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Step 10. Heed These Rules: What a Personal Shopper Wishes You Knew
Most department stores have no minimum purchase and don't charge for a personal shopper service, but if you're feeling embarrassed about your budget, explain exactly how much you have to spend when you make your appointment. During your first meeting, tell your shopper what you're looking for (a dress for a special occasion or a new wardrobe) and give her an idea of your lifestyle—your job, what you do for fun, etc. Then ask, "Where do we start?" It should be a fun experience, a treat, though when you first meet, she might make a few suggestions—a new haircut, different makeup, or even a new bra to make your old clothes look better. But she'll also know which styles will work best for you and where to find them in the store. It's important to find someone you can identify with. You're free to interview until you meet a person who suits your personality. Trust is key.

— Betty Halbreich, author of Secrets of a Fashion Therapist

Step 11. Shop at a Friend's House
Some of today's fastest growing fashion retailers aren't retailers at all. They're your friends and neighbors who've become home-based reps for clothiers who sell only through private trunk shows. This fall Bill Blass is joining companies such as Doncaster, the Worth Collection, Nina McLemore, and the Carlisle Collection in direct-market fashion. In fact, the Blass New York fall 2006 bridge collection ("bridge" refers to clothes that are a notch or so below designer wear in price but higher than mass market) won't be sold in a single store. Think Avon or Tupperware parties, but for clothes. Reps for larger designers tend to sell out of their homes, but designers with smaller collections, such as Jennifer George, will bring their trunk show right to your house (if you promise to have 30 friends stop by over two days).

Direct-marketed collections tend to be more classic than trendy, with pieces that mix and match season to season, and their prices can be up to 25 percent lower than department store bridge collections. To contact, go to: billblassnewyork.com, doncaster.com, worthny.com, nina mclemore.com, carlislecollection.com, and jennifergeorgenyc.com.

Step 12. Take 3 Pounds Off Your Midsection Now
Cut out the front pockets of your pants. They're probably bunching as you move around.

— Finola Hughes, host of Style Network's How Do I Look?

More Shopping Strategies: Timeless versus trendy: How to figure out if it's a good bet

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