Sunday, October 26, 2008

So, You Were Saying?

How to Look Like a World Leader on a Hockey Mom Salary

By Jackson West

The Republican National Committee spending nearly $150,000 to dress and style Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her family in the wake of her nomination as the party's vice presidential candidate surprised me. The first rule of fiscal responsibility, in my humble opinion, is to never pay retail. Whether you live in New York, NY or Wasilla, Alaska, there's no reason you can't look powerful, professional and put together on a budget.

I asked StyleDiary founder Patricia Handschiegel to help with tips. She's spent Friday as a volunteer stylist for Wardrobe for Opportunity, which helps low income job seekers suit up for employment interviews, and was shocked at the size of Palin's bill. "She could have gotten a bitchin' wardrobe for like $25,000. She still would have looked good, looked professional and had designer pieces." Whether you have to impress one interviewer or a few hundred million, Lifehacker's here to help! Photo by AP/Ron Edmonds.

Value = ((Materials + Construction) * Classic Styling)/Price

Bargain doesn't mean cheap, it means value for your money. A pair of $1,200 designer shoes a year behind the times and marked down to $200 are a much bigger bargain than a pair of poorly constructed knockoffs for $50. And seriously, since when have a pair of bright red patent pumps with the three inch heels Palin favors gone out of style? "You can only really tell cheap with shoes and bags," Handschiegel advises.

A pair of Italian leather shoes with handling smudges from being on display can be fixed with shoe polish and last for years. A pair of knockoffs from Nine West might disintegrate in the next storm. "Either go low or high end, because the middle is a wasteland," Handschiegel warns. So drop the big change on footwear and oft-worn outerwear, with cheap basics, trendy items in light fabric and unique accessories filling in between. American Apparel has quality basics, made in America, Michelle Obama buys dresses at H&M, and Handschiegel has a $10 dress from Old Navy that gets constant compliments.

Marky Markdown Gives Good Vibrations

For her Wardrobe for Opportunity challenge, Handschiegel got a $300 from sponsor TJ Maxx — enough for two ackets, two pairs of shoes, a top and accessories. "And she looks fabulous," Handschiegel gushed. TJ Maxx carries department store brands at reasonable prices. "Retail markup is 200%," Handschiegel reports. "If you are paying retail, for the majority of what's in the market, you're an idiot." Loehmann's, Ross, and Century 21 all offer similar overstock bargains, as do outlet boutiques in the exurbs.

But you have to come early and come often to find the real gems — ask the stock clerks and cashiers for when new shipments are coming in, recommends Handschiegel. Good times are after the holiday shopping spree and when stores unload seasonal inventory (think swimsuits in September and sweaters in May). Clothes can be poorly displayed, chaotically sorted and over-handled, some items are perfectly good returns or quality control rejects with impercetable imperfections, and everything bears close inspection. But when you find that perfect pair of designer jeans unloaded by a local designer for more than half off, the effort is totes worth it.

The Sample Sale and Clothing Swap Diet

While free samples at the grocery store are a great way to freely consume calories, sample sales by designers and swap meets among strangers are a great way to burn energy — along excess aggression and maybe a few teeth. You haven't lived until you've literally come to fisticuffs over a soft tweed jacket or crisply turned chapeau, and who can resist bargain shoppers stripping to their skivvies in public to try on something? You can even find literally one-of-a-kind items, sometimes hand-made by the designers themselves. Put yourself on the mailing list at your favorite boutiques and with your favorite designers, and you'll get notified of seasonal sales.

Click to Buy Into the Socialite Clique

How did The Budget Fashionista manage to put together a wardrobe appropriate for making speeches and kissing babies for the same $2,500 the RNC spent on the Valentino jacket Plain wore at the convention? By finding bargains online, including Dillards, Overstock and even Wal-Mart — you'd think with former Wal-Mart senior advisor Terry Nelson as campaign manager, Palin would have at least dropped by one of the superstores for some socks and underwear. Handschiegel also recommends BlueFly, ShopBop and Zappos. The Juicy Couture track suits she lounges in? "Buy them on eBay," where you can find all sorts of designer brands at rock bottom prices.

Lots of online retailers also honor coupon codes. Handschiegel has gotten items up to half off when ordering online, including a $400 boutique sweater for $200 with a coupon code — she didn't even pay sales tax, since it was shipped from another state. For even bigger bargains, "some will let you stack codes," she advises. Codes can be found anywhere from print catalogs to Google searches, or at any number of coupon code clearinghouses online including RetailMeNot.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

While Palin recommends that we drill early and drill often in her home state of Alaska to help achieve energy independence, average Americans can help conserve resources by buying used clothes. "People have this idea that vintage is eclectic, but it's not like that," says Handschiegel. The super-fashionable discard perfectly good clothes when they go out of season, and let's face it, some stuff simply no longer fits — and their loss is your gain. Like Palin, I love the stuff they stock at Barney's. Except I only paid $40 for a classic wool tuxedo from Barney's at Thrift Town in San Francisco's Mission district, and another $30 to have it altered by a tailor in my neighborhood. And it's perfect for a White House state dinner.

Thrift stores are clearinghouses for hand-me downs, and it'll take some work to find the best bargains. Don't look for ironic retro-chic abominations, do look for suits, jackets and bags — quality clothes and accessories, well constructed, are always in style. Vintage boutiques are generally curated collections of the best items from thrift wholesalers, estate sales and bulk auctions — and, like Adorevintage, can be found online. Some shops, like Crossroads Trading, also get new clothes as designer remainders. Consignment shops carry better apparel, usually from fellow fashion plates looking to trade in old favorites so they can spend on the latest trends. You'll want to know a good tailor or seamstress to fix the fit.

"The fact that people want to have what they can't afford put us in the position we're in," Handschiegel mused. But there's no reason you should have to default on your home loan in order to look fabulous. And these tips are just a start — bargain shopping for clothes is a way of life (and like politics, sometimes a contact sport). What's your secret to dressing well on a thin dime?

Original here

Denver’s mysterious birthday billboards

Will who?

You may have noticed them around town, these maddeningly cryptic black billboards that display only one word: "WILL," decorated with a simple white hat resting on the bottom of the second "L."

At first, I assumed they must be political messages, because who else is posting billboards these days? "Will to work?" I thought, alluding to the "right to work" Amendment 47? Or perhaps this had something do with my "will to choose" or my "will to resist the advances of slimy lobbyists?"

Who knows? Luckily, there was a website listed at the bottom of the sign, Unfortunately, the site offered very little actual information.

"Will is turning 90 this November," it says. "And in those 90 years, Will has helped Denver students, workers, families and the community. There will be a surprise party revealing Will’s identity on Nov. 12 at the Governor’s Mansion. Check back each week for a clue about Will. E-mail with a guess on who Will is. If you are correct, you’ll win two free tickets to Comedy Works!"

Hmmm. Guesses sent in by alert readers included "William Herst" (could that be a reference to William Randolph Hearst, who happens to be dead?), Billy Graham (who actually is turning 90) and former Denver Mayor Bill McNichols (also deceased).

But I’m convinced the person/place/ thing has something to do with Denver Public Schools, because the website asks people to guess how many students Will helped graduate.

To offer your best guess, click here. If you guess right, you can be entered to win a "FREE iPod Touch or Nintendo Wii!" So get cracking. Where there's a Will, there's a way. -- Lisa Rab

Original here