How to Breathe New Life into Unworn Clothes

September 9, 2015

Ginger BurrEvery time I do a presentation and ask the women attending how many of them have unworn clothes in their closets – items they would like to wear, but don’t know how – nearly every hand shoots up. I’m not talking about clothes that you don’t like and wish you’d never purchased or garments that don’t fit or feel comfortable.

I am talking about those gems you find that you are excited about, but then you get them home and cannot make an outfit to save your life!

I am sure several garments hanging unworn in your closet have popped into your mind in the past 10 seconds. You don’t want to get rid of them. You want to wear them!

You keep wondering… ‘What am I missing? Why is this so hard?’

Here is an experience I have had that, until recently, left items sitting in my closet.

I kept buying dresses. That doesn’t sound like much of a problem until I realized I had four or five dresses in my closet I loved but wasn’t wearing. I had a serious talk with myself. Why was this happening? I loved the dresses. The colors were perfect. They were comfortable and fit well.

Then it came to me…I had to wear stockings with them in order to feel pulled together. I am actually not against stockings when they are worn well (i.e., blend perfectly with your skin so it doesn’t look like you are wearing stockings), but there were four problems for me:

  1. I was often too lazy to put them on.
  2. I do not like the look of nude stockings with peep toe shoes and many of my shoes have open toes. It meant I had to wear ‘hose without toes’ and that’s fine except that I often had to wrestle with the strap that goes along the toes so it doesn’t show and that always seemed to feel like more work than I wanted to put into my experience of getting dressed. Plus, I prefer thigh highs to pantyhose and I do not have any thigh high toeless stockings.
  3. Sometimes a dress feels dressier than I want. I always want to feel polished and pulled-together, but sometimes I want to feel more casual than a dress makes me feel.
  4. I am often cold so dresses sometimes make me shiver just thinking about them.

At first I put a moratorium on buying dresses and perhaps even get rid of the ones I have, but that felt like a waste of money and closet space—and I really LIKE these dresses. But, I thought, “But I sometimes want a break from wearing pants.”

Then the solution came to me: make them into tunics. Brilliant!

I now purchase a dress that is a few inches above my knee (or have a longer dress tailored to that length) and I wear it with leggings. The leggings are thicker than stockings so my legs don’t get as cold and I can wear flats, a heel or boots depending on the weather. I get the feel of wearing a dress minus all the annoying parts. It has opened up a whole new world of dressing for me!

Here is an example of how to style a very simple dress (whether you keep it as a dress or make into a tunic). I find so many women add a basic necklace and boots or pumps, but when you think outside the box a bit you could wear this dress every day and have it look different!

This dress is perfect for that making into a tunic. There are no design elements in the way to prohibit you from shortening it if it needs it. For women who don’t love exposing their knees, this dress looks great with leggings and the dress comes in 12 colors!

Here is the dress in navy:

Wear it with a basic black legging or go wild and choose a patterned or colored legging. This merlot legging would look great:

Or, choose a patterned tight:

If the reason is more that you are afraid of standing out too much so you always retreat back to what feels safe, check out the section in my book entitled, “Do You Have a Fear of Standing Out?” Get it in kindle or paperbook on Amazon.

Style it with a great pair of flat shoes (see options for heels or boots HERE)

And a great scarf (or see photos of more scarves and jewelry HERE)

How to Style a Patterned Skirt

Does this sound familiar? You have a beautiful skirt that has a pattern or design of some kind. You feel great in it by itself, but as soon as you try to match it with a top, you hit a dead end. Everything seems too long, too fussy, too something… Going topless isn’t an option and nothing else seems to work so you give up and the skirt sits forlornly in the closet.

So, what do you do?

Let’s take an example.

Here is a really pretty skirt with an animal print panel. Yes, you can wear plain black with it, but how else can you style it to get lots of wear out of it and not feel like you are wearing the same outfit over and over?

Add Color:

Yes, black will work, but this skirt would also look great with red, deep purple, forest or kelly green or even pink and yellow for those who can wear those colors.

What you decide to wear with it depends on your personality, where you are wearing it and your body (tucked or untucked?). You could keep it simple and classic and add this plum tank (tucked or not tucked depending on what feels best to you) and sweater:

Add a scarf:

Or perhaps a black pendant like one of these (from my favorite jeweler, Karel)

Or, wear a moto jacket in a subtle merlot color (very popular color this season):

And add a fun, funky scarf:

If you want to mix prints, you can do that. Just be sure the print has clean lines, a common color and has a slightly bolder feel or it will all feel too messy and fussy. This red and black striped top works nicely and if you only want to see a bit of the stripes, add a sweater over it or a fitted black jacket.

For many, many other ideas (with explanations)—including a jean shirt and a whole range of shoes from flats and pumps to ankle and knee-high boots HERE.

With all these ideas now floating around in your head, what are your next steps?

  1. Review all the ideas and explanations I have shown in the catalogue and print out your favorites. This will inspire you as you work with items in your closet.
  2. Go to your closet and choose one item that you have wanted to wear but haven’t known how. See if any of the items you printed out (or something else in the catalogue) works with it.
  3. Think about how to combine colors, patterns, textures and accessories can play off the design of the item you have chosen. Then experiment.
  4. Be sure to assess whether there is something intrinsically annoying about the outfit – like the dresses I wasn’t wearing. If so, imagine how you can get creative to make it work. Like the dresses I made into tunics, maybe you need to make a cap sleeve top sleeveless or remove the belt and belt loops from a jacket that has a belt you don’t like so you can wear it without a belt.
  5. This is very important: complete the outfit as much as possible before you dismiss it as a possibility. I don’t know about you, but I would eliminate nearly every outfit I own until I see it with shoes that make me happy. Or, perhaps something you put on feels boring…consider accessories or adding a pop of color.
  6. You can begin by laying possibilities on your bed, but the true test is to put it on and see how it falls, how the balance and proportion look, do the prints/patterns work together – again, complete the outfit before you make any definitive decisions.
  7. You also have to weigh the amount of energy you need to put in to one garment to make it wear-worthy. While creating a beautiful wardrobe does take some focus and energy, if you expend too much on one piece you will feel exhausted and overwhelmed before you get very far. At some point you either need to have a viable outfit or bless the piece and let it go. At least you will know you did your best to make a go of it.

In the end you want to put on the outfit you have created, look in the mirror and feel excited to wear it. Some outfits take more energy than others, but when the end result is something you love it’s worth it.

Please note: All garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan-friendly (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals).

Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Total Image Consultants which helps support the time spent creating these very specific recommendations.

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