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‘Great Style’ tips from ‘Harper’s Bazaar’

/ Source: TODAY

“Great Style” reveals the secrets of the fashionable magazine “Harper's Bazaar.” Written by “Harper's Bazaar” former senior fashion news editor, Jenny Levin, the book focuses on the fashions of the most stylish women in the world and how to identify the look that's just right for you: not the here-today, gone-tomorrow fads, but practical advice on timeless style. Here's an excerpt:

Chapter One: The Basics
Every day, sometimes two or three times, you open those closet doors and think, “What am I going to wear?”

Occasionally, due to the excitement over a recent purchase or a specific event, the answer is an easy one: “Ooh … I’m going to debut my new dress” or “I have a meeting with the boss and must have on my lucky power suit.” But most of the time, it’s the age-old lament: “I have nothing to wear.” So you end up standing in front of the closet for what seems like eons trying to figure out what will be perfect for that day, considering your current mood, the weather, and the moment. Worse yet, you go through multiple try-ons and inevitably end up running late for work, unsatisfied and with a pile of clothes on the bed to come home to. But all is not lost. There is a way out of this clothes quagmire, and a properly stocked closet, filled with all the right basics, is the place to start.

Closet essentials
No wardrobe is complete without certain tried-and-true staples that work as the foundations for any look. Here, the fashion necessities for the well-rounded, well-dressed woman. Use these key items as your building blocks:

1.  A dark—preferably black—lean suit

The jacket and trousers can be worn separately for more mileage.

2.  A pencil skirt

This can be A-line if it’s more flattering for your body type but should be simple and refined.

3.  A crisp white shirt

Dressed up or down, it will always be chic.

4.  A great pair of jeans

A straight cut in a darker wash is more versatile.

5.  A little black dress

Also called the LBD, it will never let you down.

Ultimate classics
Once you have your closet essentials down, it’s worth stocking up on pieces that will always look great, no matter the trend du jour. Think versatility, longevity, and everlasting appeal—the clothing that style setters from Catherine Deneuve to Kate Moss have always relied on.

• White tees: They are the all-American standard. You’ll always find uses for basic tees, whether atop denim on weekends or with a dressy skirt for a sporty edge. They’re also the ground­work for layering.

• Cashmere cardigans: As part of a sweater set or in a longer V-neck grandpa cut, a button-up sweater offers the most adaptability — perfect with a pencil skirt for work, sexy at night with nothing underneath or as a cocktail-dress topper, and a great layering piece for casual days. Classic colors — camel, navy, black, and gray — will inevitably get more wear than brights or patterns.

• White jeans: A more glamorous take on basic jeans, these clean pants are effortless cool epitomized. All they need is a cashmere V-neck on top for a jet-set aura. They even work in the winter paired with a cozy knit or fur. (Very après ski!)

• Trousers: Channel Katharine Hepburn with classic slouchy pants. They’re all about refined ease. Wear them with a soft blouse, a crisp button-up, or a thin knit.

• Shift dress: Think Jackie O’s simple, pared-down, but polished style. The minimal frock couldn’t be easier to wear — working with a blouse or a tee under, with flats or pumps — making it a no-brainer for every woman’s wardrobe

• Tuxedo: Just as the LBD will always work for evening affairs, the tuxedo, or le smoking, is a dashing alternative. With the allure of being covered up and the whole masculine-feminine mix, a tux at night can be utterly sexy. Bonus: A slim suit can be extremely flattering for all body types.

• Bouclé jacket: Coco Chanel made this a wardrobe must. Worn with a matching skirt or with jeans, the tweedy jacket, boxy or fitted, adds instant luxe.

• Trench coat: It’s the ultimate symbol of chic — loved by women young, old, curvy, slim, conservative, or edgy. It’s a versatile piece that is at the same time practical, glamorous, and cool. Whether you wear it over worn-in jeans or a fancy dress, you’re sure to look sophisticated.

• Camel overcoat: A coat is the first and last thing people see on you, so it’s worth finding a plush one, but keeping it sleek and classic increases its life span and wearability. You can’t go wrong with a cashmere coat in deep tan, whether it’s a wrap version or double- or single-breasted. It works day and night, for work and weekends.

What’s worth spending on
While it’s never easy to spend big money on clothes, there are some things for which it makes sense to pay a little more. The key is to find high-quality, überversatile items like coats, cocktail dresses, and furs that defy fashion’s mercurial moods. You’ll end up getting so much wear out of these elite pieces that it’s worth the price in the end. Think of it this way: Let’s say you pay $1,000 for a cashmere coat. Since it’s well made, you are likely to have it for a lifetime (okay, at least five years) and wear it about 150 days of the year (mostly in the fall and winter). That equals less than $1.50 per wear! Apply this fashion math to any of your big-ticket purchases. Here’s where it makes sense to splurge.

• Coat: A streamlined cut that works over both casual and evening ensembles is worth the money. Look for superior fabric that will hold up to the elements. You want your coat to be a workhorse, but it should always look pristine.

• Chunky knits: High-quality cashmere looks better, lasts longer, and feels cozier. In the right shapes — cardigans, crewnecks, turtlenecks, and V-necks — sumptuous sweaters can luxe up any pair of jeans or cords and give a pair of trousers a softer, more laid-back feel,

• Blouses: They’re on top, so everyone notices them. Cheap fabrics look tacky and, well, cheap. Choose frills, ruffles, florals, or something sculpted, but whatever style you pick, it’s best to go high-end with this prominent piece.

• Fur: Whether real or faux, a mink, sable, or fox (to name a few) jacket, coat, vest, or even scarf is the ultimate in luxury. Indulging in something top-of-the-line is the only way to get a lifetime of wear and then some. (Your children will thank you.) A shorter cut is recommended over full-length so you’ll get better use out of it. (Wear it day and night.)

• Cocktail dress: You want to love your dress because you’ll be relying on it quite often, and you’ll want to feel confident and fabulous every time you put it on. It should fit you to perfection and have an air of elegance with a hint of sexiness.

• Evening gown: Perhaps you’ll go formal once a year, but when you do, you want to radiate, be a knockout, be a princess for a night — and a short frock just won’t fly. Whether you want something slinky, beaded, or grand, the material, makeup, and fit should be your highest priorities.

• Jeans: While, hands down, most people claim to get more wear out of their jeans than any other article of clothing, there is still no need to spend big bucks on your blues. Yes, we all have our favorites that get a lot of use, but we are also fickle and no doubt happier to have more than one cut to choose from — at least a pair to wear with high heels and one to wear with flats. Besides, who needs high-maintenance denim? You won’t think twice about throwing more affordable jeans in the washer and dryer.

• Pants: Think of them in terms of dinner-table dressing. No one sees your bottom when you’re sitting at a table, behind a desk, or even having a tête-à-tête at a crowded party. So why empty out your wallet on something that gets so little attention? Spend on your top. If that’s exquisite, it’ll keep all eyes up.

• Skirts: Following the same logic as pants, skirts are the second half of your outfit and are a support for your top, therefore they don’t always have to be so pricey. Yet, unlike pants, they have the potential to define you — say, tantalizing in a thigh-high, demure in a dirndl, or powerful in a pencil — so choose your skirt shape wisely.

• Button-ups: These no-frills tops aren’t meant to last a lifetime. White is the color of choice for the men’s-style shirt, which means it needs to be laundered a lot. And it requires ironing to keep it neat. Therefore, the shirt gets worn out fast. Since it is best sharp and crisp, you’ll want to restock often.

• Lightweight knits: Thin sweaters are ideal for layering, so it’s advisable to have many in your stable. Because you’ll use these as flexible go-to items (over anything, under some things, thrown in your bag in case you get cold), multi-ply, heavy-duty fabrics are not necessary. Fine (and therefore less expen­sive) wool or cotton works best.

• Tees & tanks: This is the most obvious area where you can pinch pennies. There are plenty of brands out there offering well-made tees with appropriate price tags. Look for longer styles for more layering versatility. So, when you find the best fit and fabric, stock up!

Make the most of your wardrobe
These days, it’s a lucky few who have the funds to purchase a whole new wardrobe each season. Most of us, however, are a bit more limited and usually want to take full advantage of the clothes we buy — and wear them all year round. The trick is to make most of your clothes seasonless.

Suit up. The traditional two-piece can be a multipurpose wonder. Worn as a set, it’s a work staple, but it also can be a sexy evening number when worn with a slinky camisole (or nothing) underneath. The skirt or pants can go on their own for any occasion — dressed up or dressed down. And the jacket is guaranteed to be sharp atop jeans or even a cocktail dress or gown.

Get creative. Experiment with letting your clothes live outside their designated roles. A classic white shirt, for example, while always great under a jacket, is also incredibly glam paired with a ball gown, tucked into jeans, and as a bathing-suit cover-up. Your trench can make a sexy nighttime option in a pinch when accessorized right. (Strappy heels are just about all you need.) Don’t be afraid to turn your basics into something bold.

Arm yourself with tees. A long-sleeved tee or turtleneck can turn a warm-weather top or sundress into a sweet fall or winter look. Play with different weights and fabrics. Even a simple cotton tank can give a new mood to a dress. Have a white dress you want to wear when the mercury drops? Throw a black turtleneck underneath. In addition, layering under a dress can make something slinky okay to wear during the day. Tees and tanks also come in handy to lighten up a heavy trouser or skirt.

Embrace knits. Clearly, cardigans (chunky or lightweight) can give any summery outfit a cozier feel. And they’ll never fail for cooler evenings. But knits can also work as underpinnings. Try a woolly piece under a shift for a ’70s Ali MacGraw–worthy air.

“I’ve always admired a woman who can dress for all occasions — someone who’s not fashion crazy, but you always want to look like her.” — Ralph Lauren

Excerpted from "Harper’s Bazaar Great Style: The Best Ways to Update Your Look" by Jenny Levin. Copyright 2007 Jenny Levin. Excerpted with permission of Hearst Books/Sterling. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.