Photo: Revolve and Asos

Splurging on designer threads frequently may not be the most practical indulgence for most of us. In fact, when the state of our bank account starts looking downright piteous nearing the end of the month (and payday just seems so, so far away), the last thing on our minds is to deal with luxury price tags. But yet, we still want to look our best with chic, expensive-looking outfits with a point of difference. What’s a girl gotta’ do?

Here’s the thing: Exorbitance isn’t your only entryway into having great style; in fact, you can look just as polished and high-fashion even when you’re shopping with a lower budget. You can cut back on spending as long as you’re sensible about the things you’re buying, and where you’re getting them from. 

You’ll be able to find many key trends of the season, such as micro bags and luxe crochet, at fast fashion labels such as Zara and Mango. Another tip is to not go ham on spending extra when it comes to wardrobe staples and your basics, like solid coloured tops. These timeless classics will anchor and offer a good foundation for any outfit. And since they aren’t the focal point of your outfit, others would probably not be able to tell the difference between a $400 white tee from Margiela and one from Uniqlo which costs $15. Keep an eye out for quality when you’re shopping affordable; make sure the hems and seams are sewn neatly, that lightweight fabrics like cotton aren’t too see-through, and the pieces don’t crease or pucker in an unsightly way.

Last but not least, experiment with layering as well, it’s a quick way to add personality and spruce up any regular ensemble. 

Now that we’ve nailed down the basics, we’re taking it one step further with a breakdown on under-$300 looks you can adopt for every event on your social calendar. Scroll down for some serious style inspiration.

The occasion: A company dinner & dance

Total damage done: S$267.30

For a dinner and dance organised by your company, keep in mind that you’ll have to look refined and polished – nothing too risque or revealing as you’ll still in a professional setting. Pick out a dress that’s structural and holds its shape like this strapless cape back maxi dress from ASOS. Not only is it elegant and looks expensive, it also looks appropriate so you won’t send heads shaking in disapproval. Opt for a tonal look overall, with jewellery and shoes in the same gold or cream colour scheme so that you’ll look put together. 

Iridescent pearl earrings, S$29.90 from Zara; My Accessories London Exclusive half moon clutch bag with rang handle, S$40.76 from ASOS; ASOS Design strapless cape back maxi dress, S$101.90 from ASOS; Metal bracelet, S$29.90 from Zara; ASOS Design wide fit winner mid heeled court shoes in rose gold glitter, S$64.84 from ASOS


The occasion: A cocktail party

Total damage done: S$267.18

To immediately look more regal, look towards fabrics in more luxe options such as satin or jacquard. This strapless metallic silver mini dress has a layered design that drapes elegantly to create a classy finish, and it’ll definitely serve you well for your next cocktail party. Team it with dazzling statement earrings, a matching choker, white lace-up high heels, and an on-trend micro-bag for extra style points.

Bejewelled earrings, S$39.90 from Zara; Public Desire Clarity White clear heel ankle tie court shoes, S$55.56 from ASOS; Halston Heritage strapless layered metallic jacquard mini dress, US$50 (S$68.47) from The Outnet; Kingsley Ryan Exclusive gold plated delicate chain choker, S$33.35 from ASOS; Blue Collection glitter mini crossbody bag, S$69.90 from Zara


The occasion: An outdoor party

Total damage done: S$256.88

Racking your brains on what to wear for your next garden party? The theme you’re looking at is dressy resort, so your best bet would be a billowy floral dress or jumpsuit. One trick to having an outfit that looks way more expensive than it really is: Wearing trend-centric items that every style influencer seems to be obsessed with in the moment. In this case, opt for sculptural statement earrings, sculptural heeled mules and a woven bag with this stunning halter neck floral dress and you’re all set.

Embossed earring, S$29.90 from Mango; Handmade crochet bag, S$19.90 from Mango; Dark Pink halterneck maxi dress in allover floral, S$138.95 from ASOS; Geometric heeled leather shoe, S$45.90 from Mango; Pieces pearl gold marble clip multipack, S$22.23 from ASOS


The occasion: Brunch/Afternoon tea

Total damage done: S$239.33

This plunge neck wide-leg jumpsuit from influencer-favourite brand Revolve’s Gen-Z targeted retailer Superdown is sure to be an Instagram hit. It’s also very au courant (hello, snakeskin print!). Style it with a pair of crocodile effect mules, a ‘90s shoulder bag, statement sunnies and a pair of modern wooden-shaped earrings.

Jana Wood statement drop earring, US$14.99 from Urban Outfitters; Shoe buckle croc-effect, S$44.90 from Mango; Superdown Yasmin halter jumpsuit, S$92.21 from Revolve; Acetate frame sunglasses, S$39.90 from Mango; Crocodile baguette bag, US$30 from Urban Outfitters


The occasion: A friend’s house party

Total damage done: S$233.54

A satin mini dress with a subtle sculptural detail, such as this one-shoulder number from ASOS, looks contemporary, sleek, and way pricier that it is. Wear it with complementary pops of colour to add dimension to your look. A deep burgundy mini croc-effect crossbody bag and dark blue jewellery will elevate your ensemble and help you stand out. Anchor this look with a pair of chic white ankle boots.

Semi precious stone earrings, S$29.90 from Mango; Ankle boots, HK$399 (S$69.90) from H&M, ; ASOS Design mini dress with one shoulder in satin, S$64.84 from ASOS; Stone pendants necklace, S$29.90 from Mango; Crocodile print mini bag, S$39 from Pomelo