Mid-tier retail makeovers Were rethinking how we spend, sensible shopper Michelle Obama is a fashion icon, and suddenly mid-tier brands such as Talbots, White House/Black Market, Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne are looking attractive again, in part because theyve added more style to their classic, affordable career wear offerings. Hingham, Mass.-based Talbots (a dress from its spring '09 line is pictured) has recently undergone a major face-lift, with a new image more in keeping with a J. Crew shopper than a woman who loves her Chicos. From the catalog to the clothing, everything is brighter, fresher and more desirable. Spring dresses evoke the spirit of Mad Men with bold florals and retro silhouettes for just $139 to $169. A new creative director, chief marketing officer and design team have dusted things off, reinvigorating the overall look and merchandise, while keeping prices as low as before. Meanwhile, Ann Taylors new president is turning around its image too, by adding more fashionable items such as chunky jewelry, flower-topped flats and leather bomber jackets. And designers such as Kay Unger and Wyeth are creating pieces especially for the retailer. Come spring, Liz Claiborne will have a fresh new look thanks to creative director Isaac Mizrahis first collection arriving in stores in February. Now, well see if its enough to turn around those balance sheets.