Spend less, look great

Dec 11, 2009 at 1:34 p.m. ET

Happy New Year! And, happy new YOU, because the New Year is the best excuse ever to update your wardrobe and amp up your style. That said, it's a pretty wallet-skimping time, so we have to be careful. Here's some fashion advice to help you spend less but stay super-fashionable.

Woman sewing at home

"Up cycle" your closet

Project Runway has given all of us craft fever. More people are learning how to sew and make their own personalized clothing and accessories. DIY fashion and home décor projects are not our grandmothers' hobby anymore -- turns out, it's an affordable way for frugal fashionistas to achieve new looks, or tailor ones we're tired of, for much less.

My Style
  1. Upgrade what you already have. Get crafty and make stylish alterations to styles you are tiring of – it'll be like having all new clothes!
  2. Get cozy --  in a new coat. Investment pieces are not guilty pleasures, they are smart buys that you will have for years to come. When will you ever NOT need a warm coat in a cold climate?
  3. Transcend the seasons – with transitional clothes. Layer your summer dresses under blazers, and make them hot looks for fall!
  4. These boots are made for walking: And so are you. A great pair of warm boots will a staple this season – and every one to follow.
  5. Accessories are the cheapest way to upgrade your style, and look trendy. You can add or take away baubles and belts as the occasion demands.

Be warm for seasons to come

A warm coat is the key element to any winter wardrobe, and this season, it's all about military-inspired jackets, double-breasted pea coats, plaid trenches, quilted vests and parkas in classic and bold colors. A great coat can last several seasons, and that makes it the wisest frugal purchase of all. Try to keep an eye on private sale sites like Ideeli or Rue La La, where you often can find designer-brand coats marked down as much as 80 percent.

Layer it on

Changing seasons doesn't have to mean discarding one wardrobe for another. Winter clothes can be bulky and rather cumbersome once you come in from the cold. I'm a fan of layering: Add slim-fitting cardigans or cropped blazers to your summer tunics.  Increasing the times you're able to wear an item gives it increased value (think in terms of cost per wear). Always make sure that your second layer complements the neckline of your bottom layer.

Step out in style

Boots are a fashion staple, and winter boots are a life necessity. Your toes will be a lot less cute with frostbite, and just about all coats and dresses look hot with tall leather boots. Always choose your winter footwear based on your activity and terrain, and not solely choose by sexy factor. They must be comfortable, versatile and warm. If it fulfills all these criteria, you'll get your money's worth, be sexy and be warm all winter long. Some of my fave styles that will carry you through the season: Bohemian, knee high, over-the-knee and slouch boots.

Embrace accessories

Accessories are key to affordable style. Pair a season-old dress with a bright scarf, a statement pendant or sexy belt, and you are done. Blah hair day? Cover it with a hot beret. Accessories are affordable, can be incredibly unique and are a great way to stay stylish.

Specs appeal

Let's face it: Glasses are a fashion staple and an accessory all their own. In fact, many people have multiple frames to match their outfits, like shoes.  We're not talking about the granny glasses of old, but "statement glasses." Be sure to try them on. Wearing the wrong glasses can make you look old. Look for frames with an upsweep to give you an instant facelift (with no recovery time!).