Timeless Chic

By Lesley Sauls

March 6, 2009 5 min read


Look for the basics that last when budgets tighten

Lesley Sauls

Creators News Service

A struggling economy doesn't mean you can't look like a million dollars. The key, regardless of your bank balance, is to build a wardrobe around pieces that won't go out of style. Timeless fashions can literally be worn forever.

Cuts, patterns, cuffs and hems do slowly change over time, but with a few basics in your closet, you can be appropriately attired every time you step out of the house. Image consultants around the globe agree that a few standards form the basis of a chic wardrobe that will withstand the tug-of-war between longevity and vogue.

"It's very possible to create a timeless wardrobe," said London fashion stylist Rebekah Roy. "And in these tough economic times, it might actually be the best way to spend money on clothes."

By investing in a few important, well-made pieces, the savvy shopper can create a stage upon which less expensive and more hip pieces can be spotlighted. Then, as trends change, it will be less costly to replace accessories and underpinnings with up-to-date items that complement the initial basics.

"Create a wardrobe that starts with classic pieces in neutral colors," advised Michelle Sterling, founder and principal of Global Image Group, which has offices across the United States and around the world. "Then add character pieces that have flair and interest."

The building blocks of the timeless, classic wardrobe should come in foundation colors: black, navy, khaki, beige or gray. Bright and flattering colors that resonate with the person wearing them should act as accents. To make the selections more useful and timeless, choose "seasonless" fabrics like tropical-weight wool that can be worn in any climate at any time of year.

"To keep your clothes in style for as long as possible, don't choose styles or cuts that are too exaggerated," warned Micki Turner, an image consultant and personal shopper based in Berkeley, Calif. "Stay away from unflattering too-tight pants or ultra-pointy shoes that are overly trendy."

Most image consultants suggest going through old clothes to shed those that are out of date or no longer fit. Once a closet is pared down to only those things that are most flattering to the wearer's body type and personality, the following items are essential:

* Simple black dress: It can be worn with a cardigan around the shoulders on a summer afternoon or accessorized with chunky jewelry and a hip jacket to be worn at night.

* Trench coat: This piece adds warmth with class.

* Jacket: You need an all-purpose classic style to pair with slacks, a skirt or even a pair of jeans.

* Suit: Pinstripes add height and are slimming, but black is always appropriate.

* Skirt: Make it modest, comfortable and age-appropriate.

* White fitted blouse: It can be worn with jeans and dichroic glass jewelry to be funky or with slacks and pumps to be evening elegant.

* Cashmere cardigan: Sling it over your shoulders for a casual but chic look. Choose one that doesn't ride down on the hip. Mid-waist length is best.

* Neutral heels: Keep them skin-toned to add length to your legs.

* Black pumps: An unexaggerated toe will keep these ultra-useful shoes in style.

* Slacks: Flat-front pants are slimming, but you must be certain your legs aren't too skinny or too full and that the waist isn't too high or low.

Not sure where to obtain these mid-priced classics? Brooks Brothers, Gap, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor are known for their classic lines and core wardrobe items. Hugo Boss, Chanel, Armani, Gucci and Ralph Lauren are also safe bets for core items that may cost a bit more, but are made to last.

Amanda Sanders, New York Image Consultant's image and wardrobe specialist, suggested fostering a good relationship with a dry cleaner or a tailor who can update worthwhile basics as time and trends move gently forward.

Once the classic necessities are obtained, it's time to get creative. Update shoes and handbags; add ruffled shirts and bright scarves. Accessories don't have to be expensive to be stylish, and they can keep the timeless wardrobe from appearing lost in time.

"One or two less expensive trend items can make the classics stand out," said Sanders. "If you have good quality things in your closet, you won't have to constantly reinvent your wardrobe. Just stick to things that look good on you, stay appropriate to your age and remember: If it's not flattering, move on!"

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