Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lesson 1- Buy the Basics . . . for Less

You will find lots of books and articles professing to be the rules that you MUST follow in order to be fashion forward. As a self-professed "diva on a dime," sometimes I find those rules somewhat offensive, particularly when they suggest that us divas will not be whole without a pair of $800 shoes or an expensive logo-ridden bag.

Take for instance, the latest installment from Nina Garcia, who reached fashion icon status as a judge on Project Runway and as Marie Claire's Fashion Director. In her book, The One Hundred: a Guide to Pieces Every Stylish Woman Should Own (Collins), she suggests to readers that they should own one investment bag, i.e., an Hermes Birkin Bag ($7,000+) or a Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag ($695) or any other bag of that status. At the outset, while these bags are gorgeous (I have 3 Speedy bags myself), most women cannot afford to spend that kind of money on a bag. More importantly, in the grand scheme of things, I can come up with a lot of other ways to invest $7,000.

Nevertheless, there is something to be said about having some classic pieces for your wardrobe. So I urge you to read these lists and books (check out Tim Gunn's 10 Essential Elements or InStyle: Secrets of Style: The Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day) simply to get ideas, but don't feel bound by them. Here are some of my top pieces that I use to build the foundation of my wardrobe (excluding shoes and accessories- we'll leave that for another day):

  • White, black and grey t-shirts- There are none better than the Hanes brand as far as I am concerned. They practically invented them. So why on God's green earth would I spend more than $10 on one when I can get a Hanes tee for $5 at Wal-Mart. I wear these under blazers, on weekends, as shells under cardigans, over turtlenecks and button down shirts, etc. . .

  • Black dress pants- They are a must have for any wardrobe. They match everything, but are only as good as their fit. I just brought a pair of DKNY boot cut black slacks for $75 at Loehmann's. These pants retail at $225.

  • A white, crisp-button down shirt- I have several, and I wear them in every way possible. I where them with slacks, a skirt, under sheath dresses, tucked in, belted and untucked, under sweaters or blazers, black shorts, denim, rolled up on the sleeves, tied at the waist, etc. . . I really love wearing a men's oversized white button down because I can wear it as a dress with a cute belt and stilettos. And what better to wear to bed than your man's shirt. Sexy is an understatement! The styling possibilities are endless. And the price is reasonable as well! I purchased my favorite men's button down from Marshall's for $19.99 on clearance and it was a Ralph Lauren! My latest purchase is the Zac Posen for Target white shirt (Regularly $29.99, but i got it for $15 on clearance) pictured here. I am huge fan of high end designers' pedestrian lines. Zac Posen's was no exception. Once you get into the swing of things, you'll want these shirts in different colors!

  • Trench Coat- Trench coats can be worn in the spring, fall and the early part of the winter, which is why owning one makes good sense. They can also been worn alone as a dress. I brought one from Joyce Leslie for $15 in black and I wear it as a dress or as a light weight cover-up over evening attire. The Gap and it's older sister Banana Republic have great ones for reasonable prices. Of course, Burberry is the master of the trench coat. But for divas on a dime, you can find hip trench coats that are fabulous for prices. Check out this Jean Paul Gaultier for Target khaki striped trench coat that I bought for $59.99. I get loads of compliments on it and it is the perfect weight for crisp New York weather.

            • Little Black Dress (LBD)- You've heard this time and time and again, and it's a fact. Every woman should own a little black dress. I have several because I go out so much. I have to say that my favorite is a Calvin Klein jersey knit dress that is so forgiving to my curves (and lumps) that I wear it several times a month. I wear it with simple jewelry, statement necklaces, cardigans and blazers in different colors, denim jackets, bright statement shoes or demure black pumps or flats. Like the white shirt, the possibilities are endless. What makes my fave LBD even better? I got it for $20 from Burlington Coat Factory! It fit so well that I bought it in blue as well.

            • Great fitting jeans- In a world where jeans are retailing at obscene prices, it's nice to know that our favorite weekend staple still has a reasonable price tag in some places. For me, shopping for jeans has always been a nightmare. With a size 10 waist and size 14 hips, a very rotund derriere, and a size 37 inch inseam, you can imagine how difficult it is to find a pair of well-fitting jeans. I have found a godsend in PZI Jeans ( These jeans come in long and short lengths, go up to size 18, they are made in every wash and fit imaginable, and they stretch! Even more, they are constructed to avoid gapping at the waist. They are also reasonably priced vfrom $19.99 (clearance items) to $109.00. I prefer and get more wear out of dark washed jeans and I find boot cut jeans to be most flattering on various body types. My friends tell me that Kohl's also carries great Levi jeans at great prices.

            • A cardigan- I just became a fan of cardigans when I discovered how versatile they could be. At first, I thought they were a bit homely, but FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) proved me wrong. Then I fell in love with the DKNY Cozy, an extra flowy version of the cardigan, which can be worn a cazillion different ways (that means 12), and I knew that this was my long lost love. Worn with a tank or tee underneath, the Cozy is a fabulous investment at $195. However, I found cheaper alternatives at Joyce Leslie and Loehmann's for much less ($20). So don't fret. The quality is not as good, but it works just the same and if you have 5 of them, they won't wear as quickly. In any event, I found a grey Cozy at Marshall's for $45 so it isn't impossible to have such a fabulous piece in your wardrobe for less. Just Google "DKNY Cozy 12 Looks" and you will find videos and pics of how to rock the most fabulous cardigan every invented. Trust me, you won't regret it.

            • A blazer- I think I am partial to this staple because of its versatility and because it screams "I mean business." I have a few because of my profession (which I will not disclose), but they are awesome. I have them in key colors, black, white, off white, beige and grey. I also have them in fun prints, colors and fabrics. They go great with jeans and a tee, over your favorite LBD, paired with a white button down, over black slacks, etc. . . . I've even worn my boyfriend blazer over a formal gown and a cocktail dress and it was so chic! In other words, this great addition to your wardrobe rounds it out perfectly. So invest in a well-made, great fitting blazer. I recently found an off white tuxedo blazer by Theory at Neiman Marcus Last Call, for $45 that fit me perfectly. With my 6ft frame, and giraffe-like limbs, that is a fab find! Better yet, the blazer originally retailed at $375, so I made out like a bandit. So keep an eye out for the next Theory sample sale at Lohemann's or the clearance racks at Las Call. And if $45 is too rich for your blood, I found a basic, black boyfriend blazer at TJMaxx for $15. You just have to commit to sifting through the racks.

            So ladies, these are just my thoughts on foundation pieces for your wardrobe and where to find them for less. As you can see from my descriptions above, these pieces can easily be mixed and matched and do not have to cost you an arm and a leg. Hope this helps!

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