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Fashion Sense

One of my favorite packing tips is to plan a travel wardrobe around either black or brown accessories so that you don’t have to pack multiple shoes, belts and handbags. Going either all black or all brown cuts decisions in half and, as you know by now, organizing is all about informed decisions.

The worst fashion advice I’ve ever gotten was to add navy blue to my wardrobe. I bought a suit circa 1990. Suddenly, I needed shoes and a bag. And not simply shoes and a bag, but in the right shade of navy and the right season and weight for the suit; in other words, fashion unicorns.

Fashion magazines and clothing store sales people will try to convince you that you can’t exist without grey or that cobalt is the new neutral; that you need both yellow gold and silver jewelry and belt buckles; that skinny jeans are passé and wide leg trousers are au courant.

The same magazine that stated in May that platform shoes were out, came back in June with a feature on fabulous platforms. Magazines applauded high-waisted bell-bottom jeans, then ridiculed Jessica Simpson for wearing them. You’ve got to be very careful about which fashion trends to buy into or you will end up with an empty bank account, a stuffed closet and nothing to wear.

Unless you have a vast clothing and organizing budget, nothing will create space, time and financial disorder faster than following fashion trends. Limiting your wardrobe extends beyond quantity to palette and style. Most of us can’t have our full-on Steampunk regalia, Hamptons prep, Boho chic, cowgirl fringe and work clothes in terms of both space and budget.

Making some choices about what not only flatters our body but also what suits our day-to-day activities is essential. We need to develop a good sense of self before we go shopping and enlist a couple trusted friends to give us the thumbs up or thumbs down on what we buy or what we hold on to in the closet (see “Sex and the City, The Movie,” for the scene illustrating Carrie’s friends helping her clean out her famous closet).

Sometimes, age helps us make some of those tough decisions as to what to consign or donate from our closets. In my late 20s, I finally let go of a Renaissance Faire costume. I’d been to one Renaissance Faire in 1984 and had a great time even without a costume. So I put together a great costume for the next Renaissance Faire I might attend someday. That day never came, and so the dream, alas, died and the outfit moved on to Ye Olde Goodwill.

One choice women might make as we age is whether to continue to dye our hair and wear yellow gold jewelry or to go grey and switch to white gold and silver jewelry. This is an expensive decision for women who spent their younger years building an 18K collection, but the women I know who have done this are so happy without the near constant headache of roots. Also, the amount of time and money they save in salon appointments eventually pays for the jewelry.

Hand down the yellow gold to daughters and granddaughters before their hair turns grey. Or sell it before the styles are too outdated. We all hold on to fashion from our youth for far too long. Sometimes things truly do go out of style. Remember puka shells?

Now in my early 50s, there will be no more cropped tops and fewer sleeveless garments. Skinny jeans may have to be retired sometime soon, and I’m giving my super-distressed boyfriend jeans the stank-eye — they will be in the donation bag by the end of the summer. But I’m basing my decisions on what works for me, not what Nordstrom sales representatives and fashion magazines try to sell me.

I subscribe to and love Vogue, but Vogue exists to sell us stuff we don’t need and many of us can’t afford. From my perspective, breathing room in the closet, a manageable credit card bill and getting dressed with ease each morning is the ultimate fashion luxury.