Look Fancy Without Spending a Fortune
Geranium flower pointed courts
Instead of spending $100 on lackluster, simple black pumps, buy overly-complicated ones like these. With a metal cap toe and floral applique design, they seem like the spoils of someone who collects ridiculously elaborate, kitschy designer pairs like Prada's flame heels and Miu Miu's glitter sandals.
Geranium flower pointed courts, $110, topshop.com
Printed silk scarf
Tying a silk scarf to a top handle bag gives any daytime look an arrogant, preppy affectation. Team this bright Hermès orange one with some cat-eye sunglasses, and even the most drab jeans and t-shirt combo could look very Olivia Palermo-eqsue.
Printed silk scarf, $48, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, lordandtaylor.com
Strappy pink peplum dress
Choose a cocktail dress in a graphic, digitized print or a staunch peplum silhouette—or both. Not only do those two features hide tailoring defects, they also smack of higher-end designers like Mary Katrantzou or Peter Pilotto.
Strappy pink peplum dress, $320, topshop.com
Cafe capri in pop art polka dot
Swap weekend jeans for a pair of proper trousers. The cotton versions are no more fuss than denim (i.e., they're machine washable too) but they look so much more polished. (And these cost less than the last pair of jeans I bought. Eesh.)
Cafe capri in pop art polka dot, $118, jcrew.com
Unlike slouchy leather envelopes and scuffed satin clutches, a metal minaudiere never shows signs of wear, so it'll look just as great eight years down the road as it does now. (The more shrunken, the better: it'll let people know you stash the rest of your valuables with your driver.) Minaudiere, $135, Whiting and Davis, shopbop.com
If striking shapes or busy prints aren't your thing, elevate an affordable basic dress by choosing one with a slightly off-kilter silhouette. Like something Rick Owens or Margiela, this one feels a little subversive—but it won't cost more than your rent.
"Waverly" dress, $146, Ina, shopbop.com