Time was when the economy was flush, and spending money on a new seasonal wardrobe was a rite of spring.
These days, thumbing through fashion magazines is merely an exercise in wishful thinking for many people.
So are you doomed to months of being a fashion “don’t,” wondering when you’ll be able to flaunt a new look once again?
No! With some planning and thought and a bit of creative reinterpretation, you and your closet can survive the recession.
“We have been faced with a recession before in this nation, so it’s not unusual to be smart about your buying when it comes to your closet,” says stylist Colin Megaro, founder of the international styling service Planet Style Concierge.
“When we have money, we forget to take a close look at what we have, but we should always do that,” he says. “And whether your clothes are from Gucci or H&M, be smart about buying. Don’t let the clothes you have sit and collect dust.”
Sensibility aside, what many people want is something new, something exciting, something stylish and “in.” The experts insist you already have it; just open that closet door.
“First of all, women’s styles from last spring and summer have not changed that much into this year,” says Clinton Kelly, television celebrity stylist and author. “I am a big advocate of dumping your closet twice a year to see what you have, go through every piece and then come up with some ideas as far as what works together.
”Jeans are still in; bootleg pants are still in; capris are still in and can be updated with small purchases like tops with big floral or abstract prints, bangles, brooches or belts,“ says Kelly. “If you have no money to spend on clothes this season, don’t get stressed. You can fashionably wear last year’s wardrobe.”
Come on. One of the fun aspects of the season, especially in colder climates, is shedding the bleak winter stuff for lighter, brighter new clothes.
Check your basics
And once again, the experts insist, the potential exists in your closet and dresser drawers.
• Take the basics. Everyone has a pair of jeans and, chances are, a striped tank. Pair the two (tuck the tank inside the jeans), and add a linen or some other lightweight, brightly colored scarf loosely around your neck.
• Dig around a bit more in the closet; surely there is a pair of sling-back heels. Add them to the outfit for a little polish.
• The tried-and-true striped blouse? Give it a shot of starch and a once-over with a hot iron. Those navy blue slacks that were too short to wear to work? If you have basic sewing skills, cut and hem them to capri- or Bermuda-shorts length. (If not, take them to a tailor; the cost should be minimal.) Pair them with espadrilles or wedged summer shoes, a few bangle bracelets, a tote bag and abracadabra — you have a new outfit and new look.
• What to do with last year’s khaki or white pencil skirt? Add a bright T-shirt. (You know you have one you bought last year and never really wore). Wear it on the outside, and belt it, add a pair of sandals (you know you probably have a pair of those you barely wore last year), and faster than you can say Vogue, you have become a trendy fashion plate.
Do your own thing
It’s really about style versus what really looks good on you.
“There is no one style for everyone,“ emphasizes stylist Claudette Fried, who has ripped down and rebuilt the wardrobes in hundreds of closets for her clients. “Everyone has their own style, and that is one thing that is important as you get into your closet and figure out what works best.”
Fried, Kelly and Megaro are huge proponents of a three-step system that includes dumping the closet, donating or throwing out items that are absolutely ridiculous (like outdated blazers with permanent shoulder pads), clothes that don’t fit and fashions that are no longer age-appropriate. Put everything back, grouping like items by colors, a reorganization that Fried says gives your closet a boutique look and is fashionably inspirational. And then start shopping.
• A white T-shirt with jeans? Glam it up with a blazer that has found new life, thanks to some alterations that make it more fitted and more stylish.
• Own a pair of black slacks? The sky is the limit, insists Fried. Add a crisp white shirt or T-shirt, a denim jacket or a colorful cardigan, or even a black one — outfits that are all timeless, trend-setting and versatile.
“Pair things together that you may have never worn together before, either because you didn’t know they were in your closet or you always wore the same bottom with the same top,” she says.
Accessories are key
And if you have a little disposable cash, put it into accessories, Fried says.
• “Brightly colored handbags — you can find very affordable ones that look great at places like T.J. Maxx,” she says.
• “Layer necklaces,” she suggests, adding that great new styles can be found in the affordable jewelry departments at places such as Target, Wal-Mart and Marshalls.
• Scarves and brightly colored sandals are other inexpensive and cutting-edge ways to give what at first glance may appear to be a ho-hum outfit the wow factor.
Does it work?
Yes, says Jennifer Hazen, a Winsted, Conn., mother and wife who did the whole closet exercise with Fried.
“I just had never considered the things Claudette said I could do with my clothes,” says Hazen, who tapped Fried for help. “I had clothes, and in this economy, I can’t afford to waste what I have by buying more. The investment was already there. I just needed to see it.”