Haute Topic: Shopping at cheap stores does not mean you have to look cheap

By: Esra Erdogan/Columnist

Esra Erdogan

There is nothing like the rush of finding something on sale – until you realize that the 15 percent off you are getting on a pair of $150 shoes at Bloomingdale’s is barely enough to buy dinner. This is why fast fashion chains like Forever 21, H&M and even Target are so tempting.

These companies are very successful because they offer fashionable and trendy duds at lower price points, making it easy for people like me to not get bored of my wardrobe. Unfortunately, shopping at these places is often not easy or fun.

I am almost positive that the number one tourist attraction in South Florida is the Forever 21 in Dolphin Mall. Although the Dolphin Mall location is the most organized and easiest to navigate through, the crowd in there on a typical weekend is enough to make me scream.

The same thing goes for H&M, except to get to H&M you have to drive an hour and a half to Palm Beach – which I have done. It is easy to find things that are cheap at these stores, but it is not as easy to find things that don’t make you look cheap. Slowly but surely I am mastering this art by thinking before I buy.

These stores carry some really stylish stuff with a whole lot of terrible items mixed in.

After you have weeded through jam-packed racks of basic tank tops and horrible satin-like club dresses, you may find something unique and affordable.

The first thing to think of before you step foot in a lower-end store like Forever 21 and H&M is what not to buy.

It is a pretty short but critical list: bags, shoes, jeans and jewelry.

Purses and wallets made of faux leather material usually isn’t worth buying. Save up for something made of the real deal because it will last longer.

The same rule goes for shoes; fake leather just won’t last, especially if you wear them frequently.

I find that the jeans at fast fashion chains fit awkwardly, fade too quickly and stretch out with frequent wear. Forever 21 denim is like flushing your money down the toilet.

Metal jewelry should be a no-brainer; the cheap metal they use usually fades quickly and could irritate your skin.

Now that you’re in the store and everything seems to be mashed together with no apparent theme, where do you look first? One rule that should go without saying is always try things on.

A medium size in a skirt may not be equivalent to the medium size in a tank top. The cuts are never consistent in these chains, so make sure to go to the dressing rooms.

When you are looking around, pick up two things: something you think will look good on you and something that matches it. When I take one skirt to the dressing room, I always wish I had grabbed a top to go with it to see how it fits with another item.This way, I can visualize the skirt with similar things in my closet and make sure it fits right in.

Always try to remember that dressing rooms are deceiving. If the lighting is dim in your dressing room, try to find a mirror outside that is in an area with more light. An expensive-looking black fabric may actually be washed out and look gray in brighter settings.

When you’re considering what to actually buy, make sure the item isn’t overpriced. If you think something is too expensive, it’s probably not worth it. Save a few more dollars and get a better quality item from a boutique or department store.

Lastly, make sure you’re not fooling yourself into buying something that is knocked off of a designer piece. Sometimes these chains sell pieces that are so blatantly ripped off of a designer’s work that it is offensive.

It is one thing to be inspired by a recent collection and quite another to buy something covered in fake Chanel logos – unless it is meant to be ironic, of course.

Haute Topic is a weekly fashion column.