A Couture Designer on How to Find a Cheap Party Dress That Looks Way More Expensive

For ladies with champagne taste and a beer budget, I’m here to help with tips to find an inexpensive party dress that looks way pricier (for New Year’s Eve, perhaps?). There’s a wide range of quality in the “cheap” category: Some items look flimsy and shoddy when they’re brand-spanking-new, while others could fool a diehard fashionista into thinking it’s fresh off the designer floor. Scoring items that fall into the latter category is easier than you think, so long as you know certain factors and things to look for. For expert help, I called in designer Zuhair Murad, he of the fabulous dresses seen on Alessandra Ambrosio, Rita Ora, and Jennifer Lopez, plus a couture collection that regularly leaves me speechless.


When you’re shopping, don’t just take in how the dress looks—peek under the hood. “The inside of the garment tells half the story, if not more,” he told me. “Look for reinforced stitching, the quality of the zipper, and a clean hemline as they are important signs of the piece’s quality and fabrication.” If something looks like it could break at any minute, well, that’s not a good sign.

Skip sequins and satiny fabrics too, as both are hard to make look expensive without putting money into them. Crepe, on the other hand, is a do since it drapes beautifully, feels delicate, and can be done well for a non-astronomical price point.

“When working with pieces that are a lower price point, less is more when it comes to the overall look,” he offered as a general way to approach your shopping mission. “I would avoid embellishments [since they] can wear over time, and a beaded dress can begin to look dull and old when some of that beautiful beading falls off. If I had to choose between a solid and a print, I would avoid prints—they can really look cheap if not done in good taste. And there is no doubt that some colors look more expensive than others, like black!”

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