Accessories are an economic necessity.
You might not be able to afford a new wardrobe this spring and summer. But you probably can swing some new accessories that will breathe fresh air into your stale closet.
A scarf can bring an '80s pantsuit into the '90s. A new belt can give an old dress a new lease on life. A strategically placed piece of costume jewelry can distract discerning eyes and elephant memories from a blouse that's older than your marriage.
"The working woman has a tremendous need for accessories," says Rosa Terner, vice president of Miami-based Bijoux Terner jewelry.
"I read somewhere that 70 percent of [American] women work outside the home full- or part-time," she said. "They have a very important need to be fashionably dressed.
"Accessories," she added, "are one of the few ways to show your personality within professional limitations."
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions on spring/summer accessories to help you through the season:
* Shoes: Warmer weather is perfect for open-foot footwear: lattice-work flats, sensibly heeled sling-backs (the dress shoe this season) and strappy platforms.
By the way, the "new" platform is more comfortable than its disco-days ancestor, says Dick Jacobson, president and CEO of the Fashion Footwear Association of New York.
"The old ones didn't bend because they were made of wood, and they were very hard," Mr. Jacobson said during a recent visit to South Florida. "The new platforms use spongelike materials."
Mr. Jacobson also says sales of plain pumps and ballet-inspired shoes are slowing. The trend in Western apparel makes the cowboy shoe-boot a sure winner. And clogs are "clicking right along, appearing every seven years like locusts," he says.
* Scarves: Make it big. You want a scarf big enough to slipcover the couch when you're bored with it. Monster scarves that can be worn as shawls or capes and hung from the neck over jacket lapels will expand your wardrobe for at least the next two seasons.
* Jewelry: Pearls are still going strong, with 36- to 90-inch strands hanging from fashionable necks. Those gumball-sized pearls may look too faux to some, but many women are giving them a go. At the fall and spring New York shows, pearl chokers looked snappy with menswear-inspired togs.
Matte-gold jewelry is selling well, Ms. Terner says. "It's chunky and architectural pieces that are popular. It's very sexy, curvy and yet angular."
The Western trend calls for silver hoop earrings with turquoise inlay and a cameo pin.
Jewelry inspired by natural themes -- plants, animals or the sea -- is gaining popularity. It solves the age-old problem of what to wear to a Greenpeace formal.
* Belts: Belts are big -- or maybe we should say wide -- this season. Sleek and sophisticated styles are accented with metallic work. Ethnic-looking belts take on various forms: brown leather belts with silver-plated buckles and colorful American Indian styles. Gypsy-like "charm-bracelet" belts give that little black dress a new reason to step out.
Philosophically speaking, think of your belt as body jewelry instead of just a locater for your waist.
* Hats: If you're lucky enough to be a "hat heir," hold on to all those wonderful old hats from the '30s and '40s. They will look stunning with the sleek pantsuits walking out of stores this season. Baseball caps are still in vogue. Fedoras fit the menswear mode; straw cowboy hats are the grit of the cowboy craze.
* Handbags -- Small structured bags (trapezoids and squares) are still more than warm, but red-hot are the large, flat purses
TC that resemble attaches.