Fashion in January: De-drab yourself!

By Susan Martin / HOME & STYLE EDITOR

January 11, 2008

If the winter wardrobe blues have not hit you yet, give it time. They will. Between the dark drab colors and the salt-stained boots, cold weather clothes grow old – if not by January, then certainly by February. And if there is a break in the weather, as there was earlier this week, even the slightest shedding of winter garb can turn one almost giddy.

“After boots, boots, boots, you can wear shoes and tights again. After wearing so many turtlenecks, you can dare to wear a jewel- or V-neck,” said Debby Cambria, a former Jenss buyer who now does marketing for Embrace winter by wearing such classics as a Nordic-style sweater, above left (Lands’ End). Or think spring by adding a pretty color to your wardrobe (Talbots).

Buffalo Pharmacies.

And being able to wear a cotton shirt – versus all those heavy knits – “feels so good against the skin,” she said.

How anxiously does she anticipate spring each year?

“The first day over 50 degrees, I paint my toes and wear sandals. That’s my spring thing,” said Cambria, who also refuses to pack her sandals away until November — in anticipation of the long months ahead.

Adding a splash of color is another obvious solution to beating the winter doldrums. But while red cashmeres and green satins surfaced during the holidays, fashion turns drab again come January.

“We tend to buy darker neutrals for our fall and winter wardrobes, so you want to add a pop of color for some excitement. It can be a sweater, tee, turtleneck, a belt, a bag, a shoe — something that is bright and fun,” said Betsy Thompson, Talbots spokeswoman.

This season’s prevalence of gray clothing can be made less somber by adding soft shades of pink, blue, white, pale green and even yellow, for example.

Or, get even bolder by pairing brights — perhaps orange and red or red with purple, as Banana Republic showed for its holiday collection. Thompson offers these suggestions for winter dressing:

• Reach for something that really speaks to you. “It might have a great lining, a wonderful trim or fun buttons. Look for something that has a unique quality about it that you enjoy and gives you a lift,” she said.

Even an unexpected animal print can provide a muchneeded boost in the wardrobe department.

• In the mood to shop? “Think about buying something new you can wear now — and later. The best example is a new pair of jeans,” Thompson said.

If you usually wear flats, look for jeans with added length so you can wear them with heels for a change. Or experiment with a new style or wash.

• Sort through your closet: “January is such a great time to take stock of what you already own. Revisit your closet, clean it out and make a list of what you need,” Thompson said.

In the new book “Just Try It On!”: A Month by Month Guide to Shopping and Style,” veteran fashion writer Susan Redstone suggests the following: While some women scour the clearance racks in January, others may be better off skipping the sales, sorting out their own closets and waiting for fresh merchandise that is perfect for them in their search for a better wardrobe.

There are exceptions, however. (Who can resist a great-fitting cashmere sweater in a preferred color, a needed winter scarf or good gloves — greatly reduced?)

And consider this: “January should be your month for seeking new sneakers, sweats and athletic wear,” Redstone writes.

“You can’t get more motivated to restart your healthy living and exercise program than getting decked out in new workout gear,” she writes.

Other suggestions for beating the winter wardrobe blues:

Update your hair. Change your hairstyle. Change your color. Get highlights. Or treat yourself to a pedicure and manicure.

This also is a good time of year to clean out your makeup drawer and buy new. Who can’t use a fresh tube of lipstick in a great new shade?

Embrace the season’s styles: Go ahead. Picture yourself in the L.L. Bean catalog or a Ralph Lauren advertisement set in wintertime. The idea is to embrace those all-time classic winter looks — Nordic sweaters, chunky turtlenecks, earmuffs, headbands, apres-ski style boots, even hand muffs — rather than avoid them.

Whether your look is sporty chic — or more romantic with heavily embroidered scarves and sweeping coats — the idea is to grab a winter look and run with it, head-to-toe — without slipping on the ice, of course.

Upgrade your loungewear: Like new workout gear, sprucing up your lounging clothes can lift your spirits. Ditch the scrunchy socks with holes. Scrap the stretched-out, faded leggings. Slip into something soft and cozy — maybe velour — and hunker down with a good book.

Shine your jewelry. While buying a smashing new necklace or earrings to wear with your tired black turtleneck is one way to jump-start your January wardrobe, so, too, is sorting through and cleaning the jewelry you do own.

Talk about a great project for a winter’s day!

Of course you need to clean and care for fine and costume jewelry properly.

The Jewelry Information Center, a nonprofit trade association at, offers tips on cleaning as do other Web sites and books. A jeweler can help as well. And while you’re into polishing mode, shine your shoes. Those white salt stains are not attractive.

If all else fails, here is a final suggestion from Talbot’s Thompson: Shop your sister’s closet for something new. Then borrow it.

“You’re older now, so you won’t fight,” she said.