Real Simpleanswers your questions.

By Real Simple
Updated March 20, 2006
Bob Hiemstra

Q. I am a 25-five-year-old who works for two nonprofit companies. I love my work, but unfortunately my budget doesn't allow for new clothes every season. What are some ways I can update my wardrobe with new classic pieces?

A. It sounds as if you may be missing some basics that are the foundation of every wardrobe. A pantsuit, for instance, is a good investment: It gives you the flexibility of wearing it as an ensemble when you need to look conservative and as separates that you can mix and match. The suit should be free of all details and in a solid color―or have a subtle stripe―so it won't look dated too soon. Pick one with a simple shaped jacket (one- to three-button styles are fine) and flat-front trousers with a straight or boot-cut leg.

Next, you'll need some other pieces to coordinate: a white button-down shirt, a turtleneck sweater, a cardigan, an A-line skirt, and, of course, black pants. When you're shopping on a budget it is best to stick to neutrals, such as black, brown, gray, and khaki. These colors transcend trends, and even if they're purchased inexpensively, they tend to look as if they're of higher quality than do other bright or light colors.

You can then easily add jolts of color to your wardrobe with accessories or thrifty layering pieces like tees and tanks. Once you have acquired these pieces, you will be able to gradually build on them with more special or trendier styles that suit your personality.

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