How to Get a Cheap Fashion Thrill: the Chiconomy Wardrobe
by: Sharon Mosley
Fashion expert and author Anna Johnson has coined a new word to explain how to get glamour-girl style at bargain prices: “chiconomy.” In Johnson’s latest book, “Savvy Chic: The Art of More for Less,” she shares lots of tips on how to skip the lure of “fast fashion” and impulse shopping and still put together an impressive wardrobe.
“When I shop I have watertight ground rules that stop impulse buys in their tracks,” says Johnson. “Clothes need to be well made, have staying power through the seasons, and interlock with other existing mainstays in my wardrobe.”
Here are a few of Johnson’s ground rules for building a “chiconomy” wardrobe:
—Keep it classic. “Because I may want to wear one piece of clothing for several years, I will choose slightly more conservative, classic styles (easy when buying vintage) and then put them hard to work. Every top I own has to go with my favorite rip-off Balenciaga-style tuxedo pants or an A-line skirt. Each dress has to fit at least three occasions. And the jackets need to be day-to-night or trans-seasonal. One pair of shoes and one bag “matches” but the rest don’t have to.”
—Color it neutral. “The palette of my wardrobe is brown, cream, and electric blue for winter and fall. Then white, black, honey beige, and bright yellow for summer. That’s this summer. The splashes of bright color can change season to season but the bedrock of my everyday clothes is monochrome. And monochrome does not literally mean black and white. Black and white can make you look like a waitress. A wardrobe based on black doesn’t really stretch into summer and all white is high maintenance. My vote instead rests with a trio of neutrals that best suit your skin tone. With a uniform set of base tones, there is never any anxiety about what matches because it all blends. It’s total chiconomy.”
—Lay a foundation. “If you can only spend one hundred dollars and want to change your wardrobe, buy a dress or some brilliant pants (not jeans) or a vintage coat, then, as money trickles in, build the wardrobe up from one (or all three) of these items. Personally, I am a coat-and-dress girl. The coat covers all (including much cheaper clothes) and the dress banishes the need for an outfit, spanning the seasons with bare legs and sandals in the summer, and tights and boots in the cooler months.
—Invest and splurge. “The truth about modern fashion is that practically anything you see at the top of the style food chain proffers a knockoff discount version further down the line in almost no time at all. My wardrobe is about ninety-percent vintage and select (ethical trade) el cheapo glamour, and a precious handful of items that are the real thing. Basically I fake everything except the handbag, the coat, and the shades.”
—Wake up your wardrobe with surprises. “A functional, reliable wardrobe is comfortable, but a little low on surprises,” admits Johnson. “For this reason I am forever stocking up on scarves, vintage costume bangles, berets, hosiery in rainbow colors, and classy (but easily faked) details such as oversized sunglasses or a large men’s watch. Wearing uncluttered, slightly plain clothing with very clean lines gives you the head-space and the confidence to go bold with accessories. I call it good fun and even better fiscal fashion sense.”