At the End of Your Robe: 10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Closet Misfits

by Julie Greene on February 20, 2009 in Lifestyle

Each week, stylist Julie Greene offers expert advice on looking fierce in a financial crisis.

clothing pileWe all have them: Outdated, worn out, tired looking clothes that need a little—or a lot of—TLC. In more prosperous times, we can just toss and replace them. These days, it makes sense to get the most out of what you’ve already got.

It’s true that last week, I encouraged everyone to do a closet blitz, trying on every single piece and giving up the real duds. But purging is part of getting more mileage out of your wardrobe. More than likely, you had bags of stuff to get rid of, and a few items you’re just not sure about. Maybe they need a button replaced or a zipper fixed. Maybe they’ve been hanging around for a while trying to find a way to fit in with the rest of your clothes. So what do you do with those wardrobe misfits? Put them to work! With a little creativity and a few dollars, you can make awkward items live up to their potential.

Shoes: If your shoes are worn out, you obviously loved them. So before you spend a small fortune on new ones, consider taking your current kicks to the local repair shop. You’d be amazed at what they can do—resole, dye, lower or heighten heels, stretch shoes that are too narrow, revive and repair leather.

Socks: Think mismatched socks are the ultimate misfits? Think again! Thicker socks make great shoe covers; they can protect flats and sandals in your closet and in your suitcase.

Pants: Jeans aren’t the only items that can be cut off into capris and shorts.  Guys can cut off cargo pants and khakis. Women, take your wool trousers and slice them into bermudas or short shorts.  Sew a quick hem or leave edges raw for a deconstructed look. (If you can’t sew, use iron-on hemming tape.) Pair with boots and tights in winter.

T-shirts: Make old tees modern by cutting off sleeves and necklines. Dyeing light colored tops is a great way to update faded favorites. Experiment with dip dyeing or revive your summer-camp tie-dye skills.

Button-front shirts: You fellas probably have a few of these shoved in the back of your closet that just need a quick fix. A dry-cleaning, button replacement or tailoring could help bring them to the forefront again. Ladies, consider belting your blouses to create a flattering silhouette and give a boring button-down a little more personality.

Sweaters: If you can’t bear to send your stretched-out wool sweaters to the trash, try throwing them in the one wash one last time and then put them in the dryer. Changing the texture and size might just bring them back to life. If that doesn’t work, cut off the sleeves and use them as leg warmers tucked into high boots.

Suits: Don’t know what to do with the out-of-date suit you’ve had since your first interview? Try breaking it up and wearing the jacket or pants separately. A little tailoring can go a long way to refit boxy pants and jackets. Women, consider pairing your suit skirts with a belted turtleneck or the jacket with a colorful sweater and jeans.

Outerwear: Wool overcoats and trenches can be livened up by upgrading the belt or replacing the standard buttons with funky vintage ones. Upcycle old denim jackets by turning them inside out for a deconstructed look.

Jewelry: Repurpose hand-me-down costume jewelry. Pin vintage brooches on strands of pearls and layer artfully, or take oversized clip-on earrings and snap them onto ballet flats. Get gold chains multi-tasking by wearing them as belts and bracelets.

Hats: Try reshaping straw hats by tying them with a string widthwise and soaking them in water. When they dry, cut the string and work into a cute cowboy style. Guys, gift your fedoras and newsboy caps to your female friends. A tailor can add an inner band for a custom fit.

If after all that you still can’t find a place or purpose for your closet misfits, it’s time to let them go. Next week I’ll show you where you can send them without feeling any remorse.

Julie Greene is an independent fashion stylist, wardrobe consultant and writer. She lives in New York City. Have a style question? Send it to us.

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