How To Shop Cheap and Look Expensive

You smarties all know about second-hand shopping at thrifts or consignment stores, to save money and find unique pieces. I’ve acquired about half my wardrobe this way.  I love the challenge and reward of it but some women don’t have enough time, or don’t live near thrift shops, or just prefer new. Either way, you don’t have to spend a lot to look like you did.

I’ve been thinking (my husband runs in terror when he hears those words) about clothes/accessories that can be bought second hand, or very cheaply, and still give me an upscale look. I don’t always want or care to look upscale, but it doesn’t hurt to have the option. Job interviews, dinner with the in-laws, public speaking, traveling in the Big City – these are times I like to look more polished.

Here are a few of my ideas for shopping cheap/looking expensive. I look forward to hearing yours in the comments.

  • A clutch purse. These can be found at second-hand stores for very little $$. I usually stick with black, in a nice medium size. They can be tucked into a tote if I’m traveling. This one is from GAP, real leather, comes in five colors (I might forgo my black), and it’s only $28.
  • Cashmere blend tops and tees. Just a bit of cashmere makes an average tee look and feel richer. A cashmere blend cardigan is perfect for most any occasion in my life, except maybe a Who concert. I no longer “hope I die before I get old,” but I have to look funky for the Who.
  • Earrings. Most of my earrings are from Etsy and the Humane Society Thrift. I love a dramatic, but lightweight, drop earring with most any outfit. I have one real gold pair, for when my ears get sensitive, but most of mine are sterling silver. These are glam enough for princesses (like us), but on sale for under $20:
  • Silk/y scarves. There’s a treasure trove of fabulous scarves at the thrift and consignment stores. I’ve never found an Hermes, but I’ve got lots of gorgeous silk and silky vintage scarves. I wear them as per normal, around my neck, but also as belts and head-wear. Here’s a vintage beauty that can be had for $18, on Etsy:

I don’t mind spending money on experiences, travel, health, or a good cause. But I don’t like handing over big piles of it for clothes and accessories. Hooray, I don’t have to ㋡.

Have a delightful Thursday, and stay fabulous,

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  1. Yes, you are very very good with scarves. If you want. Hermes scarf, start second hand hunting with Elle from My Daily Costume… She manages to find the mist amazing stuff for so little money,

  2. Yes to this! I still love finding accessories in thrift stores, but I've taken a break from shopping for clothing there. I realized my "look" was getting dated because I hardly ever shopped in stores… but I I'll be back to thrifting once I've upgraded a few basics. I finally realized that at my age, you can take thrifting too far!.

  3. I think so – I see a lot of it now, as the temps start soaring, and the snowbirds donate their clothes before they head north. xo

  4. I couldn't agree more with you and tha ladies Patti. I love clothes but I won't spend tons of money. Good quality fabrics make a look more polished.

  5. Loved this post. I love finding little treasures in thrift shops. I hadn't thought about looking for scarves though. Have a great weekend!

  6. Hear, hear Patty. Couldn’t agree w/ you more, in fact just wrote about it ( With so much thrown-away or given away it’s a
    great strategy to re-use while extending our personal wardrobes and trying on
    different “styles” at low cost. By the way my sister has told me cashmere in Florida is easily found at thrift shops. Is that true?

  7. I agree, I prefer not to spend a lot on clothes, and if I do it's for the things that last. Cashmere is SO lovely! My cheap (ish) but nice purchase for this spring is the linen tees at They are about $30, but the store and web site run sales at 40% to 50% off every couple of weeks. A linen knit tee for half off is a nice way to make summer casual work both in the office and out. The texture is dressier than cotton and really cool for the humid weather to come in the south. I am lucky to work in a place and job where dressing casually is very acceptable, especially in hot weather. I am not customer-facing so as long as I'm neat and don't look like I'm heading to the beach it's all good!

  8. I understand what you're suggesting with shop cheap and look expensive, but it's not the way I want to think about how I look. I don't want to look expensive, I want to look deliberate, and have my appearance tell others that I'm thoughtful, energetic, and friendly. Accessories need to work for me. The bag should carry my stuff, the scarf keep my neck/chest covered, earrings fill the holes in my ears 🙂
    Things in my wardrobe should do their job, which doesn't mean that they have to cost a lot. Everything I own should work towards my goals, not their goals of advertising that I spent XX dollars on them.

  9. hubby and i always have a good laugh when people think we are "upscale" because of our elegant second hand attire 😉
    i need this clutch!!!!

  10. Agree with you about spending on travel & living – we've all got far too much stuff already, though I wouldn't mind a vintage Hermes scarf 😉

  11. I shop most of my silky scarves on thrift stores too and as for silver jewelry, I have this fave jewelry store who sells amazing pieces at very affordable prices. Fairs too are great places to shop inexpensive jewelry. Lucky you for finding that Gap leather clutch, Patti! I don´t usually have any luck thrift shopping bags and so I just wait for the sale season to buy my fave leather bags. 🙂

  12. So true, if you want to start changing things up on your wardrobe accessories are always easiest place to start.

  13. I also have good luck with finding scarves. You mentioned cashmere…one of my favorite finds was a cashmere cardigan that I wear quite often. Debbie @

  14. I love, love accessories and I love finding a good deal on them. But, must confess, I've paid way more than I should have for them a few times. Always enjoy stopping by!

  15. Couldn't agree more with you, at this stage in life, spending my money on experiences is the #1 priority. I do love the hunt of finding accessories in vintage and thrift stores. Most of my tea party dishes and accessories all come from thrift stores.

  16. Yes Patti. . we older gals still want to look funky and sexy. I am just getting into those chunky necklaces because I always thought my neck was too fat for them, but I have always worn big & bold earrings.

  17. It is similar for me, Jan. There appear to be one or two wealthy older ladies in town who regularly donate high quality clothes to the thrift shops but they do not wear my size. Some decent things can be found if one hunts but designer or vintage clothes are rare. Our local retail is also largely lower end fashion. The demographic here is senior citizens mostly and then a mix of the middle classes.

  18. No surprise that I agree, Patti! It's so unnecessary to spend large amounts of money of clothing or accessories when really lovely, interesting pieces can be found secondhand or cheap. Love those earrings, and I have a case full of scarves, not one cost more than a couple of pounds. xx

  19. Oh my gosh girl! I couldn't agree with you more! I decided a few years ago that I wanted to spend my money on good food, experiences and the people I love. No reason at all to spend a bunch on clothes when you can look like a million bucks for pennies! You are proof positive of that! In fact, with fast fashion being the popular affordable "go to", I'll stick with my quality thrift, thank you very much! Great post! Big hugs to you girly! Serene

  20. It is a constant frustration not to be able to find things that I can renew and reuse in our area. So many elements are at play, but population stats shed some light. We have only a tiny percentage of population per square mile in even our larger towns. Many fewer people to donate. And with a very low average income, not many great, or even useful items come through. We also have limited shopping to begin with, and much of our dearth is because there's not much good stuff sold and bought here that could be consigned eventually. Finally, we have a pretty elderly population and that makes for elderly and extremely conservative styles. I was pawing through the racks at Savers thrift the other day, and there were just few and very junior items in the smaller sizes, and roughly triple the number of garments in the plus sizes.
    There are certainly women who look wonderful here, and I'm guessing that in the other two population centers, both much larger and more populous than our third place city, there are even more of them. And that they consign good things, but we rarely see them here.
    It's sad, really, and I love the idea of thrift and consignment shopping … it suits my overall ethic. I'm a whole-hearted supporter of thrfters and consigners, and I'm very happy to see it a movement that is growing. I keep looking when and where I can.

  21. Hear, hear! money is for living not acquiring! Love me some huge blingy earrings, so cheap from Indian boutiques here. xxx

  22. It is so true that accessories can make an outfit look more expensive.

    That clutch is cute!

    I think I need some gold earrings for my ears. They are so sensitive I can usually only stand to wear earrings for a couple of hours.


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