Dressing rich

It was Wallis Simpson who said, ''You can't be too rich or too thin.'' We've heard all kinds of advice on how to look thinner. But nobody's told us how to look rich.

There is a way of dressing rich and doing it on a shoestring. You can achieve the well-dressed, put-together appearance that the rich have if you follow a few fashion tips.

One of the first steps is to concentrate on the classics - those fashions that have stood the test of time. They include such items as shirtwaist dresses, blazers, straight and pleated skirts, silk shirts, pumps, and pearls.

Don't think of this look, which is often described as conservative, as being dull and dowdy. It doesn't have to be. If you feel it needs a little sprucing up , you can do this later with accessories.

It's important to find the right classics. Some are better suited to your figure than others.

Consider a jacket as an example since it's a mainstay of the wardrobe. If you have broad shoulders and a small bust, your best bet will be a basic blazer. But if you have narrow shoulders and a fuller bust, you'll look best in a cardigan style. Either jacket will team with your separates.

Get to know your figure before you plunk down any money. You can do this by getting into a leotard or swimsuit and then studying your figure in a full-length mirror.

If you can't get an accurate feeling, ask a fashion consultant. Most department stores and specialty shops have them.

Now you can begin thinking about the fabric of your jacket. For spring, a linen or linen blend makes good sense. Don't worry about the wrinkles - they're ''in.'' But if they bother you, look for a linen/cotton blend. It won't wrinkle nearly as much and will look crisp.

You might even want to buy a good suit. Then you can mix and match with things you already own. (I found a lilac suit for $40 at an off-price store. Not only was the price right, but the color teamed with most of my other things. It goes with gray, navy, black, white, and beige.)

Another secret to dressing rich is to buy a basic dress that has little or no ornamentation. This type of dress is a wonderful background for accessories.

For spring, the chemise is about as basic as you can get. Its style will take you from the office to the opera. And you won't have to worry about prices. I've seen chemises everywhere priced from $55 up. They're available in fabrics that range from cotton to linen. A two-piece dress will work fine, too, as long as the look is simple.

If any of the dresses have a self belt, you may want to replace it with something better looking. (Except the silks or silk-likes, which look best with their own matching soft belts.) The same advice applies to buttons. If they look inexpensive, replace them. You can buy handsome buttons quite inexpensively.)

Some women even go so far as to change the clasp on their imitation pearls. One woman paid $10 for an opera-length strand, then changed its clasp to a better-looking one, for which she paid $20. The pearls now look like the real McCoy.

It's fun to know that they can be given a richer look for just a few dollars.

The length of your fashions won't be a giveaway this season because designers are showing both short and long. Length is a personal thing. Wear what is most becoming to you.

Color, too, is individual. More and more women are going to color specialists these days to find out what colors are most flattering to them. The price of this service ranges from $55 to $75.

If you're not sold on this type of analysis or can't afford it, use the services of a store fashion consultant.

Don't be afraid to experiment with new colors. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you can wear more colors than you think. Sometimes all it takes is a change of makeup to do the trick when you wear a new and different color.

Finally, there are the accessories that team with this special look.

A fine pair of leather pumps will not only look right but will also assure you comfort and fit. And a good classic bag - clutch or shoulder - will last for years.

It's exciting to have one wild accessory such as a huge, dramatic scarf that you can throw over your dress or suit when you go out to dinner. More and more women are using this kind of accessory when they travel instead of packing a separate outfit for evening.

Remember, buy the best you can afford and keep it simple.

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