I am a serious devotee of flair. Unlike fashion trends, flair and a personal style will never get stale. You will always look terrific whether hemlines are up or down, pants are narrow or wide. First, you need to build a wardrobe of basics that can be worn in myriad ways.
But can it be done on a budget? Absolutely. Here goes:
Trouser jeans. Everyone has jumped on board using denim with the silhouette of a pair of trousers. Whether you go to The Gap or Uniqlo (Japan’s answer to The Gap and available at www.uniqlo.com), you can find a pair in a dark rinse with just the right fit for most occasions. Remember, this is a foundation piece – you can wear with a crisp shirt and polished shoes or a try it a little bohemian with a turtleneck sweater, gutsy belt and a beat-up pair of boots.
Sweaters. Speaking of sweaters, are you familiar with Lord & Taylor’s sweater sales? This is one of the best-kept secrets as they reduce their cashmere sweaters to practically nothing right after the holidays and their cashmere is top notch. There are two styles I can’t live without – the high v-neck and the hoodie. Both are terrific for work and play. Black, navy, grey, oatmeal, camel, pink, merlot, green – they’ve got it all. The hoodie is a great layering piece worn over the white shirt and under a blazer with the hood worn outside of the jacket.
The classic white shirt. Ah yes, my white shirt fixation. Everyone needs a white shirt in the wardrobe and you can scoop one up at Target or Old Navy. You can choose a shirt that’s fitted or boxy; needs ironing or can be worn like you slept in it. The key is to wash in cold water so it doesn’t get yellow.
Black wool pants. I rave about black wool pants in The Essentials of Fabulous because I know that everything works with them. Wear them with a high v-neck sweater or the white shirt. Grab those polished loafers or scuffed boots. Where do you get a pair? Everywhere including consignment stores that sell gently-used clothing (why not?) The trick is to find a fit that works for your body…in fact, fit is more important than a designer label.
Black loafers or oxfords. I’m not kidding – lace-up oxfords to give you that individuality that’s sorely missing. Why am I so sure these are a must? Because flat shoes look sensational with skirts and pants and they’re comfortable. The oxfords have an “edge.” They look amazing under pants or with a skirt and knee socks. Where to buy? Payless, Zappos, vintage clothing stores – creating a wardrobe that’s fabulous takes a little work but the payoff is you will be memorable.
The raincoat. This is a must; an essential of a fabulous wardrobe. I like the classic trench – British tan, worn with a belt, knee-length, not a lot of flashy buttons but just a streamlined version of what a guy would wear. Buy one of these and you’ll wear it forever. Check out www.landsend.com and throw in their adorable SunShower Bucket Hat.
Funky jewelry. Pile on the ethnic… jewelry, that is. Find your local ethnic shop or go to www.oneworldprojects.com and buy at least three to five strands of beads in a great color or their stupendously stylish recycled plastic bracelets at $2.50 a piece from Burkina Faso in Western Africa. At that price, you can buy at least five (I prefer uneven numbers). Talk about packing a punch!
What else do you need to have fabulous flair on a budget? The real you. Your smile, your warmth, and your charm. Unbeatable!
Ellen Lubin-Sherman got her start in business feeding gossip items to Liz Smith, the esteemed former gossip columnist at the New York Daily News. Those early days of name-dropping were the perfect foundation for her later work in cultivating and branding identities for some of the country’s most luxurious products. Ellen went to work for some of NYC’s top communications firms, advising top tier brands including The Gap, Perrier Water, and Martha Stewart. Today she uses that expertise to coach corporations and business leaders in the art of creating a polished presentation. She does this through LAUNCH, her coaching and consulting firm for business leaders and corporations who need to craft the visuals and the messages that will burnish their reputation as leaders and differentiate them in the marketplace. Today, in addition to executive coaching and consulting, Ellen is a sought-after speaker for companies and groups that are desperate to know how they can become fabulous.