Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Extending the Life of Clothing

I love the socks-with-boots look that I've seen both Chelsea and Erin wear successfully many times, but I've had a tough time styling the look myself, probably because I just wasn't pairing the right pieces. With this one I finally found a combination that I thought worked -- the socks were tall enough that they only showed a small amount of leg and didn't look too schoolgirlish, and the long cardigan smoothed the transition between the short dress and the socks. In fact, from the back you wouldn't have been able to tell that the socks didn't come all the way up.

It's interesting to note how old all of these pieces are. I've had the dress since the late 90's and recently had it shortened; the cardigan was purchased for a wedding I attended in 2005; the boots are from my trip to Prague in 2006. Together though, the combination looks quite fresh to me, which just goes to show that clothes can have a much longer lifespan than what the ever-changing fashion kaleidoscope might lead you to believe.

If you look closely at the cardigan, you can see that the channel which held the self-belt is much lower than where I belted it here. Belting it in the original location gives the cardigan much more of a bathrobe appearance, and for that reason I hardly ever wore it -- and in fact almost got rid of it -- until I hit on the idea of removing the self belt and cinching it wherever I wanted. You can see the belt channel, but who cares? This is a much more flattering shape and feels more current to me. And the fabric, a silk and cotton blend, is so ideal for Bay Area weather that I'm really glad I kept it. It's a great piece for brightening up an outfit while still staying warm and comfortable.

To extend the life of these particular pieces, I've used a variety of approaches: I shortened the dress, removed the self belt on the cardigan for different belting options, combined the short dress with the long cardigan for a more modern proportion, and wore the dress with over-the-knee socks for a different look. Other ways you can extend the life of clothing include:

  • Dyeing items that are faded or have an out-of-date color
  • Adding embellishment such as studs, ruffles, different buttons, etc. (you can also accessorize shoes with clips, chains, spats, etc.)
  • Having an item tailored for a different fit and shape
  • Layering (obviously a frequent strategy of mine!)

Do you have garments in your closet that could be alterered or worn differently to keep them looking current? What tricks have you used to modernize older pieces?

Cardigan: Max Studio
Dress: from the 90's, shortened
Scarf: Banana Republic
Boots: Bata
Cotton Pettipants (via Amazon): 007Lingerie


    Rad said...

    I think you nailed the socks and boots look here! I love the layering and the peek of the white socks.
    Way to refashion your clothes. I think I should try dying some clothes that annoy me but I fear that this may not be the best option in a washing machine less house?

    Emily Kennedy said...

    I've been loving the long socks with boots look in the blogosphere as well, and I too struggled a bit in making it work this winter. You do have to have some pretty specific pieces. I like the way you worked it!

    Sheila said...

    This is so funky! I think I am too old for over-the-knee socks, but I do socks up to my knee for fun.

    I like layering my stuff - I'm just getting the hang of it.

    WendyB said...

    Tailoring is my thing.

    Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP said...

    I recently recut and added a trim to the edges (cuff and hem) of a cardigan that I bought in 1999. It was way boxy, but by curving the hem and then adding a kind of ruffly trim it feminised it and it's great now - good for another 10 years I hope!

    Raquelita said...

    You are rocking the OTKs here!

    I fear dyeing clothing, but I often take things to the tailor to have them altered. The biggest thing for me is that most of my clothes don't get washed every wear or even every other wear and that really extends the life of my garments.

    MJ said...

    Thanks for the harness! It's absolutely amazing - I didn't realise you had a blog. Love the tights and boots thing! :)

    Anonymous said...

    don't be afraid to dye without a washing machine - just do it on the stovetop. get a big old (non-aluminum) pot at the sally if you're nervous about food contamination. follow the directions on the package and go to it. two main points: stir stir stir stir so your dyebath is COMPLETELY mixed before adding any cloth, or you'll get spots. and completely wet your fabric before adding it to the dyebath for an even color.

    i sew a lot, so i've done just about everything to 'liven up' clothes i'm tired of or don't wear. right now i'm cutting up a Taylor Petites baby blue silk button down blouse into a longish half slip - it's taking a lot of piecing, so i'm using purple thread to topstitch the piecing and give it a '30's lingerie -type feel. hopefully : ) i found some gorgeous deep purple lace (2.5") for the edging. hope it turns out well - not everything does, but if you don't wear the garment to begin with it's no loss and you've learned something.

    Good Luck!!! steph

    Sarah said...

    I am all for making things last. I sewed myself a pretty black and white rayon dress in a 40's style in the mid-90's. It still is my favorite dress to wear in the summer. I shortened it last year to update it and I ALWAYS hand wash it. Not sure how I would replace it if I had to...hard to find nice rayons these days.

    Eyeliah said...

    well I can’t think of any new tips right now…. But I have to say I’ve done the rebelting trick too. Sometimes they just put those loops in the weirdest spots! I like this knee sock look, it’s a hard one for me to pull off as I don’t have any good otk socks that actually stay up! I spend the day constantly readjusting.