Good looks for summer include, from left, a utility dress from Sears; belted chambray shirt over floral print dress (Sears); striped top paired with wide-leg career pants (JC Penney); plaid camp shirt with solid shorts (Dillard's); and striped top with floral skirt (JC Penney).
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Just because money is tight in this slow-to-recover economy doesn’t mean people have to fret about wearing last year’s clothes this summer. Smart consumers on a strict budget know how to keep from looking dowdy and avoid going broke by freshening their look with a few new versatile pieces that easily coordinate with what’s already in the closet.
Celebrity stylist and fashion expert Jorge Ramon has some quick and easy tips that will carry anybody through the work day into evening.
For instance, a key must-have for women is a dress with pockets. One he describes as a utility dress you might find at Sears in its UK Style by French Connection also has epaulets and would look good in the office and for a casual outing.
"You can easily wear it many ways, with flats on the weekend, with heels or wedges for work," he said by phone from his office in New York City.
Accessories make all the difference — the type of bangles or earrings or the addition of a cardigan can define office wear or casual chic.
A solid-color pair of trousers is a good warm-weather investment. Mr. Ramon urges women to bypass black trousers in favor of pants with menswear details such as pinstripes or summer tweeds. Dress them up with a colorful feminine shirt with lace or summer dots.
For a casual look, he said boyfriend jeans are "looser and more forgiving and flattering on lots of body shapes." Cuff the pants to show off a snazzy pair of summer flats. Meanwhile, an old favorite, denim, is back in a new way: chambray. Imagine a chambray jacket over a belted floral dress. Smart.
Kimberly Griggs, fashion communication manager in corporate advertising at Dillard’s in Little Rock, Ark., points to a sleeveless dress in glen plaid with scoop neck and waist detail that’s perfect to wear to work and then out for the evening. For another look with the same dress, wear it with an Antonio Melani "Vanessa" cardigan in black cotton jersey.
For special summer occasions, try a Dillard’s sleeveless dress with jacquard print with a beaded yoke.
And speaking of prints, large floral prints might gag some and cause others to roll their eyes because they are thinking about the old days when draperies and sofas with big floral prints were the norm.
However, a flirty skirt from JCPenney with large floral print that’s updated with grays, black, and beige on white is anything but old-style. Coordinate it with a mostly white sweater with horizontal stripes, and any woman is good to go to work or play. For a different look, wear the same or a similar sweater with a pair of wide-legs pants.
Men don’t have quite as many fashion options as women, Mr. Ramon pointed out. But they still have choices, and summer-weight fabrics is first on his list.
"What’s essential is a khaki or tan cotton suit," he said.
That would be cool with a flat-front shirt in a great pattern. A French blue or pin-striped shirt worn with bucks and no socks is a "fantastic" look, he said.
"Pinstripes are always great," he said.
A suit jacket and footwear will dress up this look for a guy: blazer, dark jeans, white shirt, and tie with an Oxford shoe. Or, for a truly up-to-the-minute style, Mr. Ramon describes the Obama look.
"President Obama wears a suit with a white shirt and no tie," he said. "That’s a great way to get around wearing a suit without a tie."
Bradley Ross, JCPenney men’s divisional trend director, underscores the importance of that look. Consider a light sand, soft cotton blazer with white trousers and chambray shirt. Or, a pair of jeans with the rolled cuffs, a navy blazer, shirt, and tie. Complete the look with classic brown Oxfords in leather or suede.
Ms. Griggs of Dillard’s takes note of some of the season’s must-haves for men, such as plaid, flat-front pants that can go to work and then out for the evening. Pair the Murano Zac barely-there plaid pants with a camp shirt with a fold-over button front, two button chest pockets, or a button-front shirt with side vents.
The big baggy look in casual wear for men is passe. Take a look at Penney’s Madras short-sleeve shirt with slim flat front shorts. Nothing baggy or oversize about that. A pair of canvas slip-ons and stringy brim hat makes this new urban look appealing. Gentlemen, don’t pitch your jean jackets, but wear them with shorts and a lightweight knit shirt.
And please, guys, no shirttails out. Penney’s features them tucked and belted. How refreshing.
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