Breathing New Life into Old Clothes

How to Create Your New Look With Pieces You Already Own

No one comes to a personal wardrobe stylist because they want everything to stay the same. My clients have a thousand reasons for seeking me out—a new job, a new city, new clothes for a new body or a new life. It’s wonderful to share that adventure! NEW is liberating. It means you’re creating the change you want in your life. It brings strength and confidence. Finding your NEWNESS is how you find yourself.

So it’s natural that many people assume a stylist’s job is mainly about helping them buy new clothes, or stay on top of the latest trends. Sometimes, yes! But more often my job is to help them find their newness in the clothes they already have. Without knowing anything about you or the change you’re looking for, I can promise you this: the look you are trying to create—the style that is most uniquely and wondrously YOU—is already hanging in your closet.

 Lucy: Closets With a Story to Tell

I recently spent time with a client named Lucy in her late 40s. When I say time, I mean a lot. We worked together for a total of sixteen hours over many days, going through closets that were stuffed with years of accumulated clothes. I seriously LOVE this kind of treasure hunt. Right from the start of our first session, it became clear that we were both in it for the long haul. After all, this was twenty years’ worth of pieces, most of which she hadn’t worn or even laid eyes on in a very long time.

Here’s the thing about closet edits: once you start, you can’t stop. You either have to go deep or go home. And I mean we went DEEP. We found items her mom had passed down to her. Pieces that she herself had bought in her early thirties for an all-too-brief year she spent working in New York. Family heirlooms and gorgeous impulse buys that she’d lost track of over the years.

“You can NOT get rid of that,” I’d tell Lucy—words I repeated many, many times during our sessions. “You need to be wearing that NOW. It’s back in style.” Over the course of those sixteen hours, we unearthed a thousand treasures: blazers from the 80s and 90s, old fabulous coats, the kind of jewelry that never loses its classic beauty.

The more I learned about Lucy’s wardrobe, the better I got to know her. It became clear that Lucy was much more than her present-day self: she was the sum of the entire journey she had taken through her life, and the best pieces she owned were simply and truly ageless. Knowing that made it easier to show Lucy how to wear those pieces and what to wear with them NOW to make them current again. It was my duty and pleasure to help Lucy create a new look with the clothes she already had and give her tips on a few items she needed in order to fill in some small gaps.

 Find The Story in Your Style

Try this for an experiment: go to your closet right now and tell yourself the story of the first few pieces that catch your eye. Hold each one in your hands and really look at it. When and where did you acquire it? What was happening in your life at the time? Was it a gift or an heirloom or a present to yourself? What’s the story behind that skirt or hat or pair of strappy shoes? How were you feeling at the moment you first saw it? How does it make you feel when you wear it?

As you do this, really notice what each item tells you about the story you carry within yourself. Then ask yourself: where do you see that story going next?

The pieces that tell your story may not belong together. They may be a pin, a belt, a scarf, an accent to your outfit. But everything you wear—big, small, classic, trendy, colorful or demure—should contain at least one small piece of your story. If it tells people what got you this far, chances are it will tell people where you’re going next.

You may not have sixteen hours to spend with your closet. You may not have nearly so many clothes to pour through. But if you go to your closet NOW, and devote just a little time to seeing what’s there, I believe you will find that newness waiting for you.