Don't shop for one body part—a bottom you want to hide, for instance—but for your whole shape. Most of us fall into one of three categories:
Type A: These women, who are smaller on top than on the bottom, want to draw the eye upward. They should avoid busy prints on the lower body, as well as jackets that cut across the widest part of the hips. Empire-cut dresses and boatneck shirts often look very nice on this figure. Vintage clothes from the seventies—such as A-line dresses and skirts—are cut well for type A women.
Type B: Women who are roughly the same at the shoulders and hips with a smaller waist want styles that skim their hourglass curves. Oval-necked shirts, wide-legged pants, and torso-skimming dresses usually flatter this body type. Styles from the fifties are good for type B women who like vintage clothes.
Type C: With shoulders broader than hips and a straightish waistline, C women often look great in tailored shirts and virtually any kind of pants, except pleated trousers (which look terrible on most everyone). Sixties-era shift dresses flatter most type C women.
— Kendall Farr, author of The Pocket Stylist
Step 2. "Lease" Luxury Goods
A $9,000 Hermès Birkin bag is on the cover of Daniel Nissanoff's book FutureShop. Why? "Because it's one of the few handbags you can use, then sell for a profit," he says.
Well, sort of. A few years ago a black crocodile Birkin did sell at auction for $64,800, but it had a custom diamond-covered clasp. (Other used Birkins go for about $7,000.) The point Nissanoff is trying to make is that eBay and other online bidding sites are transforming America into a "temporary ownership society." The way he sees it, Manolo Blahnik pumps no longer cost $500: They cost $500 minus the $200 you'll sell them for when you get tired of wearing them. That's a savings of 40 percent, and the online buyer gets the shoes of her dreams for 60 percent off.
Of course, a person can't count on a buyer's being there when she's tired of her $800 stroller or $500 pair of shoes. According to Nissanoff, though, most people have about $2,200 worth of merchandise they no longer use in their homes. He suggests people take these castoffs to a drop-off store, such as I Sold It (i-soldit.com; Auction It Today (AuctionitToday.com), or Snappy Auctions (SnappyAuctions.com). "They'll pack up your stuff and sell it for you on eBay," says Nissanoff. They take about 30 percent of the profit, but if you earn more than $15 an hour, the time you save is worth it. And with the money you make, you can go on eBay, Craigslist, and Portero, a company Nissanoff cofounded to market new and preowned high-end items, to find the luxury goods of your (discounted) dreams.
Step 3. Cashmere 101
Sweater-quality cashmere is made from the under-hair of goats raised in China and Mongolia. The highest-quality hair can be woven into an extremely soft fabric that can be thick or thin, depending on the number of strands that are plied, or twisted together. But it will always have a beautiful drape and no shine, and will rarely pill. The raw product costs $100 per kilogram (10 times the price of wool), so it's virtually impossible to make a top-quality cashmere sweater that retails for less than $150. Low-quality cashmere is rougher to the touch, will not hold its shape as well, and may look uneven in its knit. If you see cashmere on sale for too good to be true prices, check for bumpiness in the yarn, sheen on the garment, and poor drape. The number of ply can be confusing: Some exquisite scarves are made from single-ply cashmere; the most versatile weight is double-ply. Three- or four-ply items are not necessarily high quality but are heavy and warm.
— Karl Spilhaus, president, Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute
Next: How to shop if you're losing weight