You don't have to go into hock to look right. If money is tight, outlet malls are your best friends. With $500, you can fill the trunk of your car with bags of clothing from Banana Republic and J.Crew, whose outlets all offer great basics for work. Just remember, choose classic pieces in a palette of neutrals, and accessorize with colors and prints of the moment.
What will you save? Discounts of 40 percent are common, and 80 percent isn't unusual. Stumped about where to find a nearby outlet mall? Try this site: www.outletsonline.com. It's not that easy to use, but Outlets Online does offer an extensive list for bargain hunters.
Help Is Out There
If you feel seriously fashion-challenged, get expert advice and assistance at these sites:
- www.dressingwell.com. Get your closet in shape with tips from fashion consultant Mary Lou Andre, who believes anyone can be well-dressed if they have a few fashion strategies. Don't miss the "tip of the week" e-mail listserv.
- www.leahfeldon.com. Style guru Leah Feldon, author of Dress Like a Million On Considerably Less (Villard Books, $22, 800-726-0600) offers a sampling of free advice at her Web site, where major trends are dissected (are reptile prints a happening look?) under "Tips" and "Buzz."
Some more good resources to peruse:
- Casual Power:How to Power Up Your Nonverbal Communication and Dress Down for Success (Bright Books, $29.95, www.casualpower.com). Sherry Maysonave decodes what casual means, discussing the nonverbal aspects of clothes and body language.
- The New Professional Image:From Business Casual to the Ultimate Power Look (Adams Media Corp., $12.95, 800-USA-JOBS). Susan Bixler lays out the casual and corporate standards for business dress with examples of what you need to wear to make a positive impression in those crucial first 30 seconds.