Dress Like a Rich Girl (Even if Your Aren't One)

It's hard to keep your eyes from rolling back in your head when you read yet another magazine advising you to buy investment-level fashion. Spend on high quality, they say, and you'll have it forever. Great idea—if you have the cash in the first place. The truth is that many of us don't have the money to sink into splurge-worthy pieces. Sure, we might love the idea of that perfect bag that will become an heirloom for our future daughter, but first there's the small matter of not having any money.

But what if you could have that level of craftsmanship without the price?

Shop Online Consignment

If you are willing to commit some time to stalking the item you covet (no one said fashion was easy), and also to be flexible in your purchases, you can own spectacularly high quality fashion items at prices a little more Target than Tiffany. There are deals to be had—you just have to know where to look.

First, if you want quality, look at merchants that specialize in high-end, such as Mosh Posh or Ina. Then, go directly (and without browsing elsewhere) to their sale or clearance section. This is often a treasure trove of incredible items that, for one reason or another, just haven't sold. Sometimes it's because of an unusual color or a less-popular size, but that might be just the color or size you're after. Bags, shoes, and coats are the pieces that are often cited by fashion people as those deserving extra investment, so bear that in mind when deciding where to spend.

For example, the Sale section of luxury consignment site The Real Real recently had Prada and Kate Spade bags for $60, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo shoes for $40, and Celine and Tory Burch coats for under $120.

ThredUp offers consigned items at all price-points, and they offer a Designer section that's more Coach than Margiela, but high-end items do make their way to their Basement section. There are treasures to be had, just be sure to read each item's description carefully to find out why it's reduced. The Basement recently offered very cute Stuart Weitzman shoes for $17.99 (with tags still on them) and Ralph Lauren Collection and Vince coats for under $50.

Make Friends With the Gatekeepers

If you do have your heart set on a particular item (an exact bag in blue with a calfskin lining, for instance), establishing a relationship with any high-end consignment stores in your area can yield great results. Let the proprietor know that you're in the market for that item and if it comes in, she may be willing to set it aside for you and give you a call. This is especially true if you are a frequent customer (potentially for selling as well as buying). FYI, you may occasionally locate a designer item in a lower-end reseller (such as Goodwill), particularly if you seek out one located in an affluent area. If the item you discover is not to your liking or not your size, it is possible to consign it and pocket the difference.

High-quality doesn't have to mean high cost, nor does budgeting have to mean blah. Spending strategically can net an investment-level wardrobe with money left over for other kinds of investment as well.

Be Mindful

Do you really need another throwaway V-neck t-shirt? Instead of buying several items that you'll get very little wear from, consider shifting part of your clothing budget towards an investment piece. Quality trumps quantity every time.