashion for years. “White, black, gray, cream and camel. I love them all, and they can be worn together and interchanged,” says Miller. “These neutrals create a soft look (as opposed to brights and neons) that is so elevated and luxurious.”
Lest you think you need to stick to solids, fear not. Subtle, all-over classic patterns, such as pinstripes, herringbone, checks or houndstooth, give the same expensive vibe, says Lumbatis. In all cases, for that muted sophistication, make sure the tones you choose harmonize with one another and are all similar saturation levels of color.
Bring in a belt
Wardrobe accessories can be absolute game-changers, and the often-overlooked belt will redefine any outfit. “A defined waist gives your look structure and elegance,” says Lumbatis. “I love a thin, classy belt in neutral patent leather because it’s super versatile. For example, I’ll cinch it around a sheath dress, and it’ll alter and elevate the silhouette in one easy move.” In general, Lumbatis says to consider the width of the belt in relation to your outfit. “Skinny belts work well with dresses and high-waisted trousers,” she says. “While broader belts can be paired with oversized shirts or flowy dresses to add some nice architecture.”
Wear pointed-toe heels
Footwear can often be the deciding factor between a hit or a miss in the style department. People notice right away what’s on your feet, says the experts. So you want your shoe choice to send a classy message. If you wear heels, Miller swears by black heels, 2.5 to 4 inches high, pointed toe and suede (yes, you can wear suede all year round and it doesn’t scuff like leather). “This shoe makes your legs look long and is simply classic,” she says.
Ballet flats and slingbacks have been on the rise and are traditionally well-appointed shoes. For flats, Miller’s pick is a cap-toed version. “They’re a hallmark of luxury and affluence,” she says. Pro tip: Ensure you know how to clean shoes so they are always in immaculate condition, polished and scuff-free.
Choose the right leather boot
Cold months should never mean compromising footwear style. While cowboy boots, Chelsea boots, square-toe booties and combat boots are on trend, there are a few classic boot styles that have long-lasting power. One of which is the riding boot, and you don’t have to be an equestrian to make it look good. “In the fall and winter, the classic riding boot is invaluable,” says Means. “These boots hint at old wealth, as if you grew up doing dressage. And they happen to look stellar with everything.” To maximize their potential, select a pair with the wearable tan-brown-black color palette, and wear them with jeans and a blazer or flowy skirts and dresses for an effortless luxe look.
Invest in a camel coat
The camel coat is the epitome of chic winter wear and the fastest way to set a wealthy impression immediately in cooler temps. Even though it’s outerwear, fit is still important. “Look for a long, below-the-knee version,” says Miller. “Bonus points for a belt, tie or buttons that accentuate your waist.” The texture also matters, so opt for wool or wool-blends for that rich, cozy appearance. A well-fitted camel coat, when paired with winter boots and an oversized luxe scarf, becomes a statement of refined taste.
Master the top tuck
It’s the tiny tweaks that elevate a look. This includes tucking in your tops, which will add structure to your outfit and create a clean, defined—and refined—silhouette. Even a crisp tee gets a posh makeover when neatly tucked into trousers, skirts or a favorite pair of jeans, with or without an added belt, says Lumbatis. “Or try a French tuck, where only the front portion of your top is tucked in, with high-waisted pants or skirts for something a little different,” she says. “This works especially well with flowy or oversized tops.”
Drape yourself in cashmere
Every wardrobe gets a real style bump from a piece of cashmere, according to Lumbatis. The super soft and cozy material has an inherent luxury you can’t argue with. “A lightweight cashmere turtleneck shines—it looks traditional and classy, and exudes tactile indulgence,” she says. “A cashmere pashmina to wrap around your shoulders is another utterly chic look and well worth the investment.” To maintain its plush feel, always follow care and cashmere washing instructions diligently and store in a breathable garment bag.
Tie on a silk scarf
Silk scarves, when chosen and styled well, add the finishing touch that levels up your look. “Add a beautiful scarf around your neck, in your hair or tied to your handbag, and you’re transported to the land of chic,” says Means. “Silk is old-world classy, and cashmere is super rich, and classic prints or solid neutrals are timeless and oh so sophisticated.”
Finish with shade
“Awesome sunglasses are your quickest glamour add-on,” says Lumbatis. “Oversized and classic wayfarers exude a bit of mysterious charm that’s reminiscent of old-Hollywood glam.” You want to ensure the frame complements your face shape and doesn’t completely overwhelm you. And while black frames are evergreen, tortoiseshell adds some variety to your look—you can’t go wrong with either.
About the experts
- Donna Means is a style influencer and salon owner who transforms the lives and looks of women in person and on TikTok on her page, @SalonDM3Athens. There, she focuses on providing followers with fashion confidence and personal style know-how.
- Katherine Miller is the influencer behind the workwear style blog, The Docket, where she shares realistic workwear that women of all ages can wear to the office.
- Alison Lumbatis is a fashion advisor, CEO and the founder of Outfit Formulas, an online personal styling program. Through this platform, she has helped more than 150,000 members refine their wardrobes, discover their personal style and experience the transformative power of dressing with confidence.