Bethenny Frankel is the four-time bestselling author of Skinnydipping, A Place of Yes, Naturally Thin, and The Skinnygirl Dish. She is the creator of the Skinnygirl brand, which extends to cocktails, beauty, fitness, and health, and soon to be host of her own talk show, Bethenny. In 2011, Bethenny won a Glamour Women of the Year Award and was named one of the Top 100 Women in Entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter. She is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. Visit Bethenny.com for more information.
Here, she shares an excerpt from Skinnygirl Solutions, published by sister company Simon & Schuster. If you’re in need of a wardrobe update, follow these tips to look your best on a budget.
How well do you put yourself together? Do you throw on whatever, or do you construct an outfit? Don’t get me wrong, when I’m working, I’m wearing my pajamas half the time—and probably no underwear. If I go out, however, I like to put together a look. I think it’s fun, and it’s a way to present myself to the world purposefully. I might dress to fit my mood or to fit the situation or the weather, but every time I decide on an outfit, I see it as an opportunity to be creative and use what I have in my closet. Here are my tips for making the most of the clothes you have without breaking the bank.
1. Know what you have. If you can’t see your stuff, you’ll never use it or wear it because you’ll forget you have it. Out of sight, out of mind, and if your closet is too stuffed, your clothes can’t breathe. Organize your closet so you can easily see everything you have that is in season.
2. Use what you have. Dressing well on a budget is just like eating well on a budget: Use what you have! A dress you wear all the time can look totally new with a blazer and different shoes or new, inexpensive accessories that are in fashion. Jewelry you never wear might work perfectly with a new blouse. I have pieces I’ve owned and worn for ten or fifteen years, and every time I wear them, I try to make them new so I’m excited about what I have instead of constantly wanting to buy more.
3. Build outfits around items you don’t wear often. If you really love a suede skirt but you hardly ever wear it, make it your mission to figure out a good way to put it back into your regular rotation. Maybe you can pair it with a wool blazer and a silk T‑shirt for an interesting mix of textures, or maybe a new bag you just bought matches it perfectly. What about the tangerine dress that seems just a little too bright? Pull it out, hang it up on a door frame, and think. What about that flattering beige jacket, gold belt, and flats? Suddenly, it’s not so loud. That ill-fitting tank top in the great pattern might be fine under a jacket where you can’t tell that it shows your bra straps.
4. Always have outfits on deck. How many times do you have three minutes to put something on and you can’t think straight, so you just grab the same thing you wore yesterday or the same thing you wear on most days? This will never happen again if you have a cool outfit on deck. When I create a new outfit idea, I put it all together with the accessories and shoes and bag, and I hang it in my closet staging area. When I’m in a hurry and I need to look put-together, I just grab what’s on deck. If you really want to get serious about this, create different on deck outfits for work, dates, special occasions, hot sexy nights out, and running around during the day.
5. Alter it. Maybe you love something but it has just one thing wrong with it that keeps you from wearing it. Change that one thing. I lost the belt off a black wool winter trench coat I got at a sample sale, but I had the belt loops removed and the waistline taken in, and now it’s a coat that doesn’t need a belt. Change the sleeve length or hemline, or have the tailor take in the waistline to give a baggy piece more shape.
6. Don’t spend on trends. When the fancy stores come out with something, all the suckers run out instantly and buy it. Three months later, the same trendy pieces are knocked off in all the inexpensive stores and you can get it for much less. I saw this happen with colored jeans. First they were on the runway. Now they’re at Old Navy. Don’t be impulsive. Just wait three months. You don’t want to pay a lot for trendy pieces because you won’t wear them for long. If you aren’t totally sure whether something is a trend, here’s a hint: If it’s studded, bell-bottomed, acid washed, blinged-out, or tie-dyed; if it looks like a wild animal; or if it’s neon or a very bright color or heavily patterned, it’s a trend.
7. Use your dresses. Skip the jeans and leggings and use your dresses! They are so versatile, but many women hardly ever wear them. A dress you wear to work with a belt and a blazer can turn sexy for night with a dramatic necklace and higher heels. A day dress you wear with flats can be dressed up with jewelry and heels for a casual wedding or a christening. A short dress you usually wear in summer can work in winter layered over a long-sleeved T‑shirt, leggings, and boots.
8. Mix highs and lows. I always mix my highs and lows. I’ll wear a twenty-dollar pair of pants with an expensive pair of shoes, or a high-quality blazer with a cheap tank top from Gap. It’s boring, predictable, and arguably a little pretentious when every single thing you are wearing is an expensive name brand. Plus, your outfit will be more intriguing if people can’t guess where you bought it all. That cute black T‑shirt was five bucks on sale at Target?
9. Accept that you can’t wear everything. Sometimes people get depressed because they just aren’t built to wear something they think looks cute on someone else, but welcome to life. Nobody can wear everything. Curvy girls could rock a dress that would hang like a sack on a thin girl, but a thin girl might look awesome in a straight-cut vintage style that would pull on a girl with hips. Some people have boobs and look great in low-cut tops, but some people have sun damage and want to cover up the chest area. Get real. Find the things that do fit you and make you feel amazing. If you don’t like how you look in a bathing suit, don’t let that keep you off the beach. Put on a sexy sarong, big earrings, and a hat, and walk on the beach like Beyoncé or a Kardashian. Own your body and own your style, and you will look hot no matter what shape you are.
10. Stock up on staples. Just like your pantry should have all the basics for making a good meal anytime, your closet should have all the basics for putting together a good outfit anytime. I’m not Tim Gunn, but I have my own list. First, I would say not to be afraid of color. Black is safe and slimming, so people overdo it. Color wakes up your face and can actually put you in a better mood, but you don’t have to wear it from head to toe. Here are the basic wardrobe pieces I think every girl should have—you can combine these endlessly and dress them up or down depending on shoes, bags, and accessories:
• A good blazer that fits you well in a neutral color (black, camel, navy).
• Five good-quality, well-fitting, nonfaded tank tops in gray, nude, black, and two fun colors.
• Two pairs of good, nonfaded leggings.
• Two to four pairs of well-fitting jeans in different styles: skinny, straight leg, wide leg, and boyfriend.
• A wrinkle-free black dress you love.
• A colorful wrap dress you love.
• A good-quality wrap cardigan in a neutral color.
• Two to three cardigans in different colors.
• A good-quality belt in a neutral color.
• A good pair of neutral flats.
• Comfortable heels that make you feel sexy.
• One really great statement necklace.
• Silver and gold hoop earrings.
• Colorful dangle earrings for summer.
• Two or three scarves in different colors.
• A good day purse.
• A good night clutch.
• Sunglasses that flatter you in two neutral colors that go with many outfits—I suggest black and tortoiseshell.
• A good summer sun hat.
• A good winter hat.