I Tried To Get My Shit Together On The Cheap And Here’s What Happened
Fake it 'til you make it.
Like all good capitalists, I yearn for things I cannot afford.
Not for me the life of a communist worker. Give me fruit bonbons and glitter lip gloss and an old age spent living in a house I've constructed out of hundreds of pairs of shoes I've never worn.
Except that I've currently not got enough money to live frivolously and die destitute in true Baudelairean style. Right now all I have is instant ramen and a growing sense of doom, which is far less fun.
The only option? Fake it until I make it.
If you can't actually be rich, just pretend to be rich. As Engels says, the state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another. And looking at the way the world's heading, I'd say there's no better time to get good at looking like you're a member of the oppressing 1% than now.
So, I looked up a bunch of clothes hacks and DIYS to try to make my cheap things look more expensive than they are. I was specifically looking for cheap ways to make my clothes last longer and look nicer, and small changes that would make a big difference to how my clothes looked. Essentially, minimum cost and effort for maximum payoff, in true fat cat style.
How hard could it be?
DIY One: Create a smooth silhouette with shapewear.
Cost: £28. I'm not gonna lie to you: Spanx ain't cheap. There are cheaper supermarket brands of shapewear you can get, but when I was shopping I freaked out that there was a reason Spanx was the most famous name and other shapewear wouldn't work as well. So I just bought the expensive Spanx. If you know of a cheaper, just-as-effective alternative, let me know.
Level of difficulty: I mean, it's super easy as you're literally just putting some Spanx on. But also, SPANX ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO PUT ON. It's like trying to squeeze meat into sausage casing but with far less delicious end results.
Before vs. After (take two)
Was it worth it? So here's the deal. The first two pictures, I tried the Spanx on with a cheapo New Look jumpsuit I have, and there is no discernible difference. None. It didn't even help me to squeeze into the jumpsuit, which is slightly too small around the hip area for me (WHY ARE ALL JUMPSUITS MADE FOR WOMEN WITH NO HIPS?!). The zipper got stuck and I had to be cut out of the jumpsuit shortly after taking those pictures. RIP both my jumpsuit and my dignity.
BUT, I then tried the Spanx on with a very clingy dress, and that did work – in the second picture I definitely think my silhouette looks smoother. The lesson here is do not use Spanx as a means to squeeze into tighter clothes; only use them for form-smoothing purposes.
Did I feel more expensive? It's a mixed bag. In the dress, I definitely think I look more expensive in the second picture. But also wearing Spanx is an ~experience~. It's feels like you've been vacuum packed into a giant nappy, and I have no idea what the price estimate of that sensation would be.
DIY Two: Change the buttons on a shirt for nicer ones.
Cost: Less than a fiver. I paid £1.45 for a pack of sewing needles, £1 for a seam picker, £1 for the replacement buttons, and less than a pound for the thread.
Level of difficulty: If you have read my other sewing hacks post, you will know that using a sewing machine has not gone well for me so far. And by "not gone well", I mean I had to use copious amounts of wine as a healing technique afterwards. I was planning on using my sewing machine to sew on these buttons, but obviously that did not go to plan – it turned out the buttons I bought were not the kind you can sew on with a machine. So I made the executive decision to try to hand-sew all the buttons on. Confucius tells us that real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance, so really, am I bad with sewing machines, or am I just hugely knowledgeable? I think we both know the answer to that.
A miracle happened though. It turns out that while I'm appalling at operating machinery, I am SEMI-OK at hand-stitching. I read this tutorial, then winged it, and only had a few mishaps. Plus, when it goes well, sewing is as relaxing as Xanax, and the high you get when it's all done is better than anything you can get on the black market.
In summary: Say no to drugs and yes to sewing.
Before vs. After
Was it worth it? In terms of price, yes, because I think it's made my shirt look a lot more expensive for not very much money. This is very time-heavy though. I reckon I could do it quicker now that I've practised, but it took me over six hours to sew all those buttons on (this may have something to do with my method of sewing a button on, then rewarding myself with an episode of Great British Bake Off). But if, like me, you're happy to sew away while watching TV, then it's all good.
Did I feel more expensive? My shirt now looks less H&M, more Michael Kors, and I have new sewing skills that will serve me well when the apocalypse comes.
DIY Three: Steam your clothes.
Cost: £29.95. Yes, I know what you're thinking: Why spend £30 on a steamer when you can buy an iron for a quarter of the price and put the extra money towards buying an actual expensive outfit? The idea is that 1) the steamer will make all your outfits look more expensive, which is more long-lasting than just one more expensive outfit, and 2) steamers are better than irons.
Level of difficulty: Really easy, unless you are an actual idiot like me and manage to burn yourself with the steamer. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to steam my shirt WHILE I WAS STILL WEARING IT. I have no excuse for this – I worked for weeks as a photography intern where my main job was steaming clothes and returning them. Though to be fair, I was a truly dreadful photography intern. Anyway, all I can say is please do not steam your clothes while you're wearing them as it's fucking painful, and no one will have any sympathy for you afterwards, because let's face it, this was a basic IQ test, one which I failed abysmally.
What you want to do is hang up your clothes to steam them (not flat on the floor or an ironing board). When you do it like this, using the steamer is ridiculously quick and easy. If it wasn't for the burning incident, I'd say it's idiot-proof, but as I have proved, it is clearly not.
Before vs. After
Was it worth it? This may be controversial, but yes, I think it was. I usually never iron anything; I'm a British media type, and as a rule we're all slightly crumpled. But this was so quick and effective. You don't get those deep creases you can get if you iron something wrong, plus there's no dicking about setting up an ironing board or wondering how you're going to iron your sleeves.
Did I feel more expensive? Yes. I'm pressed and steamed and ready to break through glass ceilings in my Clinton-crisp shirtsleeves.
DIY Four: Re-sole and polish your shoes.
Cost: £4.47. As all regular consumers of women's magazines know, the key to an expensive-looking outfit is spending a ridiculous amount of money on shoes and accessories. "Spend money on your shoes and it will transform your whole outfit!" they cry. "I am your ever-loyal disciple but shoes are expensive as fuck," I cry back. So I bought shoe soles for £2 and shoe polish for £2.47 in an attempt to make my cheap shoes look less cheap, and prayed to Anna Wintour for forgiveness.
Level of difficulty: As Nietzsche said, there are no facts, only interpretations. Which is handy, as a lot of people would say how terribly this went is a fact, whereas I interpret this as a positive learning experience. What I learned is that you should just take your shoes to a damn cobbler. I cut my soles to size, then glued them on with shoe glue, and that picture of me with the soles in my hand rather than stuck on my feet is up to your interpretation.
You'd think polishing your shoes would be easier, but it turns out the papers were right about millennials, because I have little to no basic life skills. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to open the polish tin. Then, when I rubbed the clear polish on to my shoes with an old cloth bag, it made weird brown marks appear on the shoes. I have no idea why this happened, but I think the whole thing is a good metaphor for life.
This is why I can't ever move out of my parents' house. I'd last a week, tops, before I was found dead in a dustbin.
Before vs. After
Was it worth it? The soles were not worth it. There is a reason cobblers exist – please just take your shoes to them to be re-soled and heeled, they're lovely people who just want to help make your shoes look nicer. Shoe polish, however, is worth it: The brown marks kind of faded a bit, and I do think my ratty heels look in better condition now.
Did I feel expensive? Look at my face. Is that the face of an expensive-feeling young lady? There are no facts, only interpretations.
DIY Five: Wear a belt.
Cost: £3. The belt is from H&M. I don't know what else to say about it. It's a decent belt.
Level of difficulty: You put the belt on, and then faff with it to your heart's content.
Was it worth it? I think i've skewed things a bit as in the second picture I am very tired and look quite dead behind the eyes, which lowers the overall expensive feeling of the outfit (IMO). I've watched America's Next Top Model for the last 10 years; smize-ing should be second nature to me by now. I've let myself down and I've let Tyra down.
The belt is a good idea, though – I think it's a cheap, easy way to make outfits look more pulled together. You can hide seams at the waist with a belt, and it can help to make items look more tailored.
Did I feel expensive? I felt like I needed caffeine. But classy caffeine. Loose-leaf darjeeling tea and matcha latte caffeine.
DIY Six: Wash your clothes less.
Cost: £4. But what price your self-respect? Because washing your clothes less is kind of gross. Like, at what point do you go from helping your clothes look nicer for longer to just becoming a trash human being? I paid £1 for the stain wipes and £3 for a bottle of Febreze – I was originally going to do that trick where you put your clothes in the freezer to kills smells, but my freezer is not somewhere anything should go to get more clean.
Level of difficulty: Piss easy. The stain wipes you just use like a regular cloth to clean up spills, and the Febreze you spray on from a reasonable distance and let dry.
Before vs. After:
Was it worth it? The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. Yes, trying to wash my clothes less was grim in concept...but not as grim as I thought it would be. It turns out my hygiene standards, much like my ethics, are super flexible. A quick spray of Febreze and I'm good to go. I mean, I'm definitely going to die alone, but at least I will have a full wardrobe to keep me company.
FYI, whatever your standards of cleanliness, I would 100% recommend those stain wipes. I am a messy bitch who lives for drama, in the sense that I spill a lot of shit on myself and I am very dramatic about it. Those wipes were a godsend.
Did I feel more expensive? Yes, damnit. Yes I did. All my clothes come from high street stores, which means they fall apart after, at best, five washes, at worst, one. Being able to go longer between washes prolongs the inevitable moment I pull my Primark jumper out the washing machine and discover it's melted into a lumpy mess, because as everyone knows, Primark jumpers are 40% viscose, 20% polyester, and 40% cardboard.
Making your clothes look more expensive was not as easy as I had originally hoped, but there are definitely tricks that work. In terms of actually buying stuff for long-term payoff, I would say getting shapewear, a belt, and some stain-removing wipes would be my top picks. I also think the steamer is worth it unless you are an ironing pro, in which case there is no point, you're already winning at life.
Sewing on the buttons was definitely the most labour-intensive of all the DIYs I tried, but also had the best payoff. If you have a spare Sunday to sit and practise your Victorian lady aesthetic, then definitely consider replacing all the buttons on your clothes with fancy gold ones.
Finally, there are those who would tell you there's no point trying to pretend to be something you're not and to just be true to yourself. But they will be the first to die when our new insect overlords arrive. Above all, remember when you embark on this mission of faux-expensiveness that to doubt is to fail. You must believe you will become more expensive, and it will be so.
Now you are ready. Go forth, young capitalists, and pretend to prosper.