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Find the gold hiding in your closet

  • Story Highlights
  • Making the most of the clothes you already have begins with organizing closet
  • Expert: Clothes that no long fit you should be altered or given away
  • Women need dresses that can go from work to night relatively seamlessly
  • Don't skimp on good shoes and resole them when worn
By Jean Chatzky with Arielle McGowen
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Oprah

(OPRAH.com) -- After months of cutting back or even eliminating your impulse clothes shopping, there are times when you feel you must make a purchase: You think you don't have the right outfit for an important job interview, a weekend hiking trip or a hot date.

Find the gold hiding in your closet

I asked experts -- including Stacy London, who as host of TLC's "What Not to Wear" is the woman you see on TV trashing a person's wardrobe before handing over a $5,000 debit card to replace it -- what to do when a megabucks gift isn't likely to materialize.

Closeted wealth

You'll be surprised by what's in your own closet, particularly if you didn't have time to do a good spring-cleaning this year. When was the last time you did an inventory? Trust me, there will be clothes you probably forgot about years ago. Some may be out of style, and that's fine -- give them to charity or store them until they come back. But you'll likely find some hidden treasures.

When you put everything back, improve on your organization if everything wasn't already easy to find. Oprah.com: Transform your closet!

A good tailor is great

Everyone has clothes in their closet that no longer fit. Most of us have clothes that didn't fit when we bought them, and we thought we'd either lose weight or make it work. Take these items to a tailor immediately.

You can have sleeves shortened, pants let out or a suit revamped. All these tweaks make use of what you already own and are relatively inexpensive.

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Splurge vs. save

Men and women shouldn't skimp on shoes, says Sharon Haver, editor-in-chief of FocusonStyle.com.

"Women need a good pair of boots with a classic toe and a nice, stacked heel," she says. "You'll get several seasons of wear out of them. Men should spend money on a nice pair of loafers with a sturdy sole, because they last." Oprah.com: 6 rules for smart online shopping

Women also need to have a well-made, versatile leather bag -- one that goes from day to night and dressy to casual. Men should have a well-cut suit in a neutral color, like charcoal. Get one in a lightweight wool, and you'll be able to wear it year-round.

What can you skimp on? Anything trendy.

Stock your closet

If you have the essentials on hand, you'll be ready for any occasion.

You can never go wrong, for instance, by owning a cashmere sweater. There are always big sales as winter comes to a close.

Sharon also recommends investing in a nice pair of dark jeans. "This is especially important for men because, if you have a pair of premium denim jeans, you can wear them with a button-down shirt and a blazer."

Women should have a few dresses that can go from work to night relatively seamlessly, Stacy says. Oprah.com: The easy way to refresh your entire wardrobe

Take good care

No matter what you spent on clothes, you want them to last. That's what's going to save you the most money in the long run.

"Maintaining your wardrobe is really the best investment you can make," Stacy says. "Try and keep your clothes in the best shape possible to extend their life. That's a return on your investment."

That means limiting dry-cleaning and resoling shoes. It's inexpensive -- I recently had seven pairs of shoes and boots fixed for less than $150, much cheaper than it would have been to replace even a single pair. Oprah.com: How to make your wardrobe last a lifetime

By Jean Chatzky with Arielle McGowen from Oprah.com © 2009

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