How to shop — and look — smart in a down time
Last Saturday a subtle, slightly subversive style campaign began on Burlington’s Church Street . Young women modeling outfits from half a dozen local boutiques paraded into several abetting restaurants, struck a few poses, and walked out again, leaving cards from said stores on tables as they departed. Rachel Strules, owner of participating shops Sweet Lady Jane  and Tribeca , reports she’s already seen three brand-new customers as a result.
The fashion walk was the brainchild of Church Street Marketplace intern Jem Hughes, a New York City native who’s attending the University of Vermont. Though her major is secondary education, Hughes’ internship focuses on merchandising, and “her strength is in event planning,” says CSM Executive Director Ron Redmond. “We had a couple of meetings with merchants, especially those who sell women’s apparel … they wanted to do something different.”
But it looks like the stylin’ walkers, who are employees of their respective retailers, will become a regular Church Street sight: They’ll appear at lunchtime every Saturday of the summer, weather permitting. Other participating stores are ecco , Whim , Damsels  and Expressions, and their current resto partners are Leunig’s , Sweetwaters , Rí Rá , The Scuffer , Three Tomatoes  and Halvorson’s . Diners form a “readymade audience,” Redmond says.
“It’s entertainment for them,” suggests Strules, who says she likes this new way to advertise her wares “because it’s free.”
That’s all well and good for the retailers, who are trying to sell clothing in a down economy. But the hard times have hit customers, too, and God knows shopping isn’t free. What’s a fashionista to do when the desire to look good is strong but the purchasing power is weak?
We went on a slightly subversive — or at least counterintuitive — quest of our own by asking retailers themselves how to save money (or rather, how to spend it wisely). Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that their answers were sound; after all, they’re fashion pros. From them we compiled a list of “smart shopping” tips that will serve consumers well even when the good times return. Here it is for you, absolutely free.
Revisit and refurbish what you have. “People always complain about things they have that they never wear,” says Strules. “I say, bring them in. Let’s find stuff you can wear with them.” Gabrielle Slaughter, manager of Well Heeled in Stowe and a willing “closet concierge,” agrees with this one. “Shop for what you already own!” she says. “You can add a piece to your wardrobe that allows you to update a look you have in your closet.” For example, long necklaces are in right now, she points out. Which leads us to…
To that point, here’s a final tip: Spending your hard-earned money at locally owned stores will keep those dollars in the community, and help ensure your favorite fashion advisors remain in the business of dressing you well.