Love or hate it, fast fashion has caught on for a reason 鈥 namely, previously unattainable (read: crazy expensive) runway-ready styles becoming widely available at affordable prices. The allure isn鈥檛 hard to comprehend, especially if your new duds budget is looking pretty sad after paying rent, utilities and all those other miscellaneous expenses that go hand-in-hand with adulting. Le sigh.聽That said, clothing from your favorite high street stores 鈥斅爊o matter how trend-right 鈥 has its downfalls. The materials aren鈥檛 always what you鈥檇 call high quality; the workmanship is, more often than not, shoddy; and they don鈥檛 stand up well to wear and tear. To put it in a nutshell 鈥 you get what you pay for.

But not all is lost! It girls like Olivia Palermo, Karlie Kloss and heck, even the Duchess of Cambridge herself, know that a good mix of high and low is the key to endless on-point #OOTDs that look like a million bucks. And that鈥檚 where this guide comes in. If nixing fast fashion from your repertoire is out of the question, you need to be smart about what makes its way into your capsule wardrobe from season to season. And that means hitting the breaks on cheap-looking pieces and learning how to fake it until you make it.


While fast-fashion brands are experts at recreating your favorite runway trends, fabric quality just can鈥檛 be faked. Natural fabrics 鈥 cashmere, silk, leather, suede, cotton and linen 鈥 are the holy grail when it comes to clothing, and have a price tag to match. Translation: Don鈥檛 expect聽to find them in your fast-fashion pieces (at least not in their purest form), where polyester, rayon, acrylic and nylon reign supreme. That鈥檚 not to say you should avoid synthetic materials like the plague. Rather, you should get to know which materials look cheap at lower price points, and which ones put on a high-quality front no matter what you spend. The best of the bunch? Suede, cotton and linen.


1.聽ASOS Western Jacket in Suede ($146):聽Authentic suede, just like real-deal leather, spells out disaster for your credit limit, especially if it鈥檚 high end, but less expensive and vegan alternatives can look just as good 鈥 seriously. Because it鈥檚 difficult to differentiate between the two, your high-street style can easily fly聽under the radar. Case in point: this boxy blush topper. Styled alongside cropped flares and slides, it鈥檚 a bonafide conversation starter. File this one under style hack of the century.


2. Madewell Courier Shirt Dress ($98):聽While one of the most popular fabrics, cotton is still pretty underrated. But by snagging styles with predominately cotton fibers (we鈥檙e talking 90% or higher), you鈥檙e looking at versatile pieces聽that aren鈥檛 just comfortable, but low maintenance and durable too. If the wear-anywhere styling of this minimalist chic shirt dress wasn鈥檛 already enough to swoon over, the cotton and linen composition will make you fall hard. This is one of those forever pieces.


3. Zara Linen聽Blazer ($100):聽Shiny synthetic fabrics practically give themselves away, but natural fibers like linen can easily pass themselves off as expensive, even if you didn鈥檛 dish out the big bucks聽to add them to your wardrobe. The best part? It鈥檒l just get better with age. Add this camel-colored staple to your closet stat for a timeless piece that will always impress 鈥 even when you rock it with your Sunday not-so-best.


With so many shopping apps at your disposal that make scooping up the latest It pieces an effortless exercise, the thought of shopping in a brick-and-mortar store might seem like a total drag. But trust us 鈥 you鈥檙e better off trying on clothes in person than ordering online. Photos don鈥檛 always accurately portray the quality or even color of a piece, because the images you see online are carefully planned and edited; brands put a lot of time and effort into making their clothes look more high end than they actually are (marketing, people!). Trying items on in-store allows you to see and feel whether a piece is worthy of your wardrobe聽before you buy it and are faced with the hassle of returning. Another option? Use to test-drive an item before making the commitment.


4.聽Oh My Love Open-Back Maxi Tea Dress ($109):聽Beyond fabric feel, color and fit, there鈥檚 also the sheerness factor to think about. Fabric is expensive, so expect to find less of it when you hit the bargain stores. That doesn鈥檛 mean you have to pass up on that swoon-worthy floral frock 鈥 exhibit A 鈥 you鈥檝e been lusting after. By simply layering a slip or the right undergarments underneath, you can instantly amp up your outfit鈥檚 look 鈥 and avoid a potential wardrobe malfunction. Team it with classic ankle-strap heels and a statement belt for an extra polished finish. So classy.


Shoddy workmanship and construction show, and can make clothing at any price point聽look cheap. Whether you鈥檙e buying on a dime or have some serious cash to blow, always check the buttons, seams and zippers, as well as how prints line up, before tossing an item into your shopping bag. Loose threads, zippers that don鈥檛 close smoothly and patterns that weren鈥檛 properly aligned before assembly are all indications that a garment was poorly made. If you have the time and can fix it, go for it. Otherwise, take a pass.


5. H&M A-Line Denim Skirt ($25): Pass up on a trend-right denim skirt with timeless appeal?聽Puh-lease. We鈥檙e already planning this A-line鈥檚 future: crocheted tops and strappy sandals for summer and half-tucked rib knit sweaters and block-heeled ankle boots come fall. That is, after verifying that the bomb zip detail is ready and raring to go. At the first sign of wear and tear, swap it out with a new zipper to keep your look on top of its game.


Dirt and grime are a recipe for disaster, especially when it comes to shoes and bags. Do a weekly once-over to ensure your pieces are looking their best, polishing and cleaning with soap and water or an all-purpose cleaner like Windex (seriously!) as needed. Help malleable pieces maintain their shape by stuffing when not in use. And when it comes to washing clothes, proceed with caution. It might seem counterintuitive, but the more you launder them, the worse they look, since washing wears down the fabric and fades colors.


6. Topshop Coconut Sling Back Shoe ($100): These gilded steppers are what dreams are made of.聽Instantly taking everyday denim and simple shirt dresses into Insta-worthy territory is what they do best, so best believe you鈥檒l be pulling them out on the regular. To keep them looking fly at all times, treat them with leather protector before stepping out on the street, then touch 鈥檈m up when necessary with leather conditioner or unscented body lotion.


Admit it 鈥 your mother was right. Nothing kills an otherwise chic outfit faster than wrinkles. Ironing is a bummer, but the five extra minutes it takes to press your pieces is so worth it. Even better, invest in a steamer. It鈥檚 gentle enough to use on almost everything in your wardrobe, and doesn鈥檛 take up a lot of space or time聽鈥 essential for lazy girls and聽less-than-lofty digs.


7. Topshop Jersey Pleat Midi Skirt ($60): Pleats are always聽#onfleek, whether you style 鈥檈m up for the office or dress 鈥檈m down with a basic tee and sneaks. Wrinkles can make the polished detail look totally whack, but a quick blast with a steamer will take care of all of that.


8.聽Sienna Surecare Garment Steamer ($120): Resist the urge to turn your bathroom into a steam room to get out deep-set wrinkles 鈥 it鈥檚 a waste of water and time. This compact steamer will make even the frumpiest separates look ready to hit the runway in seconds, with almost zero effort. Consider it your new closet MVP.


Who would have thought that something so small could make聽such a big impact?聽Say sayonara to cheap plastic buttons and swap 鈥榚m out for something with a little more panache. Besides being a great way to add polish to inexpensive pieces, choosing your own buttons gives high-street styles a more personal feel. Head to your nearest fabric store or hit up Etsy for endless one-of-kind options. If sewing isn鈥檛 exactly you鈥檙e thing, most dry cleaners will do it for you for only a few bucks.


9.聽Vero Moda Button Through Pinafore Dress ($55): A denim dress with year-round appeal (and a RN apron neckline to boot)? Don鈥檛 mind if we do! For a more sophisticated feel, ditch the standard buttons for a pearlescent or tortoise style that would look killer with mock neck blouses and platform Oxfords, or gilded statement baubles and block heels.


When it comes to ultra trendy items that likely won鈥檛 last more than a couple seasons, the high street is the place to go. That said, if intricate detailing, like glitzy embellishments, pleating or a unique dyeing process, is what you鈥檙e after, you might be better off shelling out a few extra bucks 鈥 they鈥檙e hard to get right on the cheap. Shop around to find the best possible version within your budget, or stick to聽simpler, pared-down pieces.


10. Keepsake Faithful Long Sleeve Top ($140): Eye-catching style isn鈥檛 all about sequins, studs and show-stopping prints. The clean lines and ruffled sleeves on this streamlined top make a stylish statement without going over the top.


Before taking your new clothes out for a spin, take them straight to the tailor. Having that $10 dress or pair of trousers nipped and tucked to perfection will ensure a better fit (meaning you鈥檙e more likely to wear it more often) and elevate its appearance well beyond its fast-fashion price tag. Keep in mind that the simpler the garment, the easier it is to fix.


11. Mango Straight Linen-Blend Trousers ($100): When you find the perfect pair of trousers that will take you from AM聽to PM聽no problem, it鈥檚 hard to say no. And this聽high-waisted pair will have you swooning hard. For an athleisure-approved getup you can rock on duty, team these smart white trousers with a vintage-inspired ribbed knit top (bonus points for stripes and a shade of sunny yellow) and slides. Pro Tip: If you鈥檙e unsure about the fit, take the next size up to make the tailoring process easier. It鈥檚 a lot easier to take something in than to let it out.


Every fashion darling knows that striking the perfect balance of runway and high street pieces is a recipe for vestiary success. Outerwear and accessories are a great way to allot extra funds 鈥 they don鈥檛 just age well and maintain their value, but accessories are what give an outfit personality and flair.


12. Mansur Gavriel Mini Calf Leather Bucket Bag ($610): Don鈥檛 underestimate the power of a killer bag. This red-hot number is a major investment, but it鈥檒l聽stand the test of time 鈥 and make even the most basic of basics look like luxe goods.


13.聽Lookast Blue Linen Soft Trench Coat ($228):聽Ask any editor or It girl 鈥 a gorgeous jacket is your wardrobe鈥檚 secret weapon. Even if you鈥檙e rockin鈥 distressed jeans and a tattered band tee, you鈥檒l look like a bonafide style icon when you slip a forever coat or jacket over your shoulders. This denim trench is a refreshing step away from traditional khaki styles and would look downright DDG tossed over culottes, peep-toe booties and a sleeveless mock-neck top.


If you haven鈥檛 hopped on the monochromatic bandwagon just yet, now is definitely the time. The look is a bold one, no matter what the color, but it also feels intentional and incredibly put together, even if the price tag of your head-to-toe look is under $50. For extra style cred, don鈥檛 be afraid to play with texture to create an extra layer of visual intrigue.


14. Zara Off-the-Shoulder Top ($50): Stand out on GNO by ditching the classic bodycon for an off-the-shoulder top and cropped trouser combo in bright shades of white for a look that screams ahead of the curve. Team with vibrant accessories 鈥 like glitzy drop earrings or a quirky pop art clutch 鈥 to break up the look and add to the fashion-forward appeal.


Attention-grabbing prints and shimmery embellishments aren鈥檛 the only way to create visual intrigue. While the former can veer on the side of bargain basement if not done right, playing with proportion can easily yield stunning results. Tuck an oversized sweater into a flirty A-line skirt or pair wide-leg trousers with a streamlined bodysuit for a well-balanced look that won鈥檛 disappoint.


15. Forever21 Side-Slit Turtleneck Top ($25): There鈥檚 just something about a sleeveless turtleneck that gets us every time. Distressed denim, tailored trousers and twirl-worthy skirts that will do HR proud 鈥 this wear-anywhere number does it all. Tucked in, it has a sleek aesthetic that offers the ultimate counterbalance to billowy bottoms, and聽when hanging loose it gives skinny jeans and pencil skirts a laid-back feel.

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