How to Make H&M Look Expensive

There are few feelings more gut-warmingly thrilling than admiring an item of clothing someone else is wearing and finding out, upon asking, that it happens to be from H&M, or Zara, or Topshop, or Forever 21, or ASOS, or any other comparably affordable retailer. It almost feels too good to be true, because even though fashion in its most ideal form is a universally-accessible apple tree of creative inspiration and skin-prickling discovery, rife for anyone and everyone’s plucking, the reality is that the apples are oftentimes out of reach.

That’s why it’s so much fun when you find out the magical thing you were trepidatiously eyeing costs no more than $25: it’s the best reminder that just like fashion doesn’t have to be taken too seriously to be seriously good, it also doesn’t have to break the bank to surprise and delight.

Elizabeth has a true gift for massaging the priceless potential out of clothes from every price range (which I’ve personally witnessed first-hand every time I demand to know the origins of her outfits), so I asked her if she would be up for proving my point with a styling challenge-cum-tutorial demonstrating how to make more-affordable fashion look like a million bucks. She accepted.

After picking a retailer to focus on (H&M, in this case), we decided that the “core” of each outfit, a.k.a. the main items of clothing (orange you glad I’m keeping up the fruit metaphors?), should clock in at under $100, while the accessories and shoes could have a bit more price-point flexibility.

The resulting ensembles not only pass the price test with flying colors, but they also happen to conform to the sartorial requirements of four common scenarios:

9-to-5 or Something Like It

Nothing says “ready for the workplace” like an eyelet vest and rolled-up sleeves, except maybe earth-tone pedal pushers that would send a chill of delight up any human resource department’s spine. Mix all those ingredients together, et voila: A+ office attire.

This Cool New Club Called Aisle Five

Running errands is basically a built-in social hour in that you will inevitably bump into everyone you know. (Why deliberately schedule time to see friends when you know you’ll end up chatting with one or another next to the Dang coconut chips at Whole Foods for 40 minutes on a Saturday afternoon?) Ergo, a cool errand outfit is key, even though I’m still salty about the demise of true off-duty style.

A Romantic Stroll With Plenty of Snack Stops Along the Way

A date-ready ensemble that easily translates from day to night is hard to come by, which is why this pale yellow specimen feels particularly auspicious. Is there anything more romantic than a straw purse upon which you might perch an arm fatigued from hours of hand-holding, or a pair of loafers well-equipped to steer both feet and conversation?

A Staycation For Your Imagination

Last but not least, if you, like me, spent the better half of last week screen-shotting street style and runway outtakes from Copenhagen fashion week, it is my pleasure to present you with the above assemblage of clothing, which is essentially a plane ticket to Denmark in outfit form.

And there you have it: four apple pies, fresh out of the oven and ready to be consumed by your wardrobe.

Modeled by Isabel Scholten of The Society Management, follow her on Instagram @isabelmerlijn. Styled by Elizabeth Tamkin; photographed by Edith Young.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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