Summer fashion: Stay sunny, stylish on a shoestring

Thrifty strategies include incorporating items already in your closet




Personal stylist Alexandra Fasilis of Vancouver plucked a neglected 1993 floral scarf out of client Jeniene Mercer's closet to update Mercer's look for the summer. Floral prints are hot this year, while lightweight scarves are a good year-round accessory for the Pacific Northwest's moderate summers.

Jeniene Mercer of Vancouver models one of summer's bright color trends with a dress purchased by her personal stylist, Alexandra Fasilis of Vancouver.

Bright colors.

Mixing clashing colors.

Patterns: geometric, floral, tribal.

Mixing patterns.

Mid-length skirts.


Bright colors.

Mixing clashing colors.

Patterns: geometric, floral, tribal.

Mixing patterns.

Mid-length skirts.


Vancouver resident Jeniene Mercer, 50, received a floral scarf as a gift from her husband, Frank, in 1993. This year, she’ll sport it as part of her updated summer look.

“It reminds me of the prints in Dolce & Gabbana’s summer line,” said Alexandra Fasilis, Mercer’s personal stylist and owner of Alexandra Sophia Design in Vancouver.

The vintage-style print with coral-colored roses offset with purple sprigs and muted green leaves embodies one of summer’s hottest trends and will cost Mercer nothing. And that’s the point, Fasilis said. With a few smart strategies, updating one’s summer look doesn’t have to cost a lot. That can include everything from working with what’s already in one’s closet to swapping old garments for something “new” at a consignment store. You can skip the personal stylist with these five steps to sizzling summer fashion on a small budget:

• Sift through the closet for items that match today’s trends.

Experts recommend going through the closet and identifying what already works for summer before setting out on any shopping trips or online purchases. Flip through a fashion magazine or do an Internet search under “summer fashion trends” to look at photos of what’s hot this summer.

Bright colors, such as coral and aqua, and patterns — including polka dots, animal print, floral, geometric and tribal — provide a vivid palette for this summer.

Pencil skirts, other mid-length skirts, and cuffed trousers and shorts also are summer staples this year.

Next, scrutinize existing clothes for characteristics that illustrate current trends. When in doubt, consult the experts. Se

attle’s from blogger and fashion consultant Angie Cox provides an online global community where people can post photos of themselves and their clothes and seek feedback from Cox or the some 250,000 monthly visitors to the online community. There is no charge for membership.

• Try new combinations.

In the spirit of the post-recession frugality, nearly any pairing goes. Clashing colors and pattern mixing, a former fashion no-no, are now en vogue, Cox said. That provides new opportunities for pairing separates and creating a fresh look out of what’s already in the closet.

“The economic downturn may have helped shape the pattern-mixing trend,” Cox said. “Think of how many extra outfits you can create if you are prepared to mix up your patterned separates into one outfit. The pattern mixing (decreases) the cost per wear of the item.”

An example of the trend was recently displayed along the walls of Vancouver’s Plato’s Closet consignment shop. A mannequin was dressed in a Southwestern-print mini with a geometric-print tank. A rule of thumb is to tie the pieces together with a dominant color. In this case, it was a bright pink. To bring out the pink, Plato’s Closet employees added a bright pink fringe purse with a long strap and a Southwest-print belt.

“You can work with what you have,” said Mary Foster, assistant manager at Plato’s Closet. “You might even be able to wear your favorite shirt with your favorite skirt” — even if they’re different colors or different patterns.

• Repurpose.

Maxi skirts, which are long skirts that go to the ankle, had a rare appearance earlier this year. They’re now on their way out, replaced by mid-length skirts known as midis. A shorter hemline means a new skirt isn’t necessary. Some basic sewing skills allow a maxi skirt to easily become a midi. Hem the skirt to just under the kneecap. Another easy sewing project is to add cuffs to existing pants or shorts, Fasilis said.

• Identify wardrobe gaps.

After a wardrobe inventory has been completed and new combinations explored, it’s time to decide whether to buy anything to tie existing garments together.

Make a list of needs and desires.

If you have money for one item, Cox suggested an accessory.

“An accessory is a very good way to change up your look without spending a lot of money,” Cox said.

A scarf like Mercer’s is one example. Fasilis paired Mercer’s scarf with a blue blouse and black pencil skirt.

A scarf can exhibit a trendy print or color, change the look of multiple outfits and provide warmth during chilly mornings and evenings, Fasilis said.

The Pacific Northwest’s climate is a factor to consider when identifying a list of items to buy. Skimpy summer separates or strapless dresses may not be the best investment, Cox said.

Instead, choose clothes that can do double duty.

Some examples are a brightly-hued blouse that can be worn under a sweater in the fall or trousers, which can be worn in any season, Cox said.

• Shop.

When it’s time to buy, start with the lowest-cost options. One of those may be swapping clothes with a friend, or consigning existing clothes and using the credit to purchase “new” items at a consignment store such as Plato’s Closet.

Theresa Curran, 48, a coffee service saleswoman from Boring, Ore., said she sifts through her wardrobe every season and discards items that are outdated, don’t work for her or that she’s bored of. One way she updates her look without spending a lot of money is to sell her unwanted clothes at Plato’s Closet and use the cash to buy items to update her wardrobe. (The Vancouver store is in her sales territory). She said she often finds garments for less than $10 that would cost her more at a department store.

“One time, I found Nike running shoes for $12,” she said.

Fashion experts recommend sticking with classic items that can span multiple seasons or be easily modified. If a trend is appealing, choose a trendy piece from a low-cost store such as Forever 21, Fasilis said. Buy the look for less because it might only last for the season, she said.