Summertime shopping can be a sticky proposition. Steamy, lazy days lounging poolside hardly inspire one to run out and struggle into all those heavy fall clothes that are invading the stores.
But there are still some cool summer bargains out there that can make a trip worthwhile. Now's the time to get that pricey designer jacket you eyed at the beginning of the season. With any luck it'll be half off by now, or even two-thirds.
The real problem with summer sale shopping is how to be sure those wonderfully priced items will translate into worthy investments, that they won't just end up with all your other impulse buys at the back of the closet.
And who knows? That floral chartreuse tube top that you found for a steal may not look as enticing when you pull it out next year. This is why the savvy shopper in you must emerge. If you know what works, you can scout for easy transitional pieces with two-sided style that will transfer into fall -- instead of short-lived cheap mistakes.
For nonstop versatility nothing surpasses a simple little dress. And topping the best dress list for seasonless style is the clean-lined classic sheath. National personal shopping and style consultant Helen Moody agrees. "An easy solid colored sheath flatters most figure types and can get you the most mileage out of your wardrobe," she says. Wear it to beat the heat with bare legs and sandals on the weekends; knockout jewelry, fishnet hose and a strap heel or mule for sultry evenings; use it as a layering tool either under a streamlined cardigan jacket or classic blazer to the office; turn it into a jumper by layering it over a T-shirt or body blouse; or simply add some fun accessories such as an interesting belt and a trendy vest. The possibilities are endless.
Ann Taylor stores offer a barrage of sheaths to choose from, the best of which come in neutral solid colors in a linen/silk blend for about $69. For fuller figures, a looser tank style is dually adaptable. The J. Crew catalog offers up an irresistible rayon chiffon tank dress for $31 that halves its cost by being reversible.
So you're not a dress person? Take notice of all the long lengths that are filling up the racks. If you can find a long slim skirt on sale that falls below the calf and is slit or buttons up -- by all means grab it -- in any neutral colored transitional fabric. Ditto for a long shapely jacket preferably with flap pockets and gold button detailing according to Heather Femia, Nordstrom regional fashion director. This lengthening in silhouette represents a major direction moving into the next few seasons.
"When crossing seasons, be careful about fabric selection," warns Ms. Moody. Even though dark colored linens are appropriate to wear through September, wrinkles are forgiven less after Labor Day, plus they tend to color fade after just a few cleanings. Steer toward light weight transitional fabrics such as rayon blends or cotton knits. Alix Rodman, owner of Dressy Affair in Ruxton, touts the new fabric Fibranne which is made up of 80 percent rayon and 20 percent linen. "It is great for easing into fall fTC because although it is thicker than rayon, it has a much silkier hand," she says. Sima Blum, owner of Trillium in Greenspring Station, feels the same way about wool gabardine which not only wears well, but can be worn 10 months out of the year, claims Ms. Blum.
If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon and added a white shirt to your wardrobe -- now is the chance to nab a bargain. Ms. Femia believes in the white shirt as a year-round wardrobe staple. "Wear it now, knotted at the waist or slightly higher to bare a bit of midriff. Going into fall, button it up as the foundation for the important menswear inspired looks," she says.
Another key item within the menswear mode is the vest. "Vests are the biggest thing right now," says Ruth Shaw of Ruth Shaw boutique in Cross Keys, who suggests finding a loose fitting men's style vest with deep cut armholes. Wear it unbuttoned this summer with everything from a basic T-shirt and shorts, to a long full retro styled shirt dress. "Then layer it with heavier textures for fall," she says.
With all the flea markets, yard sales and antique shows around this time of year, you can snag a haber--ery of men's accessories for bargain basement prices. Dapper dames should seek out neckties, ascots, cuff links, fob pocket watches, and bowler hats or fedoras to finish off the dandified look.
"If your wardrobe doesn't consist of a denim or chambray shirt, or a long button up denim skirt, you may want to round one up on sale, particularly with the western influence continuing into fall," advises Tina Sutton, national fashion consultant for Hit or Miss stores. She also suggests looking for a western-styled belt and anything with fringe.