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The de rigueur belt-tightening that abounds isn't just about the return of the waist. With gas prices ticking upward and the less-than-rosy economic prospects, die-hard shoppers are reassessing their spending strategies.
The days of stockpiling $3,000 dresses, $2,000 bags, and $800 shoes are, if not gone, certainly on hold. Designers are offering an array of starkly classic pieces, poppy, rich florals, and dark glamour, so consumers need a razor-sharp eye to narrow down their fashion choices for the season.
Spend with Savvy The skeleton of your outfit — handbag, shoes, and coat — should be your big-ticket items, says Sarah Easley, co-owner of New York's hip SoHo boutique Kirna Zabête. "Splurge wisely and you can elevate the whole look." A beautifully cut coat in a brilliant hue, a divinely high stiletto, and a sumptuous tote denote style at a glance. Plus, these are the pieces you'll likely be shrugging on and off regularly, so the return on your cost per wear will be high.
Skip Disposable Trends Be careful not to overdo a spending spree, scooping up cute, "affordable" wares; you could end up with a pile of throwaway garments that in the end cost just as much as that Proenza dress you've had on the brain. Also, beware of looking like a victim, stocking up on too many fads or even one wrong one
Stick to Your Look Don't be a chameleon. Strike a balance among multifaceted fashion moods. If you love a little Talitha Getty louche boho but also have a penchant for ladylike looks, mix them artfully. Don't swing from hipster chic — all skinny jeans and rock 'n' roll hair — to supersleek and polished.
Buy Basics for Less Once you've ID'd your bigger purchases, fill in with lower-priced items that are signature staples. "Items you replace each season — jeans, tees, leggings — can be low," says Easley. Add in tights, hats, and scarves and you can easily buy up a batch of stylish basics that will round out your winter wardrobe with enough variation to make it feel new.
High and Low Is the Way to Go "It's become the chic approach to mix it," says Burke. "It's a badge of pride for women. They have so much taste, they can pull it off." A one-shoulder Topshop dress paired with Balenciaga sandals trumps a head-to-toe designer look any day. Recessionistas love to boastfully reveal their thrifty, inventive pairings. Knapp's go-to outfit is a pair of her husband's cargo pants, a Mischen silk blouse, Marni stacked heels, and a chunky flea-market necklace.