How To Fake A Really Expensive Wardrobe

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I learned quickly how to fake a really expensive wardrobe and always look my best, even if I didn't have the money to splurge on higher end items.

Last week, I asked you which products are worth the brand name, and many of you listed clothing items. I tend to agree that sometimes, it’s quality over quantity when it comes to my wardrobe.

However, there was a time and place where I simply couldn’t afford higher end clothes, but I still had to pull off a professional look at work. Because of that, I learned quickly how to fake a really expensive wardrobe and always look my best, even if I didn’t have the money to splurge on higher end items.

Here’s how I did it:

1. Shopping at Goodwill


Not everyone likes buying clothes at used clothing stores. It actually gives my husband the heebie-jeebies. However if you shop at a Goodwill or other thrift stores in a really affluent area, it’s amazing what you will find.

I used to go to garage sales and target specific neighborhoods where I would buy extremely nice clothes that were hardly worn. Even though I work from home now, I still have several blazers and designer items that I found at thrift stores and only paid a fraction of the cost for.

If you would rather shop from home and not trek out to your local thrift stores, try Amazon’s open box discount section. You can find deep discounts on purses, accessories, clothes and more – all of which are in great condition and ready to be snapped up by someone who doesn’t need the tags to be attached to their clothes to rock them.

Another alternative to shopping at Goodwill is buying secondhand clothes on ThredUp. ThredUp is an online consignment store that lets you buy or sell clothes for women and children.

Not only can you sell clothing you no longer like or want to wear, you can also buy secondhand clothes for significantly cheaper than you’d buy off the rack.

Also, if you prefer to shop online, Capital One Shopping (formerly Wikibuy) is a terrific way to identify active discount codes at various retailers. The free browser extension finds and applies any active coupon codes to apply towards your purchases.

The extension also lets you look at products reviews and create price drop alerts to help increase potential savings.

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2. Give Up on the Little Polo Player


If you give up the notion that you have to have a little polo player or bear or elf or whatever it is on your shirt, then you can still look extremely nice and avoid the cost that the emblem brings.

I can always find those brands on sale during the off season or on holidays, but I’m also not married to the idea that every button down shirt or collared shirt has to have something on it.

*Related: Do you spend too much on haircuts? Read our guide on the best places to get cheap haircuts near me to find the best options to save money.*

That being said, you can still get a name brand item without breaking the bank. The Kohl’s clearance section, for example, is a great option to get clothes for the entire family that allow you to look stylish without spending too much.

The same goes for shoes; designer styles can derail the best laid budget plans and leave little left over for the rest of your wardrobe.

If you can’t afford the designer label right now, that’s fine. Once you give yourself the freedom to shop around and look for quality construction, you will be amazed at how much money you save.

This works for clothing and shoes. Read our guide on the best online shoe stores to purchase quality without sacrificing too much.

3. Stick to the Basics


You can fake an expensive wardrobe by keeping it neutral. You can get quality neutral items at Gap and pair them with high end accessories like scarves and bracelets than it is to afford a name brand silk blouse.

By wearing less expensive items and accessorizing them with the name brands, you can get the same look for half the price.

A great way to save on many of those basics is through the Amazon clothing section.

4. Focus on the Fabric


Remember, a big leather bag is a big leather bag regardless of the name brand on the inside. Similarly, a white cotton shirt is a white cotton shirt. The lesson is that if you consistently look for specific fabrics that are classics, you can’t go wrong.

Leather purses will last for a really long time regardless of which brand made it, and the same goes for many other wardrobe items.

*Related: Looking for extra ways to save money on clothing for your family? Check out our guide on how to get free children’s clothes online to keep more money in your budget.*

If you’re open to shopping online, Couture Candy offers a 15% off first-time buyer discount that you can use on their entire line of clothing and accessories – in a variety of styles, at least one of which is sure to fit your wardrobe.

I learned quickly how to fake a really expensive wardrobe and always look my best, even if I didn't have the money to splurge on higher end items.


Of course, I’m not advocating that we all aspire to have a high end wardrobe. However, I also realize that when you go to work or out and about, we all want to look our best.

One way to do this is to emulate some of the higher end styles, but if you can’t afford it, the above tips can help you fake it and still look amazing.


What brands are you willing to pay full price for when it comes to clothes and accessories? Have you ever ‘faked it’ to make a good impression? If so, where do you find deals on name brand clothes, shoes and accessories?

*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you sign up for Capital One Shopping using the links provided.*


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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Dave Lalonde says:

    I think it is very important to invest key pieces like a jacket or quality slacks. Business attire is something I would pay full price for. Men’s clothing is no joke when it comes to pricing. I never necessarily “faked” it, but I always try to have a very broad collection of tee’s or jeans, not paying attention to the emblem or name brand.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I think I’ve done a good job creating a relatively inexpensive wardrobe that doesn’t look too “cheap.” I think looking for sales and discounts are the easiest way to get high quality clothes but not pay the high retail price they typically cost.

    • says:

      For sure- love me some sales!

      • christina says:

        I may invest in a classic piece but when it comes to accessories or a pop of color that’s in fashion that’s easy to get. There are lots of Chinese sellers on Amazon that offer inexpensive shirts and other pieces for a fraction of what that shirt might cost at Macy’s or somewhere else.
        I agree with you. The trick to looking great is having well fitted clothing, classic pieces that will last, and adding a pop of color via accessories or a low-end t-shirt or collared shirt underneath. No one will look at the tag but you get the look. And for those plastic pieces, when Macy’s has a terrific sale I can really get some good deals at the end of a season and Goodwill in an upscale area of town of course of course of course! 🙂

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I would say we buy 90% of our clothes used, but I still think we look pretty stylish most of the time. I don’t mind digging through bins or sorting through stacks of clothes to find the good stuff!

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal says:

    I recently went shopping at Goodwill for kid’s clothes and found some great stuff. I bought four boy’s shirts and three girl’s shirts and a dress and the grand total was something like $13. I did have to be willing to take 45 minutes to dig carefully through the racks, but it was totally worth it for the bargain!

    • says:

      I love the digging!

    • Desiree says:

      I do not have children, but I would definitely buy their clothes or the majority of their clothes at goodwill because they grow out of clothes so quickly and they ruin items quickly. My mom used to make the clothes my sister and I wore. If i had the savvy I would do the same when I have my kids!

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    I’ve heard that for suits…it’s not as important the brand but how it is tailored to fit you. So instead of buying an expensive suit, have it professionally tailored to fit you.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    For me it is definitely about picking quality items. I used to buy “cheap” clothes at Target and thought I was saving because they were cheap, but they would fall apart. Now I find clothes for the same price at TJ Maxx but they are so much better made and last longer.

  • Josh @ says:

    Hey Cat, great post. I can’t say that I’ve faked wearing an expensive wardrobe. To be honest, back in school, I was that awkward kid that didn’t really care what I was wearing as long as it’s comfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever grown out of that. I like wearing nice cloths when I go to meetings, but I think a button up from Marshals looks just about as good on me as a button up at the mall. Even though I’ve got the money these days to dress in name brand, I still can’t justify buying that little emblem you’re talking about when I can get the quality for a third of the price without it!

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I got at least five compliments on my outfit at an audition this morning. The best part was I didn’t buy ANY of it- shoes, shirt, and shorts were all from clothing swaps.

  • Raquel@Practical Cents says:

    I would recommend shopping at the Outlet stores, TJ Maxx and Marshalls. They sell all the name brands at discounts. I even found great deals on clothing at BJs and Sams Wholesale Clubs.

    • says:

      Cool I didn’t know you could buy clothes there!

      • Jennifer says:

        Absolutely! I got my favorite leather jacket from there. I paid $40 instead of the $359 on the price tag. They have clothes for infants, children, men and women. It’s a favorite! ?

  • Mario Adventuresinfrugal says:

    For the most part, I try to avoid the bigger brands, just because they’re expensive. The exception I’ll make is getting something six months after it was the in thing. It’s crazy how far some clothes will get discounted when their season has passed.

  • Michelle @fitisthenewpoor says:

    There’s an awesome consignment shop down my street that only sells middle end and high end designer clothing. While it’s not Good Will prices, it’s at a HUGE discount. I shop there as much as possible for work or event clothing when the designer or quality really does matter.

  • Kim says:

    We live in a fashion desert where no one cares about dress clothes branding. I can get away with khakis or dresses from Old Navy at work. However, people are gear snobs about outdoor apparel, and I do agree that you need quality for skiing or being outside in crazy weather. We do have name brand stuff for biking and skiing, but you can always buy it dirt cheap at ski or bike swaps, end of season sales, or on Ebay. Another trick is to look in the kid’s section. I wear a women’s medium in most coats, and it’s the same as a kid’s XL, but usually the kid’s version of the same jacket is half the cost. My North Face Down jacket came from the girl’s section during a sale at REI!

  • Jason B says:

    The goodwill is a great place to get nice blazers. That’s where I purchased all of mine. You can’t beat the price.

  • Brian @ Luke1428 says:

    I’m willing to pay full price for quality footwear, especially when it comes to running. The higher end shoes really to offer better comfort and protection when you are logging a bunch of miles for your runs.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Yes that is true. My hubs agrees with you Brian!

    • Allyson says:

      I totally agree with that, but a great place to buy running shoes is at race expos. Many stores offer last year’s colors of the same model at deep discounts!

  • Pauline says:

    I am happy to pay more for classic items that will stay in fashion forever, and good quality. Some good brands even have a lifetime guarantee so even better.

  • Kassandra says:

    I really like good quality clothing but at the cheapest price possible. When I lived in Montreal, during the months of October and November many of the high end companies hold their annual sample sale and the prices you pay are so cheap, way below wholesale! I tend to save up some money and go to my fave store sample sales.

  • Canadian Budget Binder says:

    Buying second-hand is a given if you want to fake a good wardrobe, at least for us. So many people get rid of high quality clothing pieces that are re-sold at rock bottom prices. There’s no point buying new if you can find second-hand in decent shape, provided the price is right. Thanks for sharing.

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I’ve never really cared about having a high end wardrobe. I do like to look put together and professional at work, and I like to buy nice things but I’m not one for having brand names splashed all over my clothes or accessories. Even so, it’s nice to get some second hand expensive items that can be used as wardrobe staples.

  • Kemkem says:

    My hubby is a big believer in quality over quantity in clothes and shoes and l used to be the opposite. It took years for him to win me over, now l go for less stuff that lasts a long long time . He also loved Goodwill, he has the best luck with high end quality stuff, while l just can’t bring myself to buy anything there. A lot of things in my size anyway, l wouldn’t wear even if l were 70! :0))

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    I don’t usually spend a lot on clothes, with the exception of a great pair of running shoes. As far as my general wardrobe, comfort is king, but you will occasionally find me in a great pair of jeans, which I got on clearance, of course. 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    I don’t buy used. Never had much success. But I do shop sales. And looking at your photo of the Coach store…..e-bay frequently runs sales on Coach products at 70-89% off retail prices. If you buy a classic design it will last for years. They produce a great product.

  • Skint in the City says:

    I’m a big fan of faking it by buying a few key investments pieces and then mixing them up with cheaper accessories etc. Spend money on the things you use each day – good bags, shoes and coats – then spend small beans on the high fashion items that will fast go out of date.

  • Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog says:

    Great article! Quality over quantity is a big one. You don’t need a closet full of clothes, you need a few quality items that are interchangeable. I have been shopping at thift stores for years. It may take 30 min or an hour to find a couple items, but if you know what you’re looking for, they can be a gold mine. Also, there is a store called Name Branding Clothing (1/2 of 1/2). It’s in a few states. I have built 80% of my wardrobe from there. If you have one in your area, go check it out!

    • Linda Hodnett says:

      I love Name Brand! This weekend, I purshased a very high end designer leather jacket that retails for $1500 for only $49.00! All together, I bought 4 leather jackets for $70.00. It requires a lot of work looking for things but I feelit’s well worth it!

  • jennifer says:

    I have started buying many more items at a local consignment store. They have 10 items/$10 days once in awhile and I was able to get some very nice shorts for $1 each! You have to spend lots of time looking. And sometimes, the higher end name brand clothing is excluded from the $1 sale, but its still worth it to shop there.

  • Mary says:

    I just found this post and no one mentioned Salvation Army stores. Our local store has new items all the time. Three years ago I got 4 new winter dress coats that were long and wool for $.59 each (Super Saturday sale) these were all brand name, the London Fog trench was my favorite!

  • Rach says:

    It’s been a while (10 years) since i worked in an office, but I think the number one factor is fit. It has to fit well. I always spent a little extra on pants. The difference between a nice quality pair of pants and a budget pair is huge! For a woman, though, the difference between an expensive shirt and a cheaper one wasn’t always as starkly obvious. I could buy nicely fitting “fashion” shirts cheaply from target or op-shop and pair them with my perfect fit tailored pants and the look worked.
    A few classic foundational items can make all the difference. Always keep your eyes open for those pieces. My favourite pants of all time were $120 marked down to $40. I could still get $20 pants in target, but these were lined, tailored, wool blend pin stripe that fit me like a glove and sat perfectly. They lasted me 4 years of almost daily wear.

  • Jane says:

    Love this! As a mom of 5 it is hard to look good when I really can’t spend much. One thing I would totally add is get clothes that fit well or have them tailored.
    I realize it sounds silly but I bought a $15 blazer from good will, paid $12 to have it tailored and it looks like a million bucks! Having clothes that fit well just makes you look and feel better and it wont break the bank

  • Terry says:

    Something else that can contribute to “an expensive” look is 5he style and color. To me, wearing all black is extremely classic and a very high end look. Then go with spending money on accessories. Also keeping up with the latest trendy style can be accomplished with a statement necklace or silk scarf. I love black!

  • Carol says:

    How about Poshmark? $30 for a pair of True Religion jeans. Went to a thrift store and purchased Lucky Brand jeans for $12. 7 For All Mankind for for $10. Dickies for $7.99. Poshmark Thred up the list is endless. Go to the Google Play Store.

  • Karrie says:

    I am often complimented on my “style” and agree with your idea of mixing classic, good quality pieces with thrift store finds. My other “secret” is tailoring. Find a reasonably priced place that does alterations and use it regularly. Nothing makes your wardrobe look expensive than a perfect fit. It is worth $20 to have a dress nipped in, or $12 to have a skirt or pants hemmed to the perfect length. A good seamstress or tailor can do amazing things. I had a 15 year old wool coat cut off and hemmed to a new stylish length and have gotten tons of compliments.

  • Shelley says:

    Ann Taylor pants for 4$ at Goodwill! Yes! I love those designer finds. I’ve been buying high end gently used for years. Finally made my Hubby a believer. I don’t care if I have dig in to save.

  • Aubree says:

    While I like thrift shops for a lot of things, I find I actually save the most money by buying one decent-quality blouse in many colors and wearing essentially the same thing to work everyday. So far, no one’s noticed, and I haven’t bought any more blouses in over a year.

  • Misspriss41 says:

    I was at the beauty shop last week and someone commented on my Ralph Lauren denim shirt. I bought it on sale 16 years ago. It still looks new. I’m sure I’ve gotten my money’s worth!

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