By Michelle Chapman -- AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — With the weather finally warm around most of the country, lots of recession-weary consumers are trying to freshen up their summer wardrobes without spending a bundle. Here are some ways to make what's old new again — or at least maintain what you have.
1. Use accessories to breathe new life into favorite outfits. Even subtle tweaks like a scarf, bracelet or earrings can give some of your staple pieces a fresh look. Both men and women can take advantage of chic belts and watches.
Lindsay Weiner, a former assistant stylist for TLC's "What Not to Wear," says one of her favorite women's accessories is shoes.
"Colored shoes can make you look taller. It draws the eye up and down," explains Weiner, who now runs an image consulting and personal styling company called Style Me NY.
For men, Weiner recommends playing around with cufflinks and says hats like the straw fedora will be big this season.
Watches are often the go-to accessory for guys, and sales of men's watches climbed almost 21 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago, according to market research firm NPD Group. Watch maker Fossil raised its full-year earnings forecast earlier this month and reported sales volume growth in its Fossil-branded accessories.
2. Remember that you don't have to change your entire wardrobe. Peel away the bulky sweater or suit jacket that covered those dress shirts and wear them on their own. Lighter-weight skirts that you wore with chunky tights and boots can be worn on their own with flats or sandals. Or for a different twist, put a tank top or T-shirt underneath dressier shirts for a bright pop of color.
A lightweight cardigan you hardly used can be paired with a skirt and some peep-toes. Men can pull a similar trick — team lighter-colored lightweight sweaters (think light greens, blues and yellows) with jeans or khakis.
3. Remember those super-cute shoes you bought last summer? Are the heels so worn down that you can't bear to wear them again? They may have a second — or third — life.
Getting a pair of men's dress shoes outfitted with full leather soles and new heels will cost about $58 at Farmington Shoe Repair in Farmington, Mich. New York-based Cesar's Shoe Repair charges $75 for a package that includes full leather heels and soles as well as cork replacement, loose stitching repair and a shine and polish. While it may seem pricey, many pairs of men's dress shoes can run well over $100 — so repairing rather than replacing may cost less.
How to keep the shoes you just got resoled in better condition? Set aside your fears of becoming a Glamour "Don't" and wear a pair of casual shoes to work, changing into your dressier shoes at the office. These days retailers like Payless ShoeSource, Old Navy and Skechers also make attractive, low-priced flats and casual shoes that you can wear to work.
4. Don't get everything dry cleaned. Manufacturers sometimes put instructions on labels that may not be the best way to clean the garment, but is a way that works. Try washing some items on the gentle or hand-wash cycle with detergent made specifically for delicate items, or use one of the dry clean-at-home kits on the market.
Cutting down the dry cleaning bill can save a chunk of change, depending on where in the country you are. New York's Five Star Cleaners charges $3.25 to dry clean a men's dress shirt, while Robinson's Cleaners, which has locations in Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo., costs $5.90. At five shirts a week, that can be more than $750 a year.
Lara Hollenczer, a spokesman for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute trade group, says there are no garments that absolutely have to be dry cleaned — but "if a label says dry clean only, that is the care you should use."
5. Finally, tap into your wardrobe's hidden value by digging through your closet and finding clothes that can be remade into summer pieces. Cut an old pair of jeans into casual shorts, like you did when you were younger. Or rework a long-sleeved cotton shirt into a sleeveless wonder.
For an unfinished look, Turing jeans into shorts can be as quick as taking a scissors and cutting the legs to the length you want. Hemming shirts can be a simple needle-and-thread job, but you may need a sewing machine for a neater look on denim because of the thickness of the material.
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