By Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect

A great-looking wardrobe doesn’t necessarily require an expansive budget. In fact, good information and a trained eye for color and line can deliver twice the punch as that of a hefty wallet while ensuring that you leave the house with a million-dollar look every time. If budget’s a current consideration, follow these guidelines all the way to the bank:

Buy quality rather than quantity
Without a doubt, quality fabrics fall better, wear better and flatter the figure more. Generally it is the expensive skirts and pants that are made with superb fabrics and cut to enhance a body’s shape. Develop a bit of know-how so you can spot them at affordable or discounted prices and begin to build your wardrobe.

Women, start with one great skirt. It is better to have one perfectly fitting skirt in a superb fabric that spans several seasons (lightweight wool, for example) than a dozen ill-fitting skirts in an array of colors.
Black goes with everything, and no one will remember that you wore the same skirt several times in a week if you’ve worn it with a different jacket and accessory each day. My wardrobe is based on a few black skirts and pants that go with an array of jackets and tops in colors that look good on me.
Some have loops for belts, so they look good with open jackets, while others are slim and beltless to accommodate snug-fitting jackets. Be always on the lookout for linen, wool gabardine and wool crepe designer skirts and pants on sale and in consignment stores.

Men, start with one navy blue suit in wool gabardine, crepe or worsted wool and at least three shirts and three great ties. White shirts go with anything and always look professional. Consider French blue as well-it’s “friendly” and professional. Create contrast with your tie. A tie draws attention to a man’s face as earring and a necklace do to a woman’s.

Well-dressed women always accessorize their garments. Look through fashion magazines and catalogs and go to fashion shows for ideas and inspiration.
Most fashion coordinators have picked up tricks from designers around the world and results come to life on the runway. Earrings are among the most important accessories for women. Choose bold earrings, which frame the face in a polished and fashionable manner. Dainty earrings often look too conservative, even somewhat powerless, and thin hoops and chandelier earrings create distraction. Choose chunky hoops-which are thick in width and lay against the face-or “door knocker” earrings, both of which draw the attention to the face and silently imply “power.” In addition, a bold, omega-shaped necklace helps to frame the face. Believe it or not, silver is more flattering to most people’s skin tone than gold is.

Belts are also great accessories. Men should always wear one with a suit.
Women should consider it at least some of the time. Choose belts made of leather with distinctive-looking-but not gaudy-buckles.

The smarts
Educate yourself so you can shop intelligently. This will ultimately save you both time and money. Color actually forms the foundation for all garments so find out which colors suit you. One of the biggest mistakes made is trying to achieve harmony by matching the superficial appearance with
colors: blondes in pastels, redheads in rust or orange, etc. Don’t be afraid of bold colors, but do stay away from neons and “food colors” (ketchup red with mustard yellow, for example), especially for business. And do think contrast. “Safe” looks that are perfectly matched often end up looking boring, no matter who made them or how much they cost. So rather than teaming a brown suit with tan or beige, wear a cobalt blue, French blue or peacock blue blouse or scarf if you’re a woman; wear a French blue shirt and burgundy tie if you’re a man.  Jewel tones are generally great on women and in men’s ties. Also think magenta, raspberry and royal blue when assembling different outfits.

In addition, know your physique so well that you know how to camouflage every flaw. Ill-fitting clothes and those that accent figure flaws undermine more than your figure. They undermine your credibility. Anyone who really had a million to spend on clothes would make certain every single garment fit like a glove and flattered to the Nth degree, now wouldn’t s/he?

The hunt
Shop the sales and check out consignment shops. If you are shopping the sales, it is a good idea to do a bit of homework beforehand. Find the shops that suit your tastes and preferences and peruse their racks every two weeks or so. That way you won’t waste time trekking all over town at sale time; you’ll go straight to “your” shops. Consignment shops are a great place to find designer clothes at shoestring prices. Every city has at least one consignment shop that carries designer clothes. Check them all out.

Make a list of the things that are missing from your closet and keep it with you. Women, if you don’t have a great black skirt and at least one jacket in a bold color to wear with it; and men, if you don’t have at least one quality navy blue suit with a couple of quality shirts and ties, put those items on your list. If you have a suit in a “safe” color, add “scarf or blouse in a bold color.” Know your best colors and list those, too. Next time you run across a fabulous sale or consignment shop, you will be prepared.

Sandy Dumont, THE Image Architect is an image consultant and professional speaker based in Virginia Beach, with 30 years of international and national experience helping individuals and Fortune 500 companies improve their image. She conducts customized Branding for People™ workshops on a regular basis. For more information, visit or email