Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, the original What Not to Wear ladies, have a new series, Making Over America (TLC, August 21), and book, The Body Shape Bible.
"Is It Worth It?"
WHAT TO ASK YOURSELF:
Do I need it?
Identify wardrobe holes by separating what you do wear from what you don't, then make a shopping list of your needs (not wants). "Most women wear 20 percent of their wardrobe 80 percent of the time," says Trinny. "If you buy more things you'll actually wear, you will feel really positive about your closet."
Am I being honest with myself?
Don't talk yourself into a bad purchase. Analyze the mistakes in your giveaway pile: Great color, but wrong for your body? Nice style in a weird print? Once you're wise to your vulnerabilities, you can shop smarter.
Is the timing right?
"I hardly ever buy something straight away," Trinny says. This gives you the space to see if it truly belongs in your closet (hint: Can you think of five things you can wear it with?) or if you just wanted to reward yourself after a lousy day. You might also consider waiting for a price reduction (which is happening earlier in the season now). "You'll always find something cool on sale," according to Trinny. "You just have to be patient."
Does it suit my body?
Try stuff on, even if (especially if!) you've gained weight or you're in a rush. That said, if it isn't perfect, get it tailored. "Once it's taken in, a Zara jacket can look like Armani," says Susannah. Also, check that it flatters your shape: "If an item you try on is not hiding your defects and showing your assets, take it off!"
Is it comfortable?
Reject anything that itches or pinches. (But don't let comfort swamp style, Trinny warns. "Big old baggy stuff makes you look old before your time.")
Is it low-maintenance?
Watch out for wrinkle-prone fabric—time is money, and you don't want to spend it ironing. Check the label for care instructions; dry cleaning bills can add hundreds of dollars to the cost.
Does it have staying power?
See if you can picture it looking chic in ten years or more. "I'm 45," Trinny says, "and I'm starting to ask myself, 'Is this the kind of thing I can wear when I'm 60?'"
Get 6 strategies for smart online shopping and find the best designer deals