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How Your Wardrobe Can Weather the Economic Storm
By Marie-Thérèse M. Norris
French Touch Image Consulting LLC

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You don't need me to tell you that times are tough. During the economic downturn of the late 80s, a friend gave me a tee-shirt that said, "When times get tough, the tough go shopping." Now, I never wear tee-shirts with slogans, logos or graphics on them, but I had to admire the sentiment on this one. At once frivolous and profound, it was a call to arms to roll up our sleeves and spit in the eye of financial adversity. It was a call to summon the Scarlet O'Hara in each of us as she stands in the middle of a crumbling Tara pulling those dusty drapes off the windows to make that drop-dead dress out of the only thing of value left to her. Scarlet knew what ladies have known throughout the ages. When facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, a girl really needs to look her best. And to look her best during these less than certain times, a girl needs to be a savvy shopper.

No one up and down the fashion industry food chain has been spared the harsh realities of the current economic crisis. Clothing stores are cutting prices and in many of them inventory has been stripped of much of its trendier (read "unwearable") items in favor of more classic (read "wearable") items that will appeal to a wider consumer base.

There has never been a better time to add to or begin building a wardrobe of well chosen classics that will keep you looking cool, calm and chic through fair winds or foul. Easier said than done, you say? Not at all, I say. You need only keep the following three essentials in mind and you, too, can be a savvy shopper: Fit, Function and Flair.

Fit
When you pick up a copy of Vogue and see a model in a stunning Chanel suit, what you do not see are the pins, clips and style tape just out of camera range. That perfect little Chanel suit is only perfect if it fits perfectly. No man would grab a suit off the rack and expect it to fit him without alterations. Why should we? Even if there were standard sizes in the fashion world, which there are not, we don't come in standard sizes. No two size 12s are built exactly alike. The savvy shopper not only knows a great bargain when she sees one, but she also knows a great tailor who will make that $50 cocktail dress she snagged look like it was designed just for her. In short, it's not how much you pay for it, it's how it fits you that makes all the difference.

But before you can become an expert on fit, you need to become an expert on your own body. If all you can see when you look in the mirror is what's wrong with your body, then you need to update that perspective before you update your wardrobe. Here's where time spent with a wardrobe or personal image consultant is time and money well spent. A good image consultant will help you to look at yourself in a new way. He or she will teach you how to make the most of the body you have right now, not the body you used to have or the body you'd like to have.

Don't wait for some magic number to pop up on your bathroom scale before you give yourself permission to look your best. Gaining or losing weight will not substantially affect your overall proportions; therefore, a true understanding and appreciation of your own unique proportions are key to knowing what does and does not work for your body.

Now, it's time to go shopping.

Function

When considering the purchase of an item of clothing, ask yourself the following question: "What function, or role, will it play in my wardrobe?" Will it be a star or a supporting player? Or will it be yet another in a long line of eager understudies hanging around your closet waiting for that big break that never comes?

The real value of an item of clothing can be calculated not by the price you pay, but by how hard it works for you. Many years ago I purchased a dress that came with a lacy bolero jacket. The dress is long gone, but that little jacket is one of the hardest working items in my closet. I wear it over my favorite LBD (little black dress), over a cotton tee-shirt with jeans and over a silk camisole and pencil skirt. At this point, I probably owe it money.

But, before you hit the stores, do what the savvy shopper does. Go shopping in your own closet first. That's right, the same bulging, bloated closet you stare at every morning and say, "I have nothing to wear!" Now that you are an expert on Fit and Function, you should be able to go through your closet with ruthless efficiency knowing what to keep and what to give or throw away. Once this is done, you will have a clear idea of what pieces you need to add to build that great classic wardrobe. Or, perhaps you will find that you need to start from scratch. No time like the present. Skip this step at your own peril, as it will save you time and money in the long run.

Flair

Now comes the fun part -- adding that eye-catching accessory which gives you and your wardrobe that special flair. A great accessory speaks volumes about your personal style and can be anything from a pricey lizard handbag to a quirky pair of two dollar earrings.

One of my favorite accessories is a pin I picked up years ago in a thrift shop for almost nothing. It depicts Dorothy's ruby slippers in all their glittery glory. You cannot not get noticed wearing a pin like that. Perfect strangers have stopped me on the street to tell me how much they love it. And, I tell them, the best part is that wherever I am, all I have to do is click those tiny heels together and I am home in an instant. Just doing my bit to minimize my carbon footprint.

With the crisp, trench coat days of Autumn upon us, don't forget that you can accessorize your outerwear as well. Take a leaf from Paris street chic and add colorful scarves and gloves, great brooches and even ropes of chunky necklaces over your coat.

For the savvy shopper, there has never been a better time to go forth and shop. She knows the future may be uncertain, but frankly, my dear, she doesn't really give a damn, because tomorrow is another shopping day.
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