Dress Form: A new year, a new look

It’s the start of a new year that’s bringing with it a new president, new resolutions and, hopefully, some new clothes. Hey, just because the economy looks sloppy, it doesn’t mean people have to. Look smart throughout 2009 by following a few simple tips:

Take advantage of post-holiday sales:

After-Christmas sales are still in full effect. The smart shopper will head to stores prepared with the ABC’s of value-buying: Avoid buying things just because of ridiculously low prices; question the applicability of that neon-pink cropped sweatshirt marked down to $4.99. Bring along people who will allow for uninterrupted and concentrated shopping, i.e. not children or rushed friends. Check prices before sales begin in order to avoid the mark-up, mark-down trick, in which retailers actually mark an item up only to graciously allow the unknowing customer to take a certain percentage off. Hit up department stores for big sales. Nordstrom’s Designer Finale takes place at Fashion Valley through Jan. 11 and features 65 to 70 percent off a selection of fall 2008 designer apparel.

Buy “core” pieces:

Invest in pieces that will work throughout the year and will require only minor tweaks to look good with new trends. “The sheath style dress is a fashion staple,” said Nordstrom fashion director Gregg Andrews. “In a versatile fabric, it can work all year. Wear it with sling-backs or flats to the office and with strappy heels to a wedding.” Other pieces that strengthen the core of a wardrobe include a cropped jacket, a feminine blouse and platform peep-toe heels that can be worn with or without tights. “The platform on the shoe gives it enough weight to wear with heavy fabrics in the fall and the peep-toe makes it appropriate for summer,” Andrews said.

Don’t wait for special occasions:

It’s January and Sandi Ego spies a gorgeous silk evening dress in her size marked down to $99. It’s completely weather-inappropriate and unnecessary, as she has no events on the horizon to wear it to. In May, she comes across a wooly winter coat that costs half of what it will in December, but she can’t wrap her head around buying something four months in advance. What should Sandi do? Try, sigh and buy. When it comes to shopping, especially for items that will be needed at some point or another, never hesitate. The worst purchases are made by frantic and desperate people. Buy that dress (or those jeans or that coat) on sale now and avoid future headaches. Never dread another wedding by getting rid of the stress associated with last-minute dress shopping. Now, if only finding a date were so easy…

Expand your retail horizon:

Loyalty matters when it comes to romance and hairstylists. In shopping? Not so much. It’s a pretty good indication of what someone’s wardrobe will look like when they say, “Oh, I only shop at Saks Fifth Avenue. Nothing else works for me.” Really? Nothing else will work? Its simple math: More stores equal more options and more looks. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

Reinvent old pieces:

The plain black T-shirt relegated to the back of the closet will look great underneath a colored, A-line dress with some tights and boots. Old jeans equal weekend-chic when rolled up and worn with a belted cardigan and strappy heels. A $10 (tailoring) investment on a shapeless black skirt will yield a brand-new pencil version. Grab a pen and some paper, do some inventory, work that imagination and the fashion fairy will reward the hard work with at least 20 new looks - guaranteed.