A Crash Kors on Shopping

Money may be tight, but many designers say there is a way to spend it wisely: Buy one thing of the best quality you can afford.

Michael Kors, in Beverly Hills this week from New York to launch his new, lower-priced--$50 to about $350--KORS sportswear line at Neiman Marcus, had more specific advice:

* From what you already own, build a "backbone" wardrobe--a jacket, a skirt and a pair of pants, simpler shirts and tops.

* If you're starting from scratch, put the money into the jacket. "You can fake the underpinnings," said Kors, 31, who was wearing a navy blue Giorgio Armani jacket, a white cotton T-shirt and chinos from the J Crew mail-order catalogue.

* Buy single items, not outfits, and think of them as you do scarves and earrings--as accessories. He listed a short black patent leather skirt, a short satin coat, a good bag or a good watch as things to consider buying now. "The best outfits mix something familiar with something new."

* For a major purchase, he suggested a dress with matching jacket. His body-contoured dresses have cutouts in the back or at the sides that the jacket covers. "At the office it looks like you're wearing a suit," he said. "In the evening, the dress without the jacket, worn with a pair of high heels and bolder earrings, is for anything but a black-tie event."

* Mix utilitarian and extravagant items, such as a T-shirt with a beaded jacket.

* Wear all your clothes all year. Kors has always mixed suede and linen, satin and suede, sequins and seersucker, for summer or winter. "With air-conditioned buildings, the rules came crashing in," he said.

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