8 Secrets to Sourcing the Best Affordable Fashion Finds

Marlien Rentmeester is the founder of LE CATCH and is widely admired for the masterful mixing of high, low, and vintage clothing that defines her personal style. She offers her expert advice about how to get dressed on the very shoppable (and addictive) fashion blog, LE CATCH. During her career as a fashion, beauty, and fitness editor, Marlien has held positions with Lucky, People, Seventeen, and Self; written for publications including Vogue, ELLE, and New York Magazine; and appeared on television networks and programs including Extra, CNN, E!, VH1, and The Style Network.

A keen eye. Patience. Luck. These are just some of the things you need in order to uncover the coolest inexpensive fashion finds. It also helps to have some expert-level score-sourcing techniques, like the ones I picked up during my years as an editor at Lucky and now put to use on behalf of LE CATCH. I’m talking about things like how to assess the quality of the garment on your screen and why you should ignore the season when you’re shopping.

Click through to learn my hard-earned shopping tips and see some of my current favorite (and bound-to-sell-out!) finds. And if you like those, you can find more of my favorites daily on LE CATCH!

One of my hard-and-fast shopping adages is to avoid buying an inexpensive item that looks a little “too inspired by” something I’ve seen on the runway. The reason: The poor imitation will be an easy and perhaps embarrassing giveaway that I didn’t splurge on the real McCoy. Instead, I opt for a look that loosely interprets a big trend, as the effect is uncontrived and original-looking.

H&M Wide-Cut Cotton Dress ($99)

Inspired by Chloé’s romantic S/S 15 collection, this floaty H&M lace-trimmed dress seamlessly goes from beach to street.

Pixie Market White Ring Hem Eyelet Dess ($92)

This Pixie Market dress dovetails nicely with summer’s feminine lace trend.

Claremonte Plaidweave Leather Pouch ($108)

This woven leather bag is a colorful riff on a Bottega Veneta bag.

Leave no stone unturned when you’re shopping online and off. Lots of treasures can be buried in overcrowded sales racks. I tend to scour every rail, as there may be a random but special one-off mistakenly placed there. I can’t tell you how many amazing pieces I’ve scored this way! I also like to poke around in the men’s section at H&M and sometimes in the kids’ section at the Gap, where I once unearthed the best army jacket, which I still wear to this day!

But know which budget-friendly textiles make the cut. For starters, chiffon-type and polyester-silk materials can be good buys: They look sophisticated, don’t pill, and can be easily hand-washed to extend their life. Make sure to thoroughly check garments for any issues before buying. Look for loose seams and buttons, sheerness, shine—in other words, qualities that would reveal cheapness. When buying online, know that colors don't vary dramatically from screen to reality, but textures do, so read the description and the composition information carefully, zooming in on each picture to see styles up close.

ASOS A-Line Dress in Suede With Square Eyelet Detail ($154)

The coolness of this rich-looking suede/leather minidress belies its under-$200 price tag!

Before e-commerce took over the world, I would fly to London three times a year just to shop the high-street stores that didn’t have a presence in America, and I’d return with a suitcase packed with strikingly cool yet incredibly inexpensive looks that none of my friends could place. Now that many of these stores sell their wares online—along with an endless list of other internationally sought-after retailers—I can snap up those anonymous, where-did-you-get-that pieces, minus the plane fare. I sleuth out finds everywhere from Coast to COS, even the UK supermarket Marks & Spencer.

Whistles Frayed Edge Denim Jacket ($90)

I love U.K.-based Whistles for its tailored separates and super wearable yet sophisticated silhouettes, hard to find this side of the Atlantic. This frayed denim jacket is a great everyday go-to.

Rarely do I shop for the current weather. If I come across a great winter coat that’s on sale in July, I’ll snap it up, because the cold will inevitably come—and I’ll be prepared stylishly for it. During the fall, I am not afraid to buy sandals, as I know they’ll work on a mid-winter getaway or, worse comes to worst, next spring. In short, if you see something great, don’t hesitate.

Whistles Kumiko Short Faux Fur Coat ($170)

Buy this cropped navy fur jacket on sale now, and feel cozy (and on-trend!) later.

I am perpetually drawn to texture, sequins, embroidery, and embellishment and often find that these extras have a glorious way of masquerading a bargain-basement price! In my book, more can be more.

Joe Fresh Crochet Fringe Sweater ($39)

Fringe adds major flair to this breezy summer knit.

Mango Cotton Embroidered Jacket ($70)

The tassels on this cropped jacket add a spot-on bohemian vibe.

Star Mela Selma Pouchette Bag ($130)

Elaborate embroidering, print mixing, and braided handles make this an out-and-out statement bag.

Many sites, like Shopbop and Net-a-Porter, offer free shipping and free returns, so I always take a leap of faith when buying things I am not 100% sure about. Being able to try things on at home is also helpful, where I can mix and match the new possibilities with my own trusted pieces and don’t feel the pressure of pushy sales assistants. In a brick-and-mortar store, I always take in the iffiest maybes along with the definite must-buys to the fitting room, as I never know what will fit and how it will look on.

My closet has benefited greatly from secondhand stores, where I’ve picked up incredible designer pieces I would not typically buy at retail. My favorites include Shop-Hers (the bag selection is especially compelling), The Real Real, and Vaunte.

Chanel Tote ($59)

No joke: This canvas Chanel bag is under $100!

What's your best tip for finding affordable fashion? Let us know in the comments below, and then check out LE CATCH for more of Marlien's picks—after all, Reese Witherspoon named it her favorite website!