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5 Ways to Make Your Purse Look Designer, Stylists Say

It's possible to shop affordably and still look expensive.

Almost every time we open social media, there's a new "it" bag. In the summer, it's a rattan purse; in the fall, it's a tan crossbody; in the winter, it's a textured tote; and in the spring, it's something bright and fun. Sadly, our budget doesn't have space to purchase a new designer bag each season. On the contrary, most of us can hardly afford to refresh our go-to handbag once a year. But with the right shopping strategy and styling tips, you don't need to. Ahead, we polled the pros to learn how to make affordable bags look designer. Memorize a few tips about materials, structure, and other details, and your outfits will instantly look so much more expensive.

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Look for quality hardware.

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Designer bags—just like designer clothes—have a certain amount of weight to them. So, if you can find a bag with heavy hardware, it'll look more expensive.

"Either polished or matte, look for gold, silver, or gunmetal hardware that has weight and looks sharp," says certified image stylist Elizabeth Kosich, founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling. "Also, look for metal feet on the bottom of the bag—a premium touch often found on luxury handbags."

Pay attention to the color of the metal, too: If it's unnaturally bright or shiny, it could come off as cheap. Zippers can be tricky to make look expensive, so you may want to find a bag that skips them entirely.

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Skip wacky finishes.

Closeup of red small bag in hand of woman. Fall spring fashion outfit red coat and trendy blue jeans

The overall composition of your bag matters in a big way.

"While there's nothing wrong with opting for vegan or faux leather, if it's shiny, plasticky, or begins to peel or crack easily, it will instantly make the bag look cheaper," says Sheila Anderson, image consultant and stylist at Image Power Play. "High-quality materials, whether genuine or faux, radiate a certain sophistication."

Additionally, you'll want to pass on most prints.

"Authentic animal exotics are a small fortune, so avoid any handbags with embossed crocodile or python material, as it will be a dead giveaway that it's a fake," says Kosich. "Instead, go for a basketweave style for its double thickness or anything with boxy, stiff construction."

The more structure your bag has, the more expensive it will look.

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Consider a dupe.

Stylish woman with pink coat and handbag
Maria Markevich / Shutterstock

Dupes are everywhere these days, and you can find them at all sorts of retailers, from Amazon to big-box stores. And the thing is, they're not all bad.

"They provide an affordable option for those who appreciate the aesthetic of a design but cannot afford the high-end original; however, they can undermine the creativity and originality of designers," says Anderson. "If a dupe isn't a direct counterfeit and merely takes inspiration without infringing on copyrights, it can be seen as a legitimate alternative for budget-conscious consumers."

That said, she adds that it's important to promote and purchase original designs. If you love a designer bag, see if it might be possible to set a savings goal and purchase it down the road. It'll feel incredible when you do.

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Style well.

Smiling Woman Outdoor Portrait. Short blonde hair fashion model wears stylish clothes, double-breasted jacket, leather handbag, ochre knitted scarf and glasses. Fashion trend of autumn or spring

A key way to make your bag look more expensive is to ensure your entire outfit looks that way.

"The bag should complement the color scheme and style of the attire," says Anderson. "Minimalist and monochromatic outfits often work well because they allow the bag to be a focal point."

Kosich loves bags in deep neutrals. If you want to add some pizzazz, she suggests tying a scarf to your bag's top handles.

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Retire your bag when necessary.


Affordable bags don't last as long as designer ones, so you'll likely need to retire yours fairly frequently.

"Look for noticeable wear and tear, such as fraying seams, fading color, persistent stains, or broken hardware, as well as if the bag no longer maintains its shape or if its functionality is compromised," says Anderson. "Additionally, if someone feels that the bag no longer aligns with their personal style or current fashion trends and they don't find joy in using it, that's your cue to retire it."

Regular maintenance also goes a long way. Wipe down your bag often to remove stains and scuffs. Expensive bags are often well-cared for, so keeping your affordable bag clean will make it look premium.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more