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Summer Chic

July 15, 2004, 12:39AMYou don’t need a lot of money to look chic this summer

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

The trouble with most trendy invitations for cocktails is that you’re never sure what to wear. Take martini chic. It’s the look of the moment that recalls classic images of the early 1960s Rat Pack sipping on martinis and listening to jazz.

Today, the look is cool and urban, like I, Robot star Will Smith and his Matrix Reloaded wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Though you don’t have to be urban or cool, your clothes ought to be.

“Martinis are sophisticated, so the look should be,” says Helen Perry, an image consultant. “It’s trendy but tasteful. During the day, you dress for work. For martini chic, you dress to be seen.”

What’s great is there are many ways to achieve the look — on any budget.

For those who want martini chic without spending a lot, there’s no better time than now to assemble the essentials, such as a colorful flowing top for women or a colorful pinstriped shirt for men. Retailers from TJ Maxx to Neiman Marcus are offering an assortment of great near-end-of-the-season sales.

If money is no object, look to designers such as Dana Buchman, Armani and Versace for trendy, chic pieces.

“I think it’s important to trust your own creativity,” says Kim France, editor of Lucky magazine. “Don’t kill yourself to wear something that’s not going to look good on you. If it doesn’t look good on you, don’t do it.”

Versatility also is important. “Whenever we’re shopping, we need to be thinking about how flexible an item is and how many different wears we can get out of it,” France says.

Getting The Look

  • Before you take the safe road with traditional black, consider color. This summer, color is everywhere, and what better way to get noticed?
  • Don’t waste time. Scan store clothing racks to eliminate all sizes and colors that aren’t you.
  • Dance. No, really. Try dancing in the mirror. You need to be able to move freely without any bulges or pinches in case you have to hit the dance floor.
  • No V.P.L. or dangling participles, says image consultant Helen Perry. Translation: no visible panty lines or lingerie straps.
  • Don’t try too hard. A simple look works every time.
  • Wear it with attitude. If you don’t have it, stay home.

Pricey Ooutfit: Total $1,114.50

  • Allen B. multicolored halter by Allen Swartz, $49.50 (sale from $95), Neiman Marcus, Galleria
  • White pants by Dana Buchman, $150 (sale from $250), Neiman Marcus
  • Naomi shoes, $435, Jimmy Choo, Galleria
  • Bottega Veneta handbag, $480, Saks, Galleria

Pricey Outfit: Total $1,114.50

  • Multicolored cami with beaded straps by Ice, $14.99, TJ Maxx
  • White pants with zippers by /id collection, $39.99, TJ Maxx
  • Kathy Van Zeeland pink purse, $19.99 (sale from $39), Stein Mart
  • Fuchsia and orange slides by Moda, $22.45 (sale from $44.90), Stein Mart

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