Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall Shopping in a Falling Market

Ah, Fall! My favorite time of year. I welcome the cool nights, crisp days and changing colors. The sun rises lower in the sky and apples ripen in the orchards,  yet the scent of a fresh start wafts through the air. Squirrels scurry to hoard acorns and Canadian geese take honking practice flights as they prepare for migration. In tune with the eternal rhythm of the Earth's rotation, a deep autumnal instinct stirs within me as well. To go shopping.

I know you feel it too. Fall is the best time to shop. The cooler temperatures mean an abundance of colors, layers, and textures. Our light-weight summer cottons seem flimsy and drab compared to the gorgeous knits, rich hues, and leather boots on display right now.

But who can enjoy a Fall shopping spree when our economy is in a free-fall? While big spending  isn't an option for me right now, I can't completely deny my seasonal urges. These tough times require new shopping strategies, so I asked noted Chicago fashion stylist Kate Shifrin for help.

Kate, always up on current trends, has already been helping her clients deal with the bail-out blues. She has some great advice for punching up your fall wardrobe without spending a lot of cash.
1. Go shopping in your own closet.
We all get into habits, and that extends to how we dress.  This is the season to mix it up in different ways and take some risks with the clothes we already own. Kate recommends we mix complementary patterns - like a print blouse with a tweed jacket - and forget about black as the only neutral color. She suggests trying fresh color combinations like brown & blue and gray & brown for an updated, modern look. So spread all your clothes out around your bedroom and get creative. Be brave, urges Kate. "The rules are that there are no rules. It should be what you like."

And while you're in that closet, get rid of anything you don't absolutely love. Your closet should only contain your favorites.  "And I don't care if that's five pieces," says Kate, "Just don't have a closet full of stuff."

2. Less is More
When the budget is limited, a few key accessories can boost an entire wardrobe. Purple is this Fall's hot color, says Kate, and the easiest way to include it in your wardrobe is to buy a purple purse, belt or pair of shoes. "It's actually a neutral" she explains - since it goes well with black, blue, brown or gray - so you'll get a lot of wear from a single piece. 

Kate also likes scarves as a way to introduce color and texture to a fall outfit. She especially loves the versatile scarf pictured above, from Anthropologie . "It can be worn with a t-shirt, outside a coat, or in your hair."

If you have to choose one area to invest, make it a pair of great fitting wide-leg trousers or trouser-style dark jeans. The fuller cut is basic but very stylish and can take you from work to evening.

3. Bargain hunt
Since times are tough, Kate anticipates that many retailers will be marking down prices, perhaps sooner than usual. Don't pay full price. If you see something you've got to have, ask the salesperson to give you a call when it goes on sale. In the meantime, explore discount stores, thrift stores, and maybe even your friend's closet.
One of Kate's overriding principles, regardless of the economy, is that we should focus on quality, not quantity. So while a thinner stock portfolio is definitely not a good thing, a thinner wardrobe just might be. 

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