|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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.