Penny-pinching has become chic. After all, just about anybody can stay on top of style given enough money and time. A browse through the March magazines yields a mine of ideas on dressing and professional advice.
* The editors of Self suggest that you "Swap Till You Drop." For an entertaining evening, gather your friends and neighbors for a clothes swap. You provide some snacks, space for try-ons and a full-length mirror. They bring their unwanted clothes and accessories. Remember, one woman's cast-off may be another's treasure. Seeing a slim friend looking great in the jacket you've outgrown may be painful, but it builds character. Set no limits on the number of clothes each party member can take. The remains go to a charity.
* Among a sampling of bargain buys, Redbook lists baseball caps as a necessary accessory. Cheap, chic and a cheerful way to top any sporting outfit. Their find in a rainbow of colors is from J. C. Penney at $6.
* Vogue's "Last Look" is a dazzling school of jeweled fish pins -- faux to fabulous creations from studios such as Tiffany and Bulgari. Beadazzled on Charles Street sells beautifully crafted enameled fish earrings and pendants from China. They are articulated to wiggle and shimmer in golds, blues and greens. They come in small-fry and big-catch sizes from $7.
* Joan Collins tells all to Allure in "How I Got That Look." It seems she was influenced by a glamorous friend who never went public without being totally turned out in fabulous clothes and jewels. There's something to that philosophy. Fling on a scarf and dab on some lipstick before you venture to the drugstore. It's a real lift.
* Mademoiselle lists denim as one of spring's affordable must-haves. You probably already own jeans and skirts, but think of denim in citified designs that can go to work or dinner. Keep your eyes open for a pretty shirt-dress or pared-down suit.
* BEAUTIFUL IDEA: Redbook reports that an eight-year Japanese study concluded bathing in carbonated water significantly reduces stress and adds a glow to the skin. Carbon dioxide bubbles are absorbed through the skin to expand capillaries, enhance circulation and speed elimination of waste materials. ActiBath, available at drugstores and supermarkets, can bubble your tub at about 65 cents a dip. Lock yourself in the bathroom with some magazines and catalogs and pretend it's the Golden Door.
Saving in Style welcomes questions and suggestions. Write Vida Roberts, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Or call (410) 332-6833.