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These Clothes Only *Look* Expensive – 25 Editor-Approved Pieces Under $150

Clothes that look expensive, you say? THAT’S RIGHT. Today, I’m walking you through 25 different pieces – starting at only $18! – that’ll make you look like you’ve stepped right out of a Nancy Myers movie. The parameters are simple:

  • Classic Color or Pattern: Neutrals are great, and so are desaturated colors (think olive and rust). Lean into simple, effortless patterns like a great sailor stripe.
  • Timeless Shape: An A-line skirt. A fit-and-flare dress. A wide-leg pant. A comfortable sweater that’s juuuust big enough to wrap around your palms. There are a lot of great trends out there today – they’re just not in this post.
  • Tailored Fit: You know all those experts on TV who say that tailoring makes a huge difference? They’re right. The goal is for you to wear your clothes, not for your clothes to wear you.
  • A Little Something Extra: Maybe it’s a sleeve with a little extra volume, a bit of sparkle from a gold button, or a surprise detail on the back…but when clothes look expensive, you can tell that someone put a lot of thought and energy into making a piece look finished.

Ready to see the selects? Let’s kick it off with a tried-and-true favorite from Emily herself…

Puff Isla Top, $118

Starting off with a classic top from one of Em’s new favorite brands, Emerson Fry. (That’s the Puff Isla in Navy above – that color is currently sold out – but you may also recognize this top from some of the photos she shared last week!) Emerson Fry’s India Collection, in particular, is filled with a lot of Ulla Johnson-style blouses at about a third of the price (think $98, not $300).

Striped Mockneck Sweater, $18 (Sale)

Your eyes don’t deceive you – this J. Crew-designed sweater is only $18 this weekend. I love this fresh take on a timeless sailor stripe – it’s playful and considered without being loud. It’s a total Goldilocks situation on the fit, too: not too loose, not too tight. Easy to tuck into jeans, but with enough shape to wear it as a standalone piece. (Still can’t believe the price tag.)

Fit and Flare Linen-Blend Midi Dress, $40

Ok, SUCH A PRETTY NECKLINE. This linen-blend midi drapes in a beautiful way – love seeing how great it looks on all the size-inclusive models! – and it’s a great transitional color for fall. Pro tip: as the weather cools (or, uh, if it ever cools), extend the life of your midi dresses by pairing them with a comfy sweater. (I swear by all three hacks in this video – this dress would be a perfect contender for the sports bra method!)

Ruffle Trim Button-Up Shirt, $98

If the designer’s assignment was “take a classic piece, but make it feel a little special”…well, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Formal but not stuffy; sweet but not saccharine; easy to dress up or down – you’ll be able to keep this piece in your closet for years.

Standard Skirt, $145

It’s really hard to find a simple, timeless A-line skirt these days. And this one comes in navy, lapis blue, vintage khaki, and copper! The styling on the site is to die for, too – total masterclass in the casual/dressy mix. (Highly recommend for outfit inspo!)

Harlow Wide Leg Pants, $118

LEMME SING THE PRAISES: These wide-leg pants come in standard, petite, tall, AND plus sizes. And there are nine colors to choose from! They’re breezy enough to pair with sandals at the beach, but tailored enough to wear into the office. I have REALLY wide hips and pretty big thighs and they don’t cling at all – they’re a great entry point to the wide-leg pant trend!

Cotton Nico Cardigan, $150

Em owns this cardigan, so I’ve had the honor of seeing it in the flesh! (She wore it for EHD’s panel at the Meridian Experience, in case you’re wondering what the contents of my brain look like – just a catalogued encyclopedia of my boss’ outfits, like all normal employees.) To quote the boss herself, it REALLY is a “simple but special” piece – there’s a timeless silhouette, but it just looks so luxe and refined in person.

Dream Shift Dress, $73 (Sale)

How tailored and chic is this little mini dress? Pair with thick, warm tights in the winter or with your finest gold jewelry and cute sandals in the summer.

Heritage Chino Pant, $98

These relaxed-fit chinos come in seven colors (praise be!) and are a great little upgrade for those of us who find ourselves pulling on the same two pairs of jeans every day. I love the olive color – it’s vibrant and cheery – but the pink is SO CUTE for anyone who is currently embracing their inner Barbie.

Patch Pocket Sweater Jacket, $138

OMG. LOOK AT THAT WOMAN. Tell me she does not look like she should be on a boat, or chairing an event, or holding court over the most refined brunch you’ve ever imagined. This sweater comes in a 3XS-3XL (and there are solid versions for $128, if stripes aren’t for you).

Long Sleeve Split Neck Top, $25 (Sale)

The drape on the sleeve? The way that front falls? It’s SO PRETTY. (And again, how refreshing is it to see a size 12 model?) This comes in a few prints and patterns, but the solid white and the solid black are the two choices that look expen$$$ive.

Cable Knit Crewneck Sweater, $98

OOPS MY HAND SLIPPED AND I BOUGHT THIS (In antique white). I’m always a fan of a good cable knit or fisherman sweater, but the good ones always get really picked over by the time I’m ready to buy – not this year, though!!! Size up for a loose fit that’s reminiscent of this model, or grab your regular size for a throw-on-and-go sweater with a little extra ~pizazz~.

Satin Pleated Midi Skirt, $72 (Sale)

There aren’t many (or, like, any) things I wish I still had from my college wardrobe, but I’ve ALWAYS regretted giving away my navy pleated midi skirt. It was so easy to style – it looked particularly great with all my jewel-toned tops and sweaters – but it was also easy to dress up, like in the images above. There’ve been so many moments over the past 13 years where I wished I had a skirt like this back in my closet – it’ll become a staple piece for you in no time, I promise!

Sleeveless Turtleneck Sweater, $48

The woman who buys this type of top intimidates me. IT’S SO FREAKIN’ CLASSY. I picture you working in a high-rise corner office, living the type of life that deserves to be captured in some sort of HBO mini-series. If I’m in a crisis situation, I’m absolutely taking orders from the woman in a clean, refined, knit tank. It just gives off a powerful vibe, don’t you think?

Short Sleeve Midi Dress, $35

UM, I’M SORRY, THIS IS SO CUTE. Who gave Target the right to make such sweet dresses??? If you told me Reformation was selling this for $250, I would believe you! I love the construction of the top and the length is perfect for transitional wear. (Catch me using the hack I shared earlier to wear that white cable sweater on top of this dress later in the fall!)

Merino Tank and Cardigan Set, $80 (Sale)

I love a great two-for-one deal (don’t you?) and this set can take you straight from summer and into fall and winter. Wear them apart! Wear them together! Grab two (it comes in a light gray, dark gray, and a really pretty taupe-y neutral) and mix and match! However, you slice it, it’s a great deal on some high-quality, easy-to-wear basics.

Button Back Crewneck Sweater, $150

The collar. The texture. The sleeves that have volume, but aren’t too balloon-y. AND DID YOU SEE THE BACK?! I’ve said it before, but Alex Mill is really channeling the 2008-2010 J. Crew look that captivated the world. They’re putting their own stamp on some refined silhouettes and they make getting dressed feel fun. Big fan of this cutie. 🙂

Canyon Knit Tank, $38

Ah, yes, the relaxed cousin of the turtleneck tank. The price point is great here – especially for Reformation! – but the ribbed knit and square neck make this top feel a lot more elevated and polished than a more traditional jersey tank.

Layton Midi Slip Skirt, $79.50

The person who wears this kind of skirt chooses a side salad at lunch (because she genuinely likes vegetables). She has a garden at home, and it’s FLOURISHING. She does her skincare routine every night. She threw this skirt on and she looks amazing. (Some clothes just have a VIBE, don’t you think?)

Veja Campo Sneakers, $135

Nothing says, “I’m a chill, casual, effortlessly stylish gal” like an understated pair of white sneakers…and these are a great option. The branding is subtle but cool – you won’t feel like a walking advertisement, but it also feels great when someone recognizes your Vejas. (I’ve had a pair since 2016 that always get compliments from the coolest and best-dressed women, I swear.)

Organic Cotton Waisted Dress, $73

Something about this shape just looks expensive – like an art director or a gallery owner in NYC should be wearing it. I love the sleeve, the waist-cinching detail, and the simple flare of the skirt.

Trench Coat, $99

I mean, the idea of the trench coat has been shoved down our throats since birth. (Do you also remember being a kid and reading that trench coats were, like, the epitome of fashion? It was in EVERY MAGAZINE, I swear!) To that end, though…maybe all those writers were on to something? The trench is such a simple way to dress up any outfit – it just adds a layer of polish

Oversized Button Down, $25

I’m a sucker for an oversized striped button-down – I have three hanging in my closet, and a few more in the laundry basket right now – but this navy and white option is a great choice for those who want something a little timeless and charming. I love the horizontal stripe detail on the cuff and back, too.

Washable Silk Midi Dress, $130

OMG. Can you believe that you, too, could look THIS elegant for $130? What a show-stopping wedding guest dress this would be – and you DON’T EVEN NEED TO PAY FOR DRY CLEANING. It’s the trifecta: a tasteful length, a comfortable neckline, and THAT BACK. This woman looks like a million bucks and SHE KNOWS IT.

Norma Zip Front Sweater, $91

Obsessed with the weave, drape, and oversized collar on this zip-up sweater. I’d pair it with some leggings for my grocery store run – it’s perfect for the days that you want to be lazy, but you also want to look like a functioning member of society. It also comes in navy, if this color is a little too warm for you!

THAT’S IT FROM ME. Here’s to all of us feeling a little more like a Nancy Myers character without totally breaking the bank. Have the best weekend – come back tomorrow for a VERY EXCITING new YouTube video.

PS. If anyone wants to debate, I am an ardent believer that The Parent Trap has the best-dressed cast of all time. Every single character nails the “effortless-meets-expensive” vibe and nothing is dated or trendy (seriously, do you remember these outfits?!). Do you agree? Disagree? THOUGHTS?

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Kaitlin Green | From: The Farmhouse Kitchen Reveal And All My Thoughts And Feelings About It

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27 thoughts on “These Clothes Only *Look* Expensive – 25 Editor-Approved Pieces Under $150

  1. Parent trap 90s or parent trap 60s? But probably YES to both!
    I wasn’t too excited about this post at the beginning, but man there are some amazing recs.

    I get bummed out when I find beautiful pieces that I know will FIT me forever (I assume), but I sweat a lot in my underarm. (Yes, singular, what the heck) I’ve tried all the deodorants to address the body angle, and I’ve tried all the laundry solutions to address the clothing angle. But unless I wear undershirts with cap sleeves (which only works in some scenarios ) my clothing gets perpetual body odor that I can’t remove with various laundering methods. (Especially blouses and knits), and then I can’t wear my favorites anymore. I have this problem with fast fashion, so I don’t dare invest in higher dollar pieces.

    This is a random place to ask this question, but it’s too embarrassing to post on my Facebook so I had a lightbulb moment that maybe some readers here have brilliant solutions or excellent body or laundry brands to try.

    1. I’m a hippy that uses salt deodorant and I don’t inject stuff into my face so I have never done this myself … and I understand if this idea is beyond the pale, but FYI Botox is approved for use for excessive sweating. Apparently it turns off some sweat glands.

      1. My best friend sweats like a demon coz she’s on hormone treatment for breast cancer and she has botox injections in her armpits.
        It. Works!!!!

    2. I also sweat a lot! To the point that for many years I refused to buy expensive white tops because they would yellow in a single summer. Here are a couple tricks that work for me:

      • Keep a spray bottle of Oxyclean near my laundry hamper / wherever I take my clothes off for the day. AS SOON AS I take off my top, I spray any sweaty sections (pits, collar, etc) and before putting it in the laundry hamper. Then by the time I wash it it’s been pre-treated. I find this makes my white tops last a lot longer before they start yellowing. I’ve had some nice anthropologie shirts last for years this way!
      • Keep a spray bottle with a mixture of 50% vodka, 50% water, also near where I change at the end of the day. Lightly spritz any potentially stinky parts of the clothes. The alcohol kills the bacteria that cause the odor. (I do this frequently with wool, haven’t tried it with silk.)
      • Wool has anti-bacterial qualities (so it gets less stinky) AND is good at regulating body temperature so I sweat less. I’ve spent several years building up a collection of wool sweaters that I basically live in all winter long. Boden is a great source for this and they have pretty regular sales! Wool sweater + vodka spritz for the sweater at the end of the day carries me a long way.
      • Polyester holds on to odor like woah, so I just never buy anything polyester anymore. Non-polyester clothing is getting harder and harder to find! And it means I have to pass on so many cute and affordable things. But these days, I basically only buy cotton, wool, silk, and maybe sometimes rayon. It means I have to save up and stalk sales, but it makes a big difference.

      Most of all, solidarity from one sweating person to another 🙂

    3. Have you tried garment shields? Back in the day when nicer clothes were dry clean only, lots of women used them to extend the number of wears of clothing. They have adhesive and help protect your garment from your body – like a pantry liner for your shirts and blazers.

    4. Talk to your doctor about this. There are prescription wipes you can use. I’m sure there are other solutions as well.

    5. I get underarm botox for sweating a couple times a year. It works really well. I can wear silk again and my clothes last so much longer.

    6. My doctor once recommended a product called Drysol…I used it for years, but no longer need it. Maybe it fixed the issue? The main ingredient is aluminum (something I didn’t care about back then), so you might want to talk to a doctor about that.

    7. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist deodorant. I actually got the recommendation for it on this blog, and it’s been life-changing. Takes care of the smell, too! It’s pricey, but there is a three-pack on sale as part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale right now. Of course, you probably don’t want to buy three before you try it, just for the future if it works for you. =)

    8. I feel you! I have also always been quite sweaty. Without wanting to make this into a “you probably just haven’t found the right one”-moment at least for me that really was what it was. The right deodorant that is! A friend recommendet a lady to me who makes natural beauty products to sell at the local market and her deodorant is magic to me! I’ve been buying it for over a decade and if she ever goes in retierement it will be a hecking tragedy for me haha 😀 It goes so far that I sometimes forget putting it on after my shower thinking “maybe I’ve just gotten less sweaty” only to realize “nope definitely need the deo still” a few hours later. It probably won’t do you any good if I shout her out since she’s in Germany an though her business has grown to include an actual online shop over the last years I doubt she does international shipping 😉 (But just in case – this is her and she’s great: https://maria-rose.de/products/deo-creme-rose) But also A. its a natural deodorant and I am sure you can find something similar local to you (main ingredients are: baking soda, shea butter, vegetable starch, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, vitamin E, fragrance, zinc oxide) and B. this can be super individual and what works for one person might work not for somebody else. So this is all to say: you are not alone! Being sweaty and feeling selfconscious about it sucks! I hope you find something that works for you!! 🙂

    9. I used a prescription medication as a teen that worked wonders. I don’t recall the name but I’m sure your primary care doctor can help

    10. To remove yellow stains and odor from washable clothing: mix ⅔ peroxide with 1/3 dawn dish soap. Apply solution to underarms. Then sprinkle treated area with baking soda and scrub it in with an old toothbrush. Allow to sit for 2 hours or overnight. It actually works. Really truly. Removes blood as well.

    11. Hello, J! Here to let you know that I *totally* relate to your post (thank you!) and Numi undershirts have changed my life. They work under 90% of the clothes I own and I so rarely have to wash blouses and sweaters as frequently as I used to. I’ll confess that I can also wear the undershirts 2-3 times before washing (I’ll spray a little dry shampoo on the pits and just air out for 24 hrs if they’re super damp). I’ve used a set of 4-5 of these shirts over the past couple of years. https://wearnumi.com/products/the-crop?variant=999636249

    12. To protect your clothes, use a no-aluminum deodorant (Dove is great!). It is not the sweat per se but its reaction with the aluminum in most deodorants that causes stains. After years of avoiding white clothes and dealing with smelly deodorant residue on all clothes, switching to 0% aluminum has finally allowed me to wear what I want without the fear of ruining my clothes. And for the stains from my aluminum deodorant days, the Buncha Farmers stain remover works wonders where nothing else made a dent. Good luck!

    13. Wow! Thanks everyone for the ideas! I have tried some of these but not anywhere near all of them so this gives me some investigative work to do to try to find what works best for me! THANK you from the bottom of my heart (dont worry, it doesn’t sweat)

  2. Yes to parent trap! My favourite childhood movie (and adult let’s be real). I am always taking fashion inspiration from that movie!

  3. I love most of these pieces! However, I may be going out on a limb here, but I would definitely say that at least for my budget, a significant portion of these items are expensive! I don’t know that most working families can justify spending $100 dollars on a blouse for one person in the family, or even $40 on a sweater tank. They’re all beautiful pieces, though, and I appreciate your Target options because that is more on point for my budget.

    1. “In 1960, the average cost of an item of clothing was around $150 (in today’s dollars). Today, the average cost is $27.77. That might sound like a good thing. But think about it this way: we used to be ok with paying for quality.”
      This is the danger of fast fashion – think of all the steps one blouse has to go through to end up in your closet and then sell for $30? It is unbelievable how that can be. Most of us do not have the kind of lives that we need walk in closets, yet that is what is being sold to us as the norm.

  4. Saw the Barbie movie today with a 50 yr old and a 75 yr old women…plus 2 15 yr old boys!
    What a combination!!!🤣🤣 Hilarious!
    Some great sub-plots in there about fashion.
    Caitlin, love this line from your post “The goal is for you to wear your clothes, not for your clothes to wear you.”
    Yesss!!!

  5. Hi! Love that Target spotty dress but the link goes to Gap. Just letting you know so you can fix it, and I can buy it! 😉 Thanks!

  6. I love this post! Not all of these are in my budget right now, so I’m saving them to my wishlist and also hunting for some on secondhand sites!

  7. Thank you so much for putting this list of cute and chic items together! I love to mix up my style but don’t want to spend too much money every season. A lot of these items like the striped sweater are perfect for a wardrobe capsule!

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