This Mistake Was Making All My Outfits Look Cheap

Aemilia Madden
·4 mins read

The first two years that I lived in New York, I only bought secondhand clothes. Granted, they were nice enough, but I was living life on a budget. If having to shop so strategically taught me anything, though, it's the fact that wearing expensive clothes and looking like I wore expensive clothes were two very different things. The key lay all in my accessories.

Whether I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt or was heading somewhere with a black-tie dress code, I learned through my own trial and error that the way I accessorized could make my ensembles look cheap or could actually make them look more luxe than they really were.

Now as someone who can be a bit of lazy dresser (er, can we call it "laid-back"?), it isn't in my nature to go all-out with accessories. I might throw on a pair of earrings and a cute bag, but it's only through conscious effort that I've figured out the ways that I can make even my most budget finds feel anything but. Below you'll find a breakdown of the pieces I use to up my look, along with links to styles I like so you can put my trick to use too! Some accessory options are budget-friendly, others are a bit of a splurge, but that's only because if you can afford to treat yourself to something like a designer belt you'll wear over and over again, it will pay for itself.


If your clothes fit okay, it's easy to overlook a belt, but since adding a few statement belts into my rotation, I've found it makes a huge difference in making my ensemble feel more put together. It highlights my waist in a flattering way, but it also breaks up and adds texture to even the simplest outfit.

Madewell 3 Piece Clean Western Belt ($35)

Karl Lagerfeld Karl X Carine Chain Belt ($205)

B-Low the Belt Milla Belt ($140)

H&M Waist Belt ($19)

Structured Bags

No matter what outfit you pair it with, a structured bag instantly makes everything just a bit more dressed up. While I tend to try to stuff everything into a saggy tote, paring back and sticking with a simple, sleek bag makes things feel instantly expensive.

Staud Jackie Bag ($350)

By Far Uma Mini Melon Semi Patent Leather Bag ($562)

Mango Box Bag ($50)

House of Want Glow Up Mini Bucket Bag ($88)


Okay, so I know not all hats are created equal on this one, but I do think that certain styles can lend themselves to upping an outfit in the right situation. A beret is great for fall, while a structured straw hat adds an extra bit of polish while the weather is still warm.

Coveryourhair Black Beret ($10)

Loeffler Randall Ivy Bucket Hat ($60)

Hat Attack Canvas Dad Cap ($27)

& Other Stories Felt Wool Blend Bucket Hat ($49)


Sunglasses are one of my favorite ways to easily transform an outfit. The shape and size you choose can make an outfit sleeker or more romantic, and when they're coordinated to the rest of your look, it adds a sense of purpose to your ensemble too.

Le Specs Unreal! Sunglasses ($79)

Karen Wazen Glamorous Sunglasses ($135)

Illesteva Lisbon Sunglasses ($240)

Ray-Ban Rb3447 Phantos Round Sunglasses ($154)

Dainty Jewelry

Layering simple, dainty jewelry is an easy way to add polish and make an ensemble look instantly more expensive. Even if it's just costume jewelry, a delicate chain or sleek pair of hoops just feel fancy.

Kenneth Jay Lane Gold Paper Clip Chain ($60)

Shashi Katerina Hoop Earrings ($42)

Jules Smith Curb Chain Anklet ($50)

Madewell Delicate Stacking Ring Set ($24)

Up next, nine trends that have now become fashion-girl basics.

This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated.

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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