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20 ways to upgrade your style

It's a year to take stock -- especially of ourselves. Make what you project your project with our tips on what's trending and what's never out of style.

January 04, 2009|The Image Staff


Find the right color palette for you and stick to it.

In a time of reduced resources, we all need a strategy for looking great. Don't go into the mall or your closet blind; find out if the blue for you is teal, sky, sapphire or ice using style consultants Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo's new "Life in Color" book (see accompanying story).

Ditch those jeans and step it up.

We all need to dress for success these days. The easiest way to do that is by opting for more tailored looks. And no, that doesn't have to mean a poly-blend business suit. Several premium denim brands now have trouser styles, including Paige and Seven, but two of our favorites for great-fitting, cool-looking dress pants are Bishop of Seventh and Babakul.

Babakul features pants in menswear plaids and solids, with denim-like details such as slashed pockets and rivets, topstitching and eyelet or floral fabric peeking out of the pockets. Our favorite style is the Lily in gray plaid (on sale for $86 at

Bishop of Seventh offers trousers in several fits from classic to high-waisted, mid-waisted to boot-cut, in solid or pinstripe gabardine, even lemon and fuchsia linen. All are engineered with the same kind of twisting seams that make premium denim so butt-slimming. Check out the Varick pinstripe style ($270) at Fred Segal Fun in Santa Monica.

For tighter budgets, there's always Banana Republic (, which sells dress pants in three fits (Martin, Jackson and Ryan), sizes 00 to 16. The Martin sailor wide-leg style ($89) will carry you straight through to spring.

Dress responsibly.

Think of it as your personal style statement. More apparel companies than ever are committing to community-based production, fair trade and animal-free, recycled and/or organic products. EcoSkin ( is an L.A.-based line that features lots of versatile yet sexy-looking knit jersey tunic tops and dresses made from bamboo and spandex; Ecoist ( offers colorful purses made out of recycled newspapers, magazines and candy wrappers from fair-trade suppliers; Toms (, started right here in Venice, gives away one pair of canvas slip-ons for every pair sold to benefit children in need.

The big boys are getting in on the action too. Levi's and Gap have been offering organic jeans since 2007. Nike's Trash Talk shoe is made from recycled material. And Rogan Gregory's certified organic cotton Loomstate for Target line launches April 19.

For more ideas, EcoStiletto (eco, created in June by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, is one of our favorite guides to being chic and green.

Invest in an evening bag.

Oversized totes and hobos are for daytime. When you go out at night, downsize to something smaller that's more appropriate. Clutches are available just about everywhere now, but two of our favorite sources for evening bags are Lauren Merkin (lauren and Fiona Kotur Marin (kotur

Merkin's Louise clutches are big enough to hold a wallet, phone and car keys. They come in dozens of color combinations, in smooth, woven or patent leather ($200 to $395), or they can be customized. Kotur clutches come in vintage brocades originally woven for couture houses in the '60s and '70s ($308 to $375). But it's her J.B. Renna cracked-mirror minaudiere ($899) that we can't get enough of. In silver or gold, it's timeless and seasonless.

Keep it clean.

Expect 2009 to be a year of streamlining, cutting back and simplifying. That should apply to your clothes too. Forget things that are embroidered, embellished, tattoo-printed, foil-screened and Gothic fleur-de-lis-flourished. Think of the classics: the little black dress, the cashmere cardigan and capri pants. Nobody does them better than J.Crew (



Be on time.

If New York is known as the city that never sleeps, L.A. could be called the city that overslept. Stop blaming the traffic for being tardy for meetings or lunch. In her book "Never Be Late Again," author Diana DeLonzor estimates that most people underestimate how long it takes to do a task by 30% -- that includes how long it takes to drive from Hollywood to Los Feliz. And there's always that person who texts "I'm three blocks away," which usually means that he hasn't left yet.

To change your ways, try Get Friday (, a virtual assistant who will not only send you reminders like "Leave right now for lunch date!" but also handle those other tasks (scheduling and canceling appointments) that make you late. Get Friday's fees start at about $15 per hour (a variety of monthly plans reduce the hourly fee for heavy users); it also sends texts to your cellphone. (Old-fashioned watches and computer alarms work too.)

R.S.V.P. or R.I.P.

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