THE BLOG
09/05/2012 06:27 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2012

How to Determine If a Fashion Trend Will Work for You

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Many women loathe trendy clothing. Some hate spending money on garments that may eventually feel like wearable embarrassments. Others prefer to stick to eternally classic items and avoid gambling on of-the-moment pieces. A few wish to circumvent the whole "mutton dressed as lamb" thing. All of these constitute logical, reasonable explanations for eschewing trends.

But even trend-eschewers, trend-avoiders, and avid trend-haters should consider keeping tabs on current fashion trends. At least on a limited-investment, low-impact level. After all, trends are subject to personal interpretation and can be a catalyst for dressing creatively. The fall/winter season's trends include such broad categories as pant suits, burgundy, military, leather, and winter white. There are as many ways to interpret these trends as there are women in the world! Each trend on the list encompasses a whole universe of garments, accessories, colors, sizes, cuts, fabrics, and styles. Trends in dressing are often conflated with trendy garments. If you don't like printed pants or peplum blouses, then skip 'em. The broader trends, however -- those that describe varied styles of dressing and types of garments -- are often worth investigating and exploring.

Why? Because maintaining awareness of trends helps keep your own look current, which is important even if you prefer to stick to the classics. Consider the basic black blazer, an item that 60 bajillion style experts have blessed as a "must-have." Say you invested in a gorgeous Donna Karan blazer in 1983. Would you still wear that blazer today, with its long lines, exaggerated lapels, and enormous shoulder-pads? Shapes change, construction changes, fabric technology changes. And keeping abreast of those changes will help ensure that your style and wardrobe don't appear unintentionally dated.

Once you begin monitoring seasonal fashion trends, you may find your interest piqued. Even if you've spent years scoffing at passing fads and feeling sartorially superior, tracking what's hot now may begin to influence you in subtle ways. You may adjust how you style what you already own, or you may feel inspired to haul out an old garment that's been languishing unworn. If a particular trend truly sparks your interest, you may even find yourself excited to the point of considering a trend-driven purchase. If you're standing on the brink, yet feeling hesitant about spending on an item that may lose its lustre quickly, ask yourself these questions:

Does it work within your current style?
Many women unwittingly shop for their imaginary selves, and trendy items often coax forth ideas about how we wish we could dress. But buying garments and accessories that have no relationship whatsoever to your current dressing preferences, lifestyle, and figure will only lead to buyer's remorse. Before investing in a trend, make sure it will slip seamlessly into your existing wardrobe. Can you envision at least three outfits that incorporate the trendy item? Can you wear this item to the office and on the weekend? Does it work with your current style?

Is the trend broad?
Again, there is a difference between a dressing trend and a trendy garment. Trendy pieces that are distinctive, challenging, and showy may be cast aside after a single season's wear, but pieces that fit within trend categories yet are relatively timeless are more likely to endure. Go for the broad strokes: Colors, fibers, and cuts of garment that are deemed "in style" for the season constitute safe bets for the gun-shy.

Can you find an affordable version?
Items that are trendy now are not actually NEW, they're merely "in favor." And since they've been made, loved, and worn before, that means you can nearly always pick them up used. Consider thrifting for trendy items or hit eBay for an array of used options. If going the used route doesn't thrill you, look to mall stores for affordable iterations of seasonal trends. Celebrities spend big bucks on designer versions of trends, but the rest of us can do it on a budget.

Does it align with your personal figure-flattery priorities?
Some trends appeal to your eye but fight your figure. If you love the look of midi skirts but wish to create a tall silhouette, you might want to pass. If you adore boyfriend jeans on others but can't make them work yourself, try a different style. You can also consider work-arounds in certain cases. If winter white seems unbearably chic but makes you look like a flu victim, consider a garment that would be worn well away from your complexion or nab an accessory instead. Don't feel confined to options that make you look tall, slim, and hourglass-y only if you've got different figure-flattery goals in mind. Just make sure to seek out trendy items that work with your unique figure in ways that please your eye.

Even if you don't give a flying rat's ankle about exploring and interpreting trends on your own, cultivating awareness can sometimes prove useful. Keeping tabs on trends may influence you in tiny, unforeseen ways, keeping your looks current even if you don't consider yourself a trendy dresser. And should you decide to splash out on a trend, ask yourself the four questions outlined above to avoid spending on trends that simply won't work for you. The fewer wearable embarrassments lingering in your closet, the better.

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