Tracy McMillan models summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Tracy McMillan, 47
Her Book
Why You're Not Married...Yet (Random House), a straight-talking self-help guide; it started as a Valentine's Day—themed blog post that went viral.

Shopping M.O.
"I grew up poor, so for me being thrifty is a really important part of being successful," says the Los Angeles-based writer. "I love to buy vintage clothes because they're unique and cost-effective."

Best Find
A $59 navy pinstriped blazer from Zara that McMillan bought on sale in 2008. "It makes everything look pulled together," she says. "I'm actually trying to find someone to make a copy of it because it's such a wardrobe staple for me."

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "I'm scrupulous about sunscreen, but live in sunny California, so I still get hyperpigmentation. I need a foundation that evens out everything but is sheer enough that it doesn't look heavy when I'm not wearing other makeup—and I'm usually not."
The denouement: A foam foundation saves the day, camouflaging McMillan's dark spots without settling into pores or fine lines. For the subtlest veil of color, she can apply it with a damp makeup sponge, only where necessary (avoiding areas like her chin that don't need evening out).
The drugstore hero: Maybelline New York Dream Nude Airfoam in Caramel ($11)

Ali & Kris dress, $20; for stores.
Seven bracelet, $17;
Nila Anthony clutch, $34;
Forever 21 wedges, $26.80;
TOTAL: $97.80
Alix Ohlin models summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Alix Ohlin, 40
Her Book
Inside (Knopf), a novel that details how four characters intersect after one saves another's life.

Shopping M.O.
"I don't like to pay full price, and I keep my look simple and understated," says Ohlin, an associate professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. "I prefer to shop online, on sites that have designer pieces at a discount."

Best Find
"My mother's gold brocade and green velvet prom dress from 1958, which I wore to my own prom," says Ohlin. "It was so beautiful and I felt so special in it that I still have it. And it was free—the best price of all."

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "My dream is for dewy, glowing skin that looks really natural—like I got it from eating organic and drinking lots of water. I don't want to wear foundation."
The denouement: Blush alone—blended on the apples of the cheeks—makes Ohlin's complexion instantly glow just as if she subsisted mainly on locally grown kale and green tea. A cream formula melts into her skin so it doesn't look makeup-y.
The drugstore hero: L'Oréal Paris Magic Smooth Soufflé Blush in Plume ($13)

Joe Fresh sweater, $19; 212-764-1730.
Mango bracelet, $24.99;
Mango skirt, $54.99;
TOTAL: $98.98
Jennifer Gilbert models cheap summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Jennifer Gilbert, 43
"My book chronicles a life described through events—the ones you plan and the ones you don't."

Her Book
I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag (Harper), a memoir that details her comeback from a horrific stabbing attack in 1991.

Shopping M.O.
"I definitely mix high- and low-end designers," says Gilbert, who also works as an event planner in NYC. "I don't mind spending money on clothing that I love and will love 20 years from now. But for trendy items, I shop at Zara, H&M, and Forever 21."

Best Find
A Donna Karan dress Gilbert nabbed for $75 at a sample sale. "It's a long black silk jersey halter style, low cut in front and dramatic," she says. "I've had it for nearly 20 years, and I still wear it at least once a year."

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "I love richly pigmented lipsticks, but they can be a little overwhelming on my full lips—especially during the day."
The denouement: A sheer stain comes to the rescue—Gilbert can have fun with bright colors on her lips without looking too made-up. (A stain also wears off evenly and won't bleed over the course of a long day the way a creamy lipstick can.)
The drugstore hero: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Adore ($9) dress, $69.95;
Merona for Target belt, $12.99;
Agabhumi bracelet, $16;
TOTAL: $98.94
Melanie Gideon models cheap summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Melanie Gideon, 48
Her Book
Gideon's novel Wife 22 (Ballantine) tells the story of a woman whose marriage of nearly 20 years is threatened when she participates in an anonymous study on love.

Shopping M.O.
"I love coats and shoes," says Gideon, who is based in Oakland. "I believe in a fabulous coat with a great pair of boots, because it doesn't matter what you wear underneath."

Best Find
A Dosa half slip trimmed with handmade daisy lace that she got for 75 percent off. "It's a staple in my summer wardrobe—I wear it under sundresses with just the lace peeking out, and I also wear it alone as a skirt," she says.

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "I'm Indian and Armenian—dark under-eye circles are in my DNA. I'm always trying different concealers, but so many of them look gray against my olive skin."
The denouement: A yellow-based concealer that's slightly warmer (but not lighter) than Gideon's natural skin tone softens her dark circles without looking chalky. A creamy formula that comes in a compact or pot gives the most coverage.
The drugstore hero: E.L.F. Cover Everything Concealer in Tan ($2)

H&M dress, $59.95; for stores.
Liz Claiborne necklace, $20;
Colour Me cuff, $15;
Forever 21 ring, $4.80;
TOTAL: $99.75
Amy Sohn models cheap summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Amy Sohn, 38
"I try to portray what really goes on in marriages. Often what people present publicly has no relationship to the real thing."

Her Book
Motherland (Simon & Schuster)—a follow-up novel to 2009's Prospect Park West chronicles a group of New York City parents at a crossroads in their relationships.

Shopping M.O.
"I like independent designers and vintage," says the Brooklyn-based writer. "I go high-end for dresses, but if I need a black cardigan, I'll buy one at H&M and just replace it when it wears out."

Best Find
A black vintage crepe dress with a portrait neckline she bought four years ago. "It's by a label I've never heard of," she says. "I wear it everywhere—to dinners, book parties, and readings."

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "I have to use so much concealer to hide my dark circles that I wind up with equally unappealing white circles. But when I skip the concealer, everyone asks me if I got enough sleep."
The denouement: Instead of trying to cover up her dark circles, enhancing Sohn's gorgeous lashes makes the discoloration underneath her eyes much less noticeable.
The drugstore hero: Rimmel London Volume Flash ScandalEyes mascara ($7)

Jaclyn Smith top, $16.99; for stores.
H&M skirt, $59.95; for stores. earrings, $15;
Forever 21 bangle, $5.80;
TOTAL: $97.74
Emily Giffin models cheap summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Emily Giffin, 40
Her Book
Where We Belong (St. Martin's), a novel about a TV producer whose carefully constructed life is shaken when the now-teenage daughter she gave up for adoption appears on her Manhattan doorstep.

Shopping M.O.
"I shop once a season and I try to buy good pieces that I know won't go out of style for years and years," says Atlanta-based Giffin, whose first book, Something Borrowed, was made into a film starring Kate Hudson in 2011. "But somehow I always find an excuse for new shoes!"

Best Find
A Michael Kors navy cardigan with gold buttons. "It was originally $800, but I got it for half price," says Giffin. "I've worn it more than 400 times over the years, as it's my go-to for flights. So that's less than $1 per wear, and it still looks new."

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "I've just started wearing makeup regularly in the past couple of years. I'd love to play up my eyes more, but I'm intimidated by all eye makeup beyond mascara."
The denouement: Lining Giffin's blue-green eyes in a deep eggplant color makes them sparkle—and it's a simple three-step process: Drag a skinny liner brush through the shadow, then trace it along the upper lashline; use a Q-tip to smudge the color up and out.
The drugstore hero: L'Oréal Paris Infallible 24 HR Eye Shadow in Perpetual Purple ($8)

Zara Basic dress, $79.90;
Merona for Target belt, $12.99;
Forever 21 ring, $5.80;
TOTAL: $98.69
Natalie Bakopoulos models cheap summer fashion

Photo: Sergio Kurhajec

Natalie Bakopoulos, 39
"To capture a family story set against a historical backdrop for my novel, I read a lot of poetry and nonfiction of the '60s and '70s."

Her Book
The Green Shore (Simon & Schuster), Bakopoulos's debut novel, follows the personal and political lives of a family living under a military dictatorship after a 1967 coup d'état in Greece.

Shopping M.O.
"I like to shop online," says Bakopoulos, a lecturer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "I might say I choose quality over quantity. But impulse buys are fun."

Best Find
"A pair of dark brown Frye motorcycle boots that were half off," she says. "I wear them all the time. I've had them for ten years now and just keep getting them resoled."

Her Makeup Story
The conflict: "I'd love to achieve that sultry, French I've-been-making-love-all-afternoon-and-still-look-perfect effect—but I keep coming back to the same old tinted moisturizer and sheer lip gloss."
The denouement: A soft black pencil eyeliner gives Bakopoulos the Gallic glamour she craves. Traced along her upper and lower lashlines, concentrating the color on the outer corners makes her eyes appear more wide-set. The liner naturally smudges, so she has a soft, smoky look by afternoon (even if she's only spent the day toiling at her computer).
The drugstore hero: CoverGirl Queen Collection Vivid Impact Eyeliner in Midnight ($7.50)

Forever 21 sweater, $17.80;
Cult Candy skirt, $50 (use code OPRAH1M for free membership);
Forever 21 shoes, $27.80;
TOTAL: $95.60

Next: O's summer beauty handbook