Trend Watch: Recharging One’s Style in a Dicey Economy

In line with the current state of the American economy, consumer magazines (except those focused on the most affluent) have been grappling with a dilemma: How to promote fashion yet be sensitive to the financial concerns of their readers. Offering less expensive alternatives to trendy designer looks is one approach, but of course price cannot be the sole consideration in a purchase decision when quality matters.


From the September 2008 issue of In Style magazine, comes these thoughts from its editor-in-chief Charla Lawhon: “The economy is dicey, at best, and any fiscally savvy woman . . . knows that the sensible thing to do is bank that money for the inevitable rainy day. Or is it?” 


Her tips:

  • Take stock of last year’s looks and build on the ones that still delight you.
  • Use the services of a tailor if you’re rationalizing a weight gain or loss as the reason to shop (and, I would add, to keep your wardrobe in tip-top shape).
  • Buy only the trends that work best for you; don’t try to make all trends your own. 

Modifying these tips to make them applicable to jewelry requires simply changing the word “tailor” to “jeweler.”


Lawhon concludes: “Now more than ever is the time to make the most of what you have, and then add the pieces you really want, the ones that will get you through the fall with your love of style sated and your personal style intact. It’s not only about the thrill of the new. Well, maybe it is, just a little. But it’s also about knowing that you’re set to look—and feel—the best you possibly can. In times of tough choices, confidence goes a long way.”


In line with that thinking, the magazine featured tips from various In Style staffers on how to recharge one’s style. “No matter what your budget, fall’s the time to try something different,” the magazine suggests. There are a number of clever, fun and practical tips here. A couple of the tips caught my eye:



(1) “Change the buttons on your coats and cardigans. Replace them with beautiful buttons you find at antiques stores or trimming shops.”


High-quality buttons can refresh a garment, but they will significantly affect the choice of materials, colors, and even the level of refinement of the other accessories worn with the garment. For instance, heavy chain link silver isn’t a good accompaniment to bright, sparkling rhinestones. My suggestion is to change the buttons, but change them not to add punch or glitz but rather to tone them down. Couture quality buttons that match the garment are ideal for an elegant, understated look. By making the buttons less obtrusive, the wearer has more flexibility in accessorizing the garment, giving her more options and the garment much more versatility.


If you are assisting a customer who is trying to find the perfect piece of jewelry to adorn a dress that has distracting buttons, consider suggesting a change of buttons. This is an easy fix, and the best part is that buttons can be changed again.


(2)  “Wear a dress so fabulous you don’t need jewelry.”


Well, before you write off this statement as not deserving any comment whatsoever, consider that there IS a very fine response: “fabulous” suggests memorable. My alternative suggestion: Why throw the money into a memorable dress you won’t be able to wear more than a few times now (and maybe a few times some years from now) because everyone will remember it? Instead, purchase a flattering classic dress that can be accessorized beautifully for different looks, and put the money into a gorgeous piece of jewelry that you can wear and enjoy for years or decades to come.


Advice on cost-conscious purchases is bountiful these days. The September 2008 issue of Esquire magazine interviewed musician Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000, who created a new luxury clothing line for men, Benjamin Bixby. They asked him if he has any thoughts on “buying clothes in tough times.” His response: “Buy things that you love. Buy things that are never going to go out of style. . . . And remember that the way you present yourself counts a lot.”


Build on your current wardrobe. Buy things you love. Buy things that will never go out of style. Buy things that make you feel confident and good about yourself. This is all great advice. If you’re not selling merchandise that meets these criteria, well, no comment.


Footnote: Autumn approaches, and exciting new trends are as plentiful as the leaves that will soon be dropping from trees and clogging gutters around much of the country. Accordingly, I’m going to be dropping in some extra “Trend Watch” columns in lieu of “Customer Watch” as I dissect the huge fall fashion issues over the next several weeks. Come back soon!

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