The age of fashion excess may be over, but that doesn't mean you declare a moratorium on new clothes, says Adam. You can still shop, at whatever level you can afford (these days many inexpensive pieces don't look it). The key is how:

1. Begin at home. First, "shop your closet": Clean it out; give away anything ill-fitting, outworn, or outdated; and assemble an organized list of what you need.

2. Banish plastic. Set a spending limit for each foray, and take cash in that amount. Period.

3. Shop alone. You'll be more focused. Plus, fun as it is to shop with friends, sometimes you egg each other on to make silly purchases.

4. Befriend salespeople. They know when prices will be slashed.

5. Apply the versatility test. When considering a purchase, ask yourself: "Can it work in five different looks?" (It helps to choose clothes in season-bridging fabrics like jersey, gabardine, or wool crepe.)

6. Be selectively cheap. Lower-priced versions of trendy items or basics like T-shirts and button-downs are fine. Put real money into coats, shoes, and handbags (essential for a strong first impression).

7. Do it for love. Adopt the European practice of owning a few good things. Pick clothes that make you really happy; leave the rest on the rack.


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