Timeless Fashion

How to make styles last when budgets tighten…

A struggling economy needn’t mean you can’t look like a million dollars. The key to looking good regardless of your bank balance is to build a wardrobe around pieces that won’t go out of style. Timeless fashions can literally be worn forever.

Cuts, patterns, cuffs and hems do slowly change over time, but with a few basics in your closet, you can be appropriately attired every time you step out of the house. Image consultants around the globe agree that a few standards form the basis of a chic wardrobe that will withstand the tug-of-war between longevity and vogue.

“It’s very possible to create a timeless wardrobe,” says London fashion stylist Rebekah Roy, “and in these tough economic times it might actually be the best way to spend money on clothes.”

By investing in a few important, well-made pieces, the savvy shopper can create a stage upon which less expensive and more hip pieces can be spotlighted.  Then, as trends change, it will be less costly to replace accessories and underpinnings with up-to-date items that complement the initial basics.

“Create a wardrobe that starts with classic pieces in neutral colors,” advises Michelle Sterling, founder and principal of Global Image Group in San Francisco.  “Then add character pieces that have flair and interest.”

The building blocks of the timeless, classic wardrobe should come in foundation colors:  black, navy, khaki, beige or gray.  Bright and flattering colors that resonate with the person wearing them should act as accents.  To make the selections more useful and timeless, choose “seasonless” fabrics like tropical-weight wool that can be worn in any climate at any time of year.

“To keep your clothes in style for as long as possible, don’t choose styles or cuts that are too exaggerated,” warns Micki Turner, San Francisco Bay Area image consultant.  “Stay away from unflattering too-tight pants or ultra-pointy shoes that are overly trendy.”

Most image consultants suggest going through old clothes to shed those that are out of date or no longer fit.  Once a closet is pared down to only those things that are most flattering to the wearer’s body type and personality, the following items are essential:


  •  Simple black dress:  can be worn with a cardigan around the shoulders on a summer afternoon or accessorized with chunky jewelry and a hip jacket to be worn at night.
  • Trench coat:  adds warmth with class.
  • Jacket: an all-purpose classic style will pair with slacks, a skirt or even a pair of jeans.
  • Suit: pinstripes add height and are slimming, but black is always appropriate.
  • Skirt: make it modest, comfortable and age-appropriate.
  • White fitted blouse:  can be worn with jeans and dichroic glass jewelry to be funky or with slacks and pumps to be evening elegant.
  • Cashmere cardigan:  slings over the shoulders for a casual but chic look.  Choose one that doesn’t ride down on the hip.  Mid-waist length is best.
  • Neutral heels:  keep them skin-toned to add length to the leg.
  • Black pumps:  an unexaggerated toe will keep these ultra-useful shoes in style.
  • Slacks:  flat-front is slimming, but be certain the legs aren’t too skinny or too full and that the waist isn’t too high or low.

Not sure where to obtain these mid-priced classics?  Brooks Brothers, Gap, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor are known for their classic lines and core wardrobe items.  Hugo Boss, Chanel, Armani, Gucci and Ralph Lauren are also safe bets for core items that may cost a bit more but are made to last.

Amanda Sanders, NYIC Image and Wardrobe Specialist, suggests fostering a good relationship with a drycleaner or a tailor who can update worthwhile basics as time and trends move gently forward.

Once the classic necessities are obtained, it’s time to get creative.  Update shoes and handbags; add ruffled shirts and bright scarves.  Accessories don’t have to be expensive to be stylish, and they can keep the timeless wardrobe from appearing lost in time.

“One or two less expensive trend items can make the classics stand out,” says Sanders.  “If you have good quality things in your closet, you won’t have to constantly reinvent your wardrobe.  Just stick to things that look good on you, stay appropriate to your age and remember: If it’s not flattering, move on!”


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What About Education Budget Cuts?

School districts in every state are facing unprecedented budget cuts. Class sizes are on the rise while time in class decreases, and many schools are closing. The quality of education is in a downward spiral as districts fight to keep their lights on and classrooms supplied with minimum necessities.

The picture is gloomy, but there’s a lot you can do to help.


Before you can fight back, you need to understand how the structure works. Budget cuts are a national problem, but according to the Department of Education, only about 10 percent of elementary and secondary education funding comes from federal coffers. The rest comes from state, local and private sources, so there are 50 different structures for funding nearly 99,000 public schools, about 56 million students.

State funds are complex to understand and often have minimums and caps that vary from state to state. In Wisconsin, for example, the state spending cap has not kept up with inflation. This means an annual local referendum is vital to maintain the status quo, and these are increasingly difficult to pass.

Roughly 46 percent of funds come from local taxes that are based on local wealth. A difference of as much as $6,000 might exist between the amount spent on each student in an affluent district and those in struggling neighborhoods.

Calculate how much money your district needs to make ends meet, and set a goal. Research how voters turn out in your area, and gear your efforts appropriately.


There is power in numbers. In Eau Claire, Wis., pockets of disgruntled people who wanted to reinstate field-trip funding achieved success only when every PTA/PTO in town joined together. The same kind of organization and focus are necessary to pass much-needed referendums, but to raise funds and lobby your community in support of one, you will likely have to register with your state as a Political Action Committee – whether you are a group of two or 200.


Use catchy phrases, colorful photos and constant media attention to get people interested. Kim and Jim McNulty of the Stoughton School District in Wisconsin worked with four other couples to form Keep Improving and Developing our Schools, K.I.D.S. Their group created yard signs that called out, “Vote Yes for Quality Schools,” a phrase that yielded support for their referendum.

A bright, memorable logo, too, is helpful in burning your message into public minds. The Eau Claire field-trip group hung a sign from a school bus that read, “Pave the Way to Lifelong Learning.” Road sections were added as the fundraiser moved toward its ultimate goal.


Get the word out about your cause. The more your effort is in the news, the more support you’ll garner. Look among your team for a PR person who is skilled in courting the media, a graphics artist to create logos and an accountant to organize finances.

A website, Facebook and e-mail are essential to communicate your issue to the world and drum up help, but some voters still prefer to be contacted by print, radio, TV or phone. Door-to-door canvassing is also an effective way to gather support. Establish a presence at community events to educate your neighbors about your mission.


Bake sales and car washes aren’t enough. In addition to asking for general donations, research grants available for education funding and go to www.k12grants.org, where grant-writing is demystified. Donna Fernandez of SchoolGrants suggests creating a nonprofit education foundation to generate otherwise unavailable funds.

“Many grants that are not available directly to schools are available to nonprofits that lend assistance to schools,” said Fernandez.

Partnerships with corporate sponsors can be lucrative, too. Joe Sanfelippo, principal of Roosevelt Elementary School in Eau Claire, says a partnership with Nestle has funded his Reading Is Fundamental program and an after-school homework help program.

The Box Tops For Education program (www.boxtops4education.com) can supply up to $20,000 per school for coupons clipped from packaging. Among other programs are Kemps dairy products, which offer a Nickels for Schools program, and Campbell’s Labels for Education.

Local businesses, too, are eager to support education. Sanfilippo partners with a restaurant that shares 10 percent of its dinner profit on predetermined dates. Other businesses look for tax advantages by making education donations or matching funds.


Education Secretary Arne Duncan has estimated that as many as 300,000 educators in the United States will get pink slips this year. As you focus attention on your neighborhood or district, remember that a combined effort between schools, districts and states can change the crumbling structure.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act. By creating a $23 billion Education Jobs Fund, he aims to keep teachers, principals, librarians and other school personnel working through the budget shortfalls of each state.

“ Job losses of this magnitude would take a terrible toll on our education system, resulting in bigger class sizes, fewer program offerings and less time for students to learn in school. This would be a major setback for the nation’s economic recovery,” Harkin said.