As fashions shifted into a new gear for fall, Rachel Simmons was watching closely.
Here now were slouchy, too-big sweaters, over-the-knee skirts, gym-inspired tops and track pants, and leather everything. Animal images and miles of zippers popped up on the Internet and in magazines and stores.
Simmons, of Kansas City, made a decision: She chose a black A-line midi-skirt as her one wardrobe update. She found it in faux leather for $119 on Piperlime.com.
The process is her way of getting the most for her money. She leans toward a classic, modern style with a preference for quality over the “very trendy.” And she has the patience to find the right price.
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“Sooner or later, almost everything goes on sale,” says Simmons, a brand communications manager for energy company Brightergy.
How do you track fashion of the moment when your budget doesn’t match designer prices? It may take research, a good sense of your personal style and, well, patience.
Lisa Rodriguez, of Kansas City, likes to make the rounds of her favorite retailers. One day she swings by Marshalls, a discounter. Another time it’s Fashionista Exchange, an Overland Park secondhand store. She may score a $15 dress, a $16 top or a great vintage hat. Sometimes she shops in her parents’ closets, where she has found the likes of a wide ’80s-era silver metal belt.
She likes styles that are quirky, she says, and colorful. And she loves, loves, loves hats. Sales are not for her.
“You might wind up buying something just because it is on sale,” she says.
Hoping to work in journalism, she is an apprentice with KCPT and a waitress at Le Fou Frog restaurant.
Some other ideas to help you stay within your budget:
▪ Martha Immenschuh, a stylish Fairway woman known for creative mixes of high and low couture, recommends starting with research: Scan magazines. Visit retailers that carry pricey designer looks. Look over the high-end website Pret-a-Porter.com. Examine the clothes for style and workmanship, she says.
Then check sources known for designer copies, and in today’s fast-moving, fast-fashion world you’ll find those early in the season. Those could include Target, T.J. Maxx, Forever 21 and H&M. One popular retailer among the chic is the Spanish-owned Zara, with stores in New York and Chicago and, more important for the rest of us, Zara.com.
“They run a little small, so buy a size up,” Immenschuh says.
This season, good priority choices could be soft leather or faux leather pants that go with everything, a sweater decked with an animal image, anything with fringe or even a pretty go-with-everything scarf.
▪ Roseanne Morrison, fashion director of New York retail consulting firm Doneger Group, says current top sellers include track pants, oversized sweaters and coats, and the color wine. If you can afford one thing, she suggests a longer midcalf-length skirt with a soft feminine feeling.
▪ Stylist Heather Kraft, a personal shopper at Nordstrom in Oak Park Mall, thinks outside the conventional box for shopping sources. A small size 2 or 0, she may find something in the children’s department. And she stretches her wardrobe from warm weather to cool by adding pieces. A turtleneck sweater goes under a summer print dress, for example. A denim jacket or big scarf is a handy addition.
▪ Budget Fashionista (thebudgetfashionista.com) suggests you consider cost per wearing of a garment. If you wear something three times and you paid $150, that is $50 each time, relatively expensive. If you wear it every week for 10 weeks, it’s a bargain.
At least 70 percent of your wardrobe should be classic, the site advises, and then you can indulge in what’s trendy. And finally, good fit is a must. Try your dry cleaners if you don’t know a good tailor.
▪ French women, who seem to have style in their DNA, have a trick. If your budget is limited, put your money in one good item that you wear close your face, where it will be noticed. Cheaper pants or skirts are background.
▪ The trend to athletic looks offers opportunities for bargain shopping. Look for gym or track pants among the workout clothes. Sneakers that are so popular now for almost any occasion can be found at all prices. They may be reminiscent of the ’80s, when city women walked to work in running shoes with their dress heels in a tote. But now these shoes look especially smart with skinny pants and even dresses.
Times change. Staying up-to-date is part of the fun.
Jackie White is the semiretired longtime fashion editor of The Kansas City Star.