How To Never Look Cheap — No Matter How Little You Spend

Designed by Anna Sudit.
We've all known that girl who can somehow make bargain-bin finds look like Barneys splurges. The secret to such a cultivated style isn't magic: It's knowing how to spot the design details that make clothes seem cheap — and the ones that make 'em look way more expensive than they are.
Ahead, we're giving away eight tells that a piece is of low quality, and how you can be sure even your on-the-low finds look luxe.
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Photo: Courtesy of Joe Fresh.
The piece: Sweaters
The culprit: Fine knits
Yes, a whisper-thin cashmere knit is a thing of glory (or so we've heard), but nothing makes your basic cotton or wool look cheaper than when your undershirt — or worse, your underwear — shows through. When you're bargain-shopping for sweaters, make sure you choose thick, substantial knits. Even better if the top has textural details like ribbing or cables. Rule of thumb: The nubbier the better!
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Photo: Courtesy of ASOS.
The piece: Jeans
The culprit: Stretch
Jeans with too much stretch can look thin, insubstantial, and more youthful than you intend — think the pile of $10 jeggings in your nearest teen emporium. You want weighty denim that looks like it can take a beating, and not rip if you get off the couch too quickly. A good ratio to look for is 98% cotton, 2% elastane (also known as Lycra or Spandex). That way, your denim comes off more downtown-cool than dorm-room mixer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Stella & Dot.
The piece: Rings
The culprit: Fake stones
We all know what's going to happen with that cool, chunky cocktail ring you pick up for $3 at the same big-box store you buy your Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The shiny faux jewel will plop out of its setting and roll right into the nearest subway grate, leaving you the proud owner of a glob of glue on a fake-gold band.

Instead, make your statement with a set of stacking bands. These ones get bonus points for having a hammered finish that'll hide the inevitable gold-plate rub-off.
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Photo: Courtesy of Zara.
The piece: Jackets
The culprit: Skimpy fabric
There's a reason hemlines rise during tough economic times: Fabric's not cheap, which is why low-priced manufacturers often skimp on volume and length. (Think about those cheapie pea coats that barely cover your hips.) So, if you find a moderately priced wrap jacket, duster, or cocoon coat, jump on it — it's that surfeit of fabric that makes high-end clothes feel so luxe.
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Photo: Courtesy of Forever 21.
The piece: Faux leather bags
The culprit: That fake-y look
Whether you're looking for a bargain or an ethical buy, there's nothing wrong with fake leather. When it's done wrong, though, the result's no more glamorous than a Glad bag, which, unless you're Missy Elliott circa '97, you are probably not going for.

Look for a pebbled or textured style, because it will more closely mimic the matte finish of the real stuff. Try a structured shape, too — a satchel, duffle bag, or shopper tote will make the best of faux leather's tendency toward stiffness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dorothy Perkins.
The piece: Heels
The culprit: Platforms

We have nothing against platforms per se: who doesn't love a disco diva moment and pain-free height to boot? But, most lower-priced shoe manufacturers just do not get them right — and wobbling around on too-high, Paris Hilton-wannabe plats are nowhere you want to be this side of 2007. If you're bargain shopping, best to avoid 'em all together.
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Photo: Courtesy of Forever 21.
The piece: The going-out dress
The culprit: Too sheer, too short
Don't get us wrong, sheer and short are pretty much the name of the game for a big night out. For less raucous affairs, like a dinner date or holidays with the family, the freakum dress is not your friend. Luckily, there are plenty of under-$50 dresses you can bring home to mom — just make sure to avoid mesh panels (or use sparingly) and mind the hemline.
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Photo: Courtesy of Shop Ruche.
The piece: Booties
The culprit: Shiny hardware
Nothing cheapens a cute pair of booties like a bunch of glaringly fake, too-shiny gold accents all over the place. Choose a muted, everyday ankle boot, and avoid the studs, buckles, and exposed zippers that'll snap off in a week anyway.

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