Buying Smart When the Economy Is Failing – Tip #27

April 13, 2009

I’ve got to begin by saying that if you can’t afford to shop, DON’T shop.  I think too many people believe that because retail is doing poorly and there are bargains all over the place, that they need to pick up deals.  That’s plain wrong.  Even if the item you wanted was 90% off and you’d love to have it as part of your wardrobe, if you can’t afford to pay your credit card bills, then stay home.

What you can do, is start to think differently.  Change out the buttons on a suit and now you’ve got a new look.  Start to look at making different combinations of accessories and not the main garment.  This would mean that you wear your skirt without the top and fancy up the outfit with a blouse or your hair up.  Changing makeup applications and altering your shoes all make you look different.

Men do this all the time.  We don’t have 70 pairs of shoes nor do men have 40 outfits.  What they do is take the same outfit and modify the tie and wear a different color shirt.  Cuff links, watches, socks, rings, scarfs, overcoats all play a role.

Now, if you do have some cash, start to think how to change your look with little to no cost.

This means that a $500 designer blouse at a discount to $150 is still an expensive blouse when you can find similar garments for less, and no one will know the difference.  No one besides you and those you tell.  Besides, who do you need to impress all the time.  Good grooming doesn’t have to go designer.

(Please do believe that I’m not saying you need to shop at stores where there are poorly made products that don’t last or hurt to wear.  I am. however. saying purchase the Nike shoe from last season at $49 down from $110.)

This means to shop not at the top but at the bottom and look upward until you see something that works.  Drop by H&M or Macy’s or better yet that discount mall or store and start to scour the racks.  If there is nothing in terms of color, quality and fashion (remember color first) then jump up a notch.  Slowly.

Let me give you a personal example.  My wife and I were in NYC this weekend and she needed a white blouse that fit her color pallet.  We started at a discount store where there was nothing that worked, hit H&M and the kept moving up the line until we found a garment that was $60 that worked.  Then we discussed the style and in the end, she decided that the garments she found would not add to her wardrobe. The primary reason was the color was off a hair and the shirts looked similar to what she had at home.  We stopped.

I, too, do the same with all clothing.  When I look at ties, I don’t start at Versace even thought they have great designs.  What I’ve found is in ties, just as jeans, shirts, belts, etc., price does not dictate quality. When the Hummer was sold in the US, it was considered one of the worst cars in need of repairs right off the factory floor.   With sticker prices of $50,000+.

So, I start down at the bottom, and work my way up. I scan the discounted and cheaper garments first to see if there is a steal on the rack. I have a $400 leather jacket for $30 to show for it.

At a recent visit to one of my favorites stores, Century 21 in NYC, down in the Financial District, I went looking for a new pair of shoes and some ties realizing that these two items change my wardrobe quickly and less expensively than a suit.

I began to scour the racks for a pair of shoes in my size and then color.  (I only pack blacks–not black and browns–so that when I travel, I don’t have to have a second set of belts, shoes, and other items that match brown.) I then found a pair of Dolce & Gabbana shoes that were just perfect.  Unique and yet stylish.

On the ties I began at the cheapest section where ties run $9.00 for an $80 tie.  I found two and then I found several more for $12 and $16 and $24.  In the end, I walked out with one tie that I would wear.  Ironically, the tie I wore the next day to a friend’s wedding, that cost me $12.99, had more compliments over the past two months than any other tie I’ve owned (some very expensive).  People have actually gone out of their way to say they loved the tie.

So in a climate with or without opportunity, you don’t have to shop if you can’t afford it.  You can change a garment with simple button, or configurations of existing clothing.  You can shop more intelligently from the bottom up and find deals that give you the wardrobe you need.

This is also assuming you need something new, and it’s not your ego or need for affection that makes you have to buy. Maybe you should take a trip inward before taking a trip to the store.

What to Wear for that Special Occasion – Tip #22

September 16, 2008

Creating Your Personal Style InvitationI can guarantee you that in the next year you will need to dress up at least once, and you’ll need something that makes you shine. It’s a given.

Then if it’s a given, let’s take a look at your typical routine.

* Notice comes in the mail or email.
* You accept.
* Put off purchasing the gown.
* Last minute you drive around town looking for the right item complaining that there is nothing that fits or works.
* You come to hate the shopping experience and ultimately end up with a gown that’s OK but not what you wished you’d be wearing.
* Your closet now has an item you won’t throw out, and yet it’s not you.
* Event comes and you look wonderful yet in the back of your mind you think of the whole experience as bad.

So let’s change the routine.

Creating Your Personal Style ThreadSocial* You’re visiting friends in a major city and you stop in to a major name to just check out the merchandise. No worries, just looking for something on sale/discounted/fashionable what ever your need. You find an item you like, however, it’s not killer. You pass.
* It’s a Saturday and you’re having coffee with your friends down in the boutique store area of your home town, and you leave a few extra minutes to browse the shops. In the back of your mind you are looking for the next fashionable outfit you can wear to the typical events you get invited to attend: dinner, wedding, anniversary, banquet, etc. You find an item, but it’s too large and yet it could be altered. You pass.
* A month later, while driving with your friends you ask if you could have 20 minutes to stop in the mall to check out some merchandise. You put on a dress, and it works perfectly. Still needs a little altering, however, the color is in your color pallet, the length makes you look stylish and still sexy. It’s yours.
* You get the item tailored.
* An invitation arrives in the mail and you accept knowing that you already have the perfect item.
* When you arrive, you’re turning heads including your date’s/husband’s and anyone else’s in the room.
* A big fat YES!

I know you’re now thinking who has time for all this. Well you do. You do it already, just in a different format. Stressed, worried, anxious you travel around from store to store wishing you could find the perfect item. Then you spend whatever is necessary, even if out of budget. Mind you I’m not forgetting shoes, and accessories. This could really throw you a curve ball.

In my scenario you actually save time and money and your wits.

Case in point. When I travel to NYC, I often pick a store or two to visit knowing that I may walk out empty handed. Which I often do. This past week I spent about an hour walking the floor in the suits area and the young men’s clothing area.

I tried on several sports coats and then found a jacket marked down from $495 to $69.00 The guy in the shop said, “This is a no brainer.” He was right. In fact, if I only wore it once, it would be worth the price.

I then scanned the suit section looking for specific style and characteristics. Then I tried on about 12 items, most did not fit as they were too long or just the wrong cut. One item was killer. A steal. A Zenga tone-on-tone suit marked down to an unreal $499. Zenga suits sell for $2000. I tried it on and it fit. European cut, two button and flat front, a must, with pants that are not all baggy.

(f you don’t know a suit for a man can run from a Men’s Warehouse at $200 to A Brioni for $9000, so in the world of men’s suits, $400-800 for a quality suit is not out of range.)

Both the jacket and the suit need tailoring on the sleeves, hem and the jacket a little on the back. Both items are hanging near the back door of our home for me to take to the tailor….no rush. I purchased for a future need and not a current need. When I arrive at the tailor, I don’t need to ask for the item in two days; I can easily fit into the normal tailoring time.

Did I need the items right that moment? No. But by purchasing in preparation and not in desperation I found an item I absolutely love and will wear over and over again.

Ironically we received a wedding invitation just after I returned … guess what I wore?

* Outfit from

How to Get the Best Deals When Shopping! – Tip #13

June 17, 2008

Teen Girl ShoppingPeople ask, “What should I buy now?” There’s no magic time to shop. Every season has its sales, deals, and discounts. Every year has its trends, fads, colors, and patterns. So I recommend a different approach that can work during any season.

Begin with a methodology to shopping even before you start.

STEP 1A. It’s always fun to shop the trends. And although new trends are ushered in every season, they don’t change drastically from one year to another…usually. That’s great news to the discount shopper.

To get great deals, buy ahead. That means that if you want to update your Summer 2009 wardrobe, buy at the end of the Summer 2008 season. Retailers need to move product quickly at the end of their seasons to make room for the next season’s merchandise. And who doesn’t love to get 70% off something in mid-August that will take you through September and will still be fresh next April when the new Spring season arrives!

Don’t wait for sales. Take advantage of the sales that are currently running. Remember, it’s easier to buy in preparation than in desperation. You get what you want instead of settling for what you can scrounge up. The other benefit to shopping when the time is right is that you can stretch your wardrobe budget!

That said,

STEP 1. I alway recommend to start clothing shopping by walking the store quickly to get a lay of the land as to what is available. The quick scan maximizes time when you’re on the hunt for the inventory that’s on sale. To me, no matter how much you have, if there is great merchandise on sale, why not pick these items up first so you can add more to the items that matter most or you can use the money for some other worthwhile living experiences since shopping is not the end all.

Lorrie Boot Shoe  Creating Your Personal StyleI remember a great find at DSW’s sale rack where I found for Lorrie the shoe pictured. It’s perfect to wear with a pair of boot-cut jeans as it looks like a boot with a big surprise under the pant. Every time she takes a step, the medallion-type “flower” pops out. When she sits down, it’s completely visable. She looks great wearing them and for US$14, you can’t go wrong.

For myself, I’ve purchased a pair of US$120 pants for $4.69 off the on sale rack. When I brought it to the register, the person behind me said he couldn’t buy a beer for that price. The woman he was with just could not believe the price.

Last year I found a leather jacket that was marked down several times from $450 to what I thought was $60. An absolute great find. At the register, I was told the price was wrong, it was $30.

I found a $1200 suit for $399, bangles for $10, jackets for $40, handbags for $60.

Shoes, accessories, clothing, bathing suits…the item does not matter. I always go to the back of the shop or check the sales first.

STEP 2. Shop to fill a space in your wardrobe and not just to look around. If you’re just looking, you’ll buy. Not good. If you approach shopping like going to an auction and sticking to a limit on an item, you’ll only buy what you need.

Need a pair of shoes? Take several accessories with you to buy the shoes. Then start with the sale rack and move forward to the front for current goods.

STEP 3. Walk the store keeping in mind you have certain criteria that fit your shape and style. Don’t waste your time looking at everything. Use the principles of shopping to filter out where you travel. In essence, don’t shop the store, you shop what works. If you find an item, walk with it and continue looking, don’t just throw it on unless it’s something that fits over your existing standard wardrobe we’ve talked about. You’ll find that shortly thereafter, you’ll typically find something else you like better. Then put the other one down and keep on walking.

Phone Creating Your Personal StyleSTEP 4. Try on what you like and then in the mirror, take a picture of yourself using your cell phone or camera. If you still like it, take a picture of the garment close up so you can remember it. Depending on the store and the inventory, ask if they can hold it until the end of the day. If they can’t, do the “misfile-hide” trick. Put the item where you can return to find it.

Don’t buy unless your’re absolutley in love with the items or they fit like a glove.

My belief is that if you really love the item and it fits your closet, you’ll come back for it after you’ve done your walking. If you decide it’s not worth the effort to return to the store, what are you telling yourself….IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

STEP 5. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask if there are any specials or discounts you can take advantage of while making your purchases.

* behind the counter coupons could take $100 off your bill.
* commissioned sales staff can drop 5% without batting an eye.
* buy 1 get 1 free deals may have been advertised or are to be advertaised that can be used.

*if you buy something today, and it goes on sale next week, many stores allow you to return with your receipt only. Submit the receipt, and they’ll re-ring your items, refunding the savings from their current sales prices.

A few weeks ago, a guy in front of me came in to buy two pairs of shoes and left with five! If he’d entered the store with a strategy, he may have left with two pairs of shoes he loved, saving himself money, instead of storing three extra pairs in the closet that might collect dust.

This type of shopping works all year long and is not specific to a season. It’s more practical and keeps your closet free of extras.

What Make-Up Can Achieve – Tip #11

June 5, 2008

Aucoin Face Forward BookI remember a few years ago looking through a picture book of faces completely made over by the master of makeup application, the late Kevyn Aucoin. They were absolutely stunning. On each page he’d taken a celebrity and turned their face into someone else’s face that was famous throughout history by applying make up in such a way that each accent altered the individual’s appearance.
It’s what make-up can do in the hands of an expert.

Now I don’t expect you to be an expert, nor do I expect you to be able to put make-up on in such a way that you can look like someone else.

What I do believe is that for the average, typical woman, the concept of make-up is simple. You have two or possibly three faces. Face number one is you with some make-up. Possibly your everyday face. Face number two is you with more make-up. This is your business face. Face number three is more of the same make-up: your “going-out” look. It’s the same face three done three different times based upon the volume of make up used.

This is all wrong.

Aucoin Face Makeup Makeovers

I believe that every woman should have at least three if not four different looks. And when I say looks, I mean that the face gives you options just like your shoes. Face number one might be softer. Face number two might be sporty. Number three elegant. Number four seductive/sexy. Each one requires a different set application approach and a different pallet.

The benefit in this, compared to men, is that you can choose your look to fit your mood AND your clothing.

Next time you’re in a cosmetics store, ask them to give you a fresh new face. One that fits any of the four suggested faces above. Once you find a new look, don’t use it all the time. Mix it up with another “face,” and you’ll start to have fun with what you can achieve.

Fashionalysis 1: The Magic of The Right Clothing

June 1, 2008

While traveling home last week from Alabama, I sat next to a young lady reading Redbook June 2008. While flipping through the magazine, she stopped on this page where I noticed that the writer did not offer enough descriptives as to why the outfits did or did not work. I selected these two outfits out of their lineup to show how simple changes can create huge results. Notice how in image Number One the woman appears waist heavy and a little dumpier. The pants stretch in the waist, the jacket flares out like on a pear and the rolled up sleeves don’t work.

The wrong clothing

If you feel that making the changes to the next picture are too much, just changing the style of pants and shoes would go a long way to fixing this outfit. A pair of straight-leg jeans or pants would at least remove the central focus.

Outfit Number Two is the same woman wearing different clothing. Wow. Yes, the same woman. She does not look full in the waist. (The smile does help) She also appears taller and has a bolder statement. The combination exemplifies how you to can make simple changes to give a completely different look.

Redbook Review Done Right