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H&M, Zara, Mango, Topshop: We love shopping for the latest trends fresh off the runways without having to take out a second mortgage. But there's an art to scoring the best pieces that you won't have to toss after only one wear. Here’s a quick checklist of four things you should buy and four you can skip from your favorite fast-fashion retailers.

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What to Buy

1. Pieces with great customer reviews: Check the store’s website for helpful (and usually super-honest) feedback from other customers. Sure, it goes without saying, but the better the rating and higher consumer satisfaction, the more likely you’ll walk away with a quality piece that you’ll love.

2. Faux suede: Harder to spot than faux leather, man-made suede is almost identical to the real thing, easier to clean and retails at a much better price point.

3. Neutral colors: As opposed to bright colors, which can often come across cheap and a bit tacky, neutral colors are easier to wear from season to season. Also, there’s less risk of color bleeding in the wash, which can often accompany an inexpensive and brightly hued number.

4. Machine-washable clothing: You’ll save money and get more wear out of easy-to-care-for clothng than the dreaded dry-clean-only pieces.

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What to Skip

1. Classic pieces you’ll wear all the time: Those high-waisted jeans or white tee may seem like a steal, but if you’re going to wear it at least once a week, you want it to last. Instead, be willing to shell out for your staples, and look for trendier, seasonal pieces at big-box retailers.

2. Anything with a missing button, stuck zipper, ripped seam, etc.: You can tell yourself you’re running to the tailor tomorrow, but chances are it’ll sit in a bag next to the front door for weeks. Plus, the cost of repair relative to the price of an inexpensive item is just plain silly.

3. A replica of a designer piece: Why? Because it’s not an exact copy. Knockoffs are easy to spot when it comes to quality and craftsmanship. Instead, opt for pieces that channel the aesthetic of the designer version, without the awkward social interactions that come with counterfeits.

4. Special occasion pieces: Sure, that beaded slip dress is perfect for the holiday party, but chances are you're going to end up with a lot of little doodads all over the place, since great quality and cheaper prices are just too good to be true. Instead, opt to rent your ensemble from Rent the Runway or any of the other great clothing rental companies

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