"Looking fashionable takes work," mother said. Or perhaps it was Coco Chanel? Two women to trust on the subject. World-class dressers don't get there by accident. They know what they need, what looks good and how to find it. It takes practice and homework.
"Educated shoppers know how to avoid fashion blunders which eat up time, money and precious closet space," says Michelle Healy, national spokeswoman for Marshalls stores. The off-price chain, which opens a new Catonsville store today, targets FTC shoppers who are willing to pass on fanciful decor and work a little at finding good looks at a low price.
Ms. Healy offers a brush-up course on getting the most value out of a cruise through the racks of a large, off-price store.
* Do some research. Look through newspapers and magazines to get a sense of today's trends and prices. Don't just flip. Make careful note of the way professionals put all the details together. Tear out a picture and carry it with you as a styling reminder.
* Learn from past mistakes. Look at the things you never wear and ask yourself, "Why didn't these things work?"
* If you feel the need to own one trendy something, let it be an inexpensive belt rather than a cocktail dress.
* Make a list, narrow it down and try to stick to it, but be receptive to surprise finds.
* Know your colors and don't waste time trying those that don't flatter you, no matter how impressive the markdown or label.
* Shop frequently and do a store walk-through, keeping an eye out for new arrivals.
* Check racks that display coordinated separates and pieces that work together. The store's merchandising manager has already done some groundwork.
* Don't ever pass up well-priced necessities such as hosiery and lingerie. This is where you can be daring with new colors.
* Wear easy-on, easy-off clothing to save energy in the dressing room. That goes double for shoes. Wear slip-ons. Sneakers are comfortable but are a pain in the back to keep tying and they do nothing for your mirror image.
* Shop alone if you can. The fewer distractions, the better. If you must bring the children, put them into shopping carts with books and munchies to keep them busy and happy.
Lovely children do enhance your image.