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Think pollsters have a boring reputation when it comes to clothes? If you answered yes, you’re probably right. But we know at least one who sheds her black-pants-and-twin-set attire come 5 PM. By McLean Robbins

For this issue of Frugal Fashionista, we’ve partnered with Kristen Soltis, director of policy research for the Winston Group by day and frontwoman of the local rock band the Frustrations by night.

We’ve caught several of Soltis’s shows and know that her signature red dress spices up the stage, but we also noticed that she was wearing the same thing to every one of her gigs. And hey, half the fun of getting dressed up is putting together a unique outfit to suit your mood.

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Posted at 06:50 AM/ET, 02/24/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()

While scouting the latest spring trends at the recent InStyle and Neiman Marcus preview event, we had the pleasure of meeting Kate Barber, local fashionista and author of style blog Bellwether. Over the past month, we’ve become huge fans of her exuberant style savvy plus her insightful fashion comments, such as one recent post about the history of the J. Crew Collection, J. Crew’s upscale line that has recently made a return to stores.

We naturally bonded over our mutual love of all things style and Washington, and it stood to reason that Barber would make a natural fit for the next Frugal Fashionista column. After all, who better to ask than someone whose blog title means “one that serves as a leader or as a leading indicator of future trends”?

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Posted at 08:46 AM/ET, 02/11/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Some hail Valentine’s Day as the most romantic day of the year, while others relegate it to a “Hallmark holiday.” Whether you’re headed out on the town with your sweetie or simply making it a movie night with the girls, there’s no excuse not to look styli By McLean Robbins

We asked Barrett Evans, a fashionable Arlington resident and former intern for designer Roberto Cavalli, to come up with a trendy yet not too trite Valentine’s outfit. Pink is great, but head-to-toe hearts and sparkles conjure images of Legally Blonde, not a Washingtonian out on the town.

Evans was given $100 to come up with an outfit worthy of a chic date or hitting the town, with the condition that it had to have a Valentine’s-worthy theme.

As for rules, we assumed Evans was searching for something that she or one of her friends would be comfortable wearing. In a new twist, we admitted that the ultimate secret of a bargain shopper is one who can mix luxe with less in the same outfit. So we’re allowing Evans the luxury of wearing both her Theory leather jacket (one of the season’s “it” accessories) and a favorite handbag or pair of simple shoes. After all, a girl has to make use of what’s in her closet—nobody can afford to buy an entirely new outfit for every occasion.

What she picked:

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Posted at 07:57 AM/ET, 02/03/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()

In this issue of the Frugal Fashionista, we’ve asked DC- and New York-based celebrity makeup artist Kathy Aragon to come up with a fresh-faced new look that would work for most Washington women. But instead of using her preferred high-end products, she was left with a budget of only $50.

Aragon, who co-owns the Lorton fashion-photography studio Fashion400 with her husband, Luis, says that her favored look for clients is “clean yet strong.” Her number-one priority in a makeup application is to make the skin appear to be glowing from within. “Once the canvas of the face is correct,” she says, “the rest is easy.”

Aragon has worked with CNN, HBO, the BBC, the NFL, Glamour, People, DC Modern Luxury, and the Washington Post as well as high-profile and celebrity clientele from Larry King to Kimberly Peirce, director of Boys Don’t Cry.

What she chose:

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Posted at 11:25 AM/ET, 01/27/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Blogger Kate Michael found a dress and several accessories that are perfect for an inaugural ball—for under $200.

As Washingtonians frantically finalize plans for inaugural activities, over at Frugal Fashionista we’ve been brainstorming ideas for a swoon-worthy outfit for less than the price of most inaugural tickets. And who better to enlist for the task than former Miss DC and K Street Kate blogger Kate Michael? The pageant queen and model knows a thing (or 30) about dressing up, but she admits to frequently dropping more than a few Benjamins on dresses and shoes.

Before we got started, Michael was rattling off questions like a pro: Long or short? Was a bag included? Were any stores off limits? Even better, she was offering advice. It turns out that many of her pageant gowns, despite their black-tie formality, can’t be worn to events such as a ball—mostly because they have a train, which would rip or be soiled in a large crowd.

So we made the task hard for this veteran shopper—$200, no more, for a full inaugural-ball-worthy outfit that she herself would consider sporting to an upcoming event.

As far as rules go, we assumed that Michael was searching for a dress she’d wear herself but that her wardrobe was admittedly more limited than it is. We assumed she owned basic undergarments and tights—but nothing fancy.

Here’s what she found:

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Posted at 01:58 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
A local fashion blogger comes up with not only one but two variations on a NYE look, each for around $100 and suitable for a variety of body types. By McLean Robbins

In the second installment of the Frugal Fashionista, we’ve asked A Not So Capitol Idea blogger Chandler Ramelli to come up with a swoon-worthy New Year’s Eve outfit around $100.

Not familiar with the series? Here are the details: Every other week, we ask a local stylista to complete a fashion task—sometimes seasonal, sometimes fun—on a budget.

We assumed that the 34-year-old Ramelli owned basic undergarments and tights—but nothing fancy.

New Year’s Eve needs a little glitz and glam, says Ramelli, but she knows that a wear-once outfit shouldn’t cost a lot. So she immediately turned to favorite retailers such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls to satisfy her designer tastes on a discount budget.

And Ramelli didn’t disappoint: She came up with not only one but two variations on a look, each for around $100 and suitable for a variety of body types.

Here’s what she chose:

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Posted at 11:10 AM/ET, 12/29/2008 | Permalink | Comments ()
Welcome to’s newest style feature, the Frugal Fashionista. Much like its sister series, the Frugal Foodie, it aims to minimize the money coming out of your pockets and maximize the return. By McLean Robbins

Every other week, we’ll ask a local stylista to complete a task—some seasonal and some just for fun—on a budget. Think of it as a Washington-focused “The Look for Less,” the Style Network TV show that creates a particular look on a budget.

For our inaugural issue, we’ve asked resident DC blogger Makeda Saggau-Sackey of the Glamazon Diaries to come up with a holiday party outfit for under $50.

We gave her an easy go of it for this round, saying she could wear any simple black dress she had in her closet.

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Posted at 10:47 AM/ET, 12/29/2008 | Permalink | Comments ()