Let me preface this by stating that as a long-time fashion editor, I am obsessed with clothing and fashion.
But I am equally obsessed with finding ways to get around the high price of dressing: preferring alternative chic.
I have come to realize that looking good and up to the minute can be achieved relatively inexpensively if you apply imagination, creativity and knowledge.
Look at the most important trends seen on recent runways, as well as those that are being worn and embraced by the fashionable: most new looks are more about small gestures (as they say, "God is in the details") and little touches, than having to buy new designer clothes.
All the trimmings
Well, it just so happens you can find items at notion stores that are perfect for feminine trends like buttons, ribbons, flowers, feathers, sequins, crystals and every kind of trimming imaginable.
Two of my favorites happen to be Greenberg & Hammer (24 west 57 street, New York, 10019, 1- 800- 955-5155, 212- 246 2835, ), and M & J Trimming, 37th and Sixth avenue, 212 391-9072, whose website boasts you will find "everything from buttons to boas".
DIY floral touches
My suggestions for do-it-yourself designer floral looks:
Every notion shop sells plastic, silk, or fabric flowers (that can be easily pinned on) in an array of colors, sizes, and shapes. Add one or more to a lapel of a jacket or coat. Affix one to a silk cord and tie, choker style, around your neck. Or if you are really bold, you can buy several large ones and cover an entire t-shirt with the garland in the manner of Viktor & Rolf. According to Greenberg & Hammers President, Frank Piazza, their flowers range in price from about $1.50 to $35, and camellias sell for $7.50. The camellia -- an iconic Chanel signature which can cost well into the three figures -- can be found at most notion shops for less than $25.
One of the easiest ways to get the expensive and timeless Chanel look without buying the label, is by changing buttons (another notion shop staple).
Substitute expensive-looking gold or gold and pearl buttons for the nondescript ones already on your simple black (navy, ivory, pink, or tweed) jacket or coat, and youre all set.
Just dont forget to add ropes of pearls, your favorite black and white spectator (or cap toe) pump, and you will look like a million (even if you spent only dollars).
Buttons as a designers trademark, are not just the province of Chanel.
If you, like myself, are a fan of Marc Jacobs, you can acquire his sought-after look without his hefty price tags.
Marcs signature has traditionally been his love and use of vintage-inspired, oversized, contrasting buttons.
In fact, I almost purchased a Marc by Marc Jacobs denim pea jacket selling for about $400 until it dawned on me that its most standout feature was the large, round tan plastic buttons that smartly matched the items top stitching.
You can recreate one of Marc's look from by replacing boring buttons on your military-inspired officer's coat or pea jacket with distinctive buttons.