Sometimes, putting together fab, inexpensive outfits is what we do for fun. At other times, it’s a financial necessity. Either way, it’s highly do-able, with a little know-how.

Choose fabrics wisely. Whether you’re in Target, H&M, Zara or Kmart, seek out linen, cotton, wool, suede-look and denim. Reject items with fussy detailing: plain is good, stripes are good.

Stock up on navy or black. Dark colours hide the imperfections of a cheap fabric. Dress, pants or top – if it fits you well and you’ve taken the hem up (learn how to sew!) people will be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Avoid insipid colours like light green, light mauve and peach… they will just emphasise the fabric’s (lack of) provenance.

Marle is your friend. Described by Vogue as the “ultimate neutral”, grey marle has softness and texture and again, it’s hard to tell the frugal version from the exxy one. Looks great with scarves and jeans.

Avoid screen-prints or weird embellishments. Avoid pictures of animals, odd slogans, glued-on studs and random glitter. They just shout “cheap shop”.

Layer it up with neckware. Printed or plain, cotton or wool, scarves add texture and make a budget outfit feel lush. Sportsgirl and Zara are good places to look. Add layers of accessories from stores like Lovisa and Portmans: gold hoop earrings, chains and pearls are easy classics.

Don’t buy cheap white blouses and shirts. Synthetics stick to you in summer, reek of sweat and go yellow in the armpits. Or if they’re cotton, they’ll shrink and/or come out of the washing machine looking like a rag and be impossible to iron. Cheap cheap CHEAP!

Devil’s in the deets. Watch out for untidy stitching, patterns that don’t match up at the seams, dangling threads, puckers and wonky zippers – AND DON’T GO THERE! Sloppy sewing never looks expensive.

Actually go into shops. That way you can study garments up close, and touch the fabrics. And you can try them on for fit and feel, and see if they have the dreaded static cling.

Look at every rack. When you’re navigating through cheap shops, there might only be a couple of items worth your time, and they might not be at the front. Comb those racks like a cyborg looking for Sarah Connor.

Monitor high-fashion accessories. Study high-end fashion looks online and in mags at the hairdresser; then look for similar stuff in budget land. Just don’t actually go into the high-end shops or you might be tempted to buy something.

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