Having a great-looking wardrobe doesn't necessarily require spending a fortune. Here are a few principles for looking great when money IS an object:

(1) Buy quality rather than quantity. And please take note, this does not necessarily translate to, "buy expensive, not cheap." Without a doubt, quality fabrics fall better, wear better and flatter the figure more.

It is better to have one perfectly-fitting skirt in a superb fabric that spans several seasons (lightweight wool, for example) than a dozen ill-fitting skirts in an array of colors. Black goes with everything, and no one will remember that you wore the same skirt for five days running, because you wore it with a different jacket and accessory each day. Start with one great skirt! My wardrobe is based on a few black skirts and pants that go with an array of jackets and tops in colors that look good on me. Expensive skirts and pants are made with superb fabrics and cut wonderfully, so they make my figure look better. Even if I don't need them yet, I am always on the look for linen, wool gabardine or wool crepe designer skirts and pants at the sales or in consignment shops. You can never have too many. Some of mine are a size larger, so they are great for dining-out comfort as well as travel. Some have loops for belts, so they look good with open jackets; while others are slim and beltless to accommodate snug-fitting jackets.

(2) Wear accessories! This is key. Well-dressed women and jet-setting fashion plates always accessorize their garments. Look through fashion magazines and catalogs, and go to fashion shows for ideas and inspiration. Most fashion coordinators have picked up tricks from designers both here and abroad, and you will see the results on the runway.

Earrings are important fashion accessories. More than anything else, the right earring will give you a polished or finished look. Earrings should be somewhat bold to look fashionable. Clip earrings, for example, often look too conservative.

Belts are also wonderful accessories. They should have distinctive-looking buckles and be made of leather, not plastic.

(3) Educate yourself so you can shop intelligently. Find out which colors suit you. This will ultimately save you both time and money with future purchases. Color actually forms the foundation for all garments. One of the biggest mistakes made is trying to achieve harmony by matching the superficial appearance with colors: blondes in pastels, redheads in rust, orange, etc. Don't be afraid of bold colors, high-fashion designers are not! And do think contrast. If you have a moss green suit, team it up with a deep magenta blouse or scarf. Add a cobalt blue, French blue or peacock blue blouse or scarf to your brown suit, rather than a beige one.

"Safe" looks that are perfectly matched often end up looking boring, no matter who made them or how much they cost. In addition, know your figure so well that you know how to camouflage every flaw. Ill-fitting clothes and those that accent figure flaws undermine more than your figure. They undermine your credibility.

Anyone who really had a million to spend on clothes would make certain every single garment fit like a glove and flattered to the Nth degree, now wouldn't she?

(4) Shop the sales and check out consignment shops. If you are shopping the sales, it is a good idea to do a bit of homework beforehand. Find the shops that suit your tastes and preferences and peruse their racks every two weeks or so. That way you won't waste time trekking all over town at sale time. You will go straight to "your" shops.

Consignment shops are a great place to find designer clothes at shoestring prices. Every city has at least one consignment shop that carries designer clothes. Check them all out. You are certain to find one that has everything your heart could desire. Most of them are in the Yellow Pages, with the exception of the CHKD clothing shops and the Discovery Shop at Hilltop East, run by the Cancer Society.

(5) Make a list of the things that are missing from your closet and keep it with you in your purse. If you don't have a great black skirt, at least one jacket in a bold color to wear with it, put them on your list.

If you have a suit in a "safe" color, put "scarf or blouse in a bold color" (name the color so you won't be sidetrackedor chicken out!) on your list. Then, the next time you run across a fabulous sale or consignment shop, you will be prepared. Prepared to look great!

About the Author:

Sandy Dumont, THE Image Architect is an image consultant and professional speaker based in Virginia Beach, with 30 years of international and national experience helping individuals and Fortune 500 companies improve their image. She conducts customized Branding for People workshops on a regular basis. For more information, visit www.theimagearchitect.com or email sandy@theimagearchitect.com

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