Reality ‘Check’

It’s hard to ignore the unrelenting news about our current economic disaster. Countless articles in newspapers and segments on local news stations, have been daily reporting on the abruptly changing spending habits of the consumer, and more than a few have reported on the epidemic of rash returns (those who felt guilty about spending money on anything not deemed a ‘necessity’ and quickly went back to return the item).

It is a challenging time to be involved in fashion. But having said that, I always love pointing out (not that I have to since everyone knows this by now) that having personal style, and looking great, is not predicated on spending an arm and a leg (in fact, you needn’t buy anything new if you are creative and think of new ways to wear favorite standbys and move around pieces in your closets). Most often, I use the fashion shows as a point of reference, taking tricks from the runways and applying them to my own pieces (which seems to be all the more pertinent now).

I have always loved the timeless appeal of black and white, but for many reasons, (which I enumerate in detail in my market report covering the spring 2009 collections, which should be up and running shortly), it seems all the more appealing now. Even the most basic basics can be made distinctive with just a few creative tricks. In addition, black and white always looks smart, intelligent, cool, and of course, works with all those basic black, or basic white pants, leggings, turtlenecks, t’s, shirts, which we all have hanging in our closets. And if you think the severe, pared down color combo can get boring or a bit repetitious, you can always add a punch of color (nothing looks better with black and white than red, chrome yellow, green, royal blue, hot pink, or even chic neutrals like beige, navy, brown, and gray). And sometimes it’s all about a great look-changing accessory.

Just to give you a few good examples of my most favorite recent purchases: the black and white ‘Ollie’ oxfords from which were on sale over the summer and cost about $18 (and never fail to elicit compliments), and a two toned wide cinch belt I found at the Express ( store at the South Street Seaport, on sale for $11 (wide black elastic with a gleaming white patent buckle). When I tried it on with several black coats, I found it instantly transformed them and added much needed pizzazz. While there, I also discovered a chic back belted pea jacket done in an oversized black and white houndstooth, lined in lipstick red, which is priced at $198. (I never met a check I didn’t like)

Speaking of which, the weather is about to abruptly change and that means it’s time to think about a coat. So, if you are not among those who have sworn off buy anything, but you’re just trying to be frugal, I have some suggestions that won’t set you back more than $225 (and some cases will cost under $100). Aside from the reasonable price and their short (above the knee and higher) versatile lengths, what these coats have in common is that they are all rendered in that always wonderful combination of black and white: more specifically, variations on the classic, timeless houndstooth check.

If you click on to, you will find Via Spiga’s houndstooth ‘Carso’ belted coat ($225); a Michael by Michael Kors above the knee belted coat with matching belt ($178.50); and Soia & Kyo’s short belted coat for $183.60. Macy’s ( is offering an exclusive Tommy Hilfiger black and white houndstooth trench for $198, and Nordstrom’s has Coffee Shops’ low belted houndstooth jacket ($98). But for the money, nothing can beat Target’s belted black and white houndstooth coat (which looks similar to Michael’s) which is priced at $59.99.

Some good suggestions for accessories if you want to keep the black and white theme going and want to make it graphic: Target has Merona’s black and white striped and solid black long sleeved cotton turtlenecks ($9.99) which are perfect for layering, and within the new Jonathan Saunders collection, there is a black and white color block sleeveless cotton ‘tuxedo’ blouse which comes with a narrow chrome yellow belt ($24.99). Payless is offering (, a graphic buffalo checked fringed scarf ($12.99), a knitted black and white striped narrow scarf with fringed trim ($9.99), both of which you might want to buy in duplicates to make them a bit more luxurious, and Alice + Olivia’s chic spectator style white canvas messenger bag trimmed with black patent leather ($40).

Believe me, these are just a few suggestions. “Seek and ye shall find!”

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. I’m happy to see that you’re keeping the economical situation in mind and adding affordable pieces. Anyone could agree with you on black and white always being great together. I wear it with black skinny jeans, a plain long-sleeved shirt with black pointy heels. I also agree that one doesn’t need to shop if they broaden their minds to their closets. At times I would add things together and love how they look and couldn’t help but to think “Why didn’t I see this great match before..?!”

  2. I love check fashion I have some left from about 9- 10 tears ago which I meant to throw out ,so I guess I should see if any of it is still relevant today

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