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Arts Happy new you 

A quick guide to matching your inner and outer makeovers

It’s the first week of the new year — a time for recovery and reflection. As you consider that massive life overhaul called “New Year’s Resolutions,” make a commitment to revitalize your appearance next year. Don’t forget to dress the part when you decide who you’d like to be in 2006 and what you plan to improve. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Clean out your closet. Most of us get new clothes as holiday gifts (I’m not saying we always like them). Make room for the new additions by getting rid of at least as many old pieces. If you haven’t worn something in a year, you’ve never worn it, it doesn’t fit, or it needs dry-cleaning or mending and you’re not likely to do it, bundle it up and give it to charity. Or, try your luck with resale and consignment stores — selling your clean, gently worn clothes might make a dent in your holiday debt.

Socks with sandals? Out. Midriff-bearing T-shirts for men or women? Heinous. Polyester sports jackets? A crime against nature. (Photo illustration by Julie Barnett)

Break a bad habit. Ladies, especially Southern ladies, are taught that matching accessories tie an outfit together. The usual dictum is for the shoes, belt, and handbag, although I’ve seen everything from watchbands to hair ribbons to lipstick matched to the outfit’s key color. STOP IT. You’re not wearing Garanimals any more. If you were raised with this fashion doctrine, you probably have a closet full of accessory “sets.” Resolve to buy at least one pair of shoes and one handbag that doesn’t go with anything (or with each other). Keep the rest of your outfit neutral and let these pieces shine.

Most men, on the other hand, could do with some matching lessons. If it has never occurred to you to make sure your belt and shoes are the same shade, try it — you’ll look more polished. Likewise, if you’re wearing dress shoes, your socks should be the same color as either your shoes or your pants, not a different color (never wear white socks with anything other than gym shoes). If you want to try something subtle and original for spring, wear your jeans with a casual belt in a shade that picks up a color in your sneakers.

Incorporate a classic. All the guys on my Christmas list received French cuffed shirts and cufflinks this year. A French cuff is a wide cuff on a button-down shirt that folds back on itself, and fastens to the outside of the wrist with a cufflink instead of buttoning and lying flat against the wrist. Most of the major retailers are carrying French-cuffed shirts now, and they look great worn casually, untucked with jeans, as well as under a blazer or suit. Invest in a funky pair of metallic cufflinks to add some quiet sparkle and sophistication.

The classic making a comeback for women in 2006 is the wrap dress. Pioneered by Diane Von Furstenberg in the ’70s as the ultimate working-girl-to-party-girl uniform, the wrap dress is truly flattering on almost any figure and a breeze to wear. The V-neck elongates the torso and draws the eye up to your face, the wrapped midriff camouflages any holiday indulging, and the knee length makes legs look longer. Look for a fine knit in a subtle print, and accent with simple heels and a pretty necklace.

Try a new color. Is your closet a black hole of black clothes? Sticking with the same neutral color palette feels safe and comfortable, and everything matches (see above). But the best thing you can do to refresh your wardrobe and break out of a rut is to try a color you’ve never worn before. Pantone, the color experts, analyzed the spring season of New York fashion week to predict what colors will be hot in the first half of 2006. All shades of watery blue, from pale aqua to deepest ultramarine, are huge this spring. Not quite insipid pastels, not quite shocking brights, shades of vanilla, violet, melon, and leaf green will also be popular. Too far out of your comfort zone? Earthy, spicy dark browns continue to be the new neutral that works for everyone.

For the bonfire. There are some trends no one wants to see on the streets of San Antonio in 2006. Purge these from your closet: midriff-revealing tops, popped collars, trucker hats, Juicy Couture sweats, and anything that has writing across your fanny. And stop wearing your pajamas in public. We’ll all be thankful!

By Leigh Baldwin

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