It’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t have a wardrobe bursting full with clothes these days. From budget stores up and down the high street to the delicious temptation of next-day delivery in online stores, buying clothes at low prices is easy these days. But how to styles clothes you already have? Wouldn’t that be a preferable option as well?
With a strive for a bit more modest dressing, and with movements like ‘minimalism’ and ‘shop small’ coming in, many of us have to reassess how much we buy and, more importantly, how much we already own. I’m no saint, my wardrobe is bursting at the seams, and some of it hasn’t been touched in years – gasp, I know.
If you’ve also found yourself in this predicament and want to breathe some life into some old clothes, or just want some new outfit ideas without hitting the shops, this is the article for you.
How To Style Clothes You Already Own (8 Smart Ways)
Here are some of the best ways to style the clothes you already own!
1. Color Group Matching
Deciding outfits based on color groups and complementary colors is a tip in every article, but that’s because it’s an important one.
Assess what you own and look at the color, nothing else. What do you see? A rainbow? Monochrome? If you are someone who loves to wear every color at once, try creating some new outfits by opting for a single color. This can create variations on your usual style just by changing up the combinations of your clothes.
The same goes for those who love black and whites. Grab any color you own (even if it’s just accessories), and see if you can create a more colorful look. This may be out of the norm for you if you’re a strict black and white fan, but knowing different combinations can keep your outfits mixed up and might encourage you to try some new styles.
Key tips for color group matching:
- Try tonal outfits. If you have clothes hanging around that are the same color but not quite the same shade, throw them together and see what effect they have. Different tones of the same color often add depth to an outfit and look great.
- When mixing colors, also mix textures. If the colors you’re combining are more muted, having different textures (knits, leather, denim) adds even more interest to the outfit.
- Knowing your color combinations is key! Complementary colors are your best friend. Also, look up your hair, eye, and skin tone type to see which shades suit your natural features – this can add an extra pop to your outfits.
2. Layers, Layers, Layers!
When Marilyn Monroe sang “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” she was wrong – in fact, layering is a girl’s best friend. Layering is often thought of as a winter trope. While this is true (ideal for adding warmth), layering can also be cool in summer if you get the fabric combinations correct.
The key to creating an excellent layered look is through experimenting. This is what lends it well to using the clothes you already own. The best layered outfits use the unexpected, and that’s why they look great.
Layering can be reminiscent of the Parisian chic movement – girls that look like they’ve just rolled out of bed yet are so put together at the same time – iconic.
When starting to experiment with the clothes you already have, a good starting point is to look at proportion. This is essential to layering as the different lengths will show from under each other. Subtle touches, like rolling up a jumper’s sleeves to reveal an undershirt with a cropped jacket, combine together to create a detailed look. Yet, you’ve not bought anything new – it’s all your usual clothes in a different format.
A good rule of thumb for learning to layer is to stick to one bulky item. This could be a winter coat, a chunky scarf, or a thick jumper. Going for chunky, everything could create a strange silhouette, so best keep the fabrics’ weights varied.
Remember that with layering, you might not find your ideal layered outfit first try, but that’s the fun of experimenting!
3. Play With Styling
Using shoes, accessories, and bags to make old clothes look new is a secret tool many of us use.
If you pair a belt or beret with an outfit you usually wouldn’t put these accessories with, it can transform the look of this usual, well-worn outfit into a completely different style.
Knowing how to pair pieces together is vital. But if you learn what accessories can also be matched with each garment, then this suddenly unlocks even more outfit combinations from your own wardrobe that you may have never discovered.
Shoes are not to be overlooked here. We can all become too comfortable wearing the same pair of shoes, knowing that they’ll work with most outfits and are comfy to wear. But, I’m willing to bet you have at least three other pairs waiting in the wings of your wardrobe, waiting for their time to shine.
Try some of your favorite outfits on and start trying on your shoes with them. Even if the shoes don’t match the outfit in your head, try them on anyway. You might be surprised, those heels might look good with those casual trousers and voila! You have a new smart-casual look without buying anything new.
This can also extend to handbags, jewelry, and scarves too. Take all of your accessories and have a mix and match session. You can even log on to some fashion blogs or Instagram for some inspiration. Try searching hashtags like #ootd or #whatiworetoday to see some real-life fashion inspiration.
4. Mix The Seasons
We all have our winter clothes and our summer clothes, but what happens if you wear them in the opposite seasons?
Obviously, you shouldn’t be wearing a winter coat if it’s warm outside. Still, when you look closer at your seasonal clothes, they often have darker or lighter colors.
Taking some of the more adaptable pieces from each season and matching them with the other can breathe some new life into your style. Why keep a ‘winter’ t-shirt locked up all year when it’s perfectly fine to wear in summer? Plus, if you do opt for different colors in different seasons, this tip can help create some new colorways for your outfits.
Taking clothes from summer and layering them up on winter clothes works well, too. Often, we wear lighter colors in summer, so these pieces can help add a pop of color to an otherwise darker outfit. Plus, this builds on layering, which can help create a chic look.
Styling clothes from different seasons is a great way to style clothes you already own. It often feels like you’ve found something new without having to buy something too!
5. Use Formal For Informal
Often we have our formal clothes and our informal clothes, and we put them into two boxes in our head, and that’s where they stay. But, what if you were to wear the more formal clothes in the day?
When we buy more fancy garments for events, often we wear them less and only on special occasions to keep them feeling special. But if you want to create new outfits without buying more, taking these formal clothes into your everyday wear can be very effective.
Formal clothes tend to be more ‘fancy’ or statement pieces, so taking these into streetwear/daywear outfits can help elevate the look. This is also a great confidence booster since you know you look good in formal wear, so sprinkling elements of this into your casual wear is an instant mood improver.
An excellent example of this is a formal top. Mixing this with an everyday pair of jeans and then casual trainers and a jacket keeps the outfit casual, but as the top is more considered, it brings the whole look together. You can also try wearing jumpsuits and dresses with everyday trainers for this relaxed-glam look. Evening gowns, not so much, though.
While wearing formal clothes in the day can work, it’s harder to do it the other way and bring informal clothes into your evening wear. Parties and events tend to have stricter dress codes than everyday life, so jeans and slouchy t-shirt outfits might be best kept at home!
6. Play With Statements
If you are a lover of the ‘statement piece,’ this is a good tip for you. Take those statements and pair them with everything you own. This will sound silly, but it’s similar to other tips on this list.
When we buy clothes, we tend to match them to one or two outfits in our mind, and we never match them with anything else we own. This frequently happens with any statement pieces. Since they’re louder or more decorative than standard clothes, we mentally believe that they don’t match everything, but this isn’t always true.
Again, color and texture can play a role here, as mixing a statement with dark colors can create a refined look, whereas matching a statement piece with a bright outfit can feel more dramatic. It depends on your style, personality, and what you feel comfortable with at the end of the day.
7. Up-Cycling Tired Pieces
This is one for all the creative folk out there. If you have clothes lying around that haven’t been worn for a while, grab them now. Maybe you’re bored of them, perhaps they need fixing – whatever the reason, it can be fixed up and reworked into your wardrobe.
Simple fixes can be cutting a t-shirt to crop the hem, removing sleeves off of a top, or even stitching a hole with visible embroidery to add a home-touch. These are all easy home changes that can add a punk edge to your look if that’s what you’re after.
However, if you have a sewing machine and a bit of time, you can easily deconstruct the clothes into pieces of fabric and create something new. This is a great way to salvage any clothes where you love the fabric or color but have grown tired of the style.
Don’t just think about clothes here. Scarves can be resewn into little tops, and tops can even be cut apart and sewn up into simple yet on-trend tote bags. With an old garment and a sewing machine, you can really do anything.
This idea may sound a little bit too ‘homemade arts and craft’ to some but look at Instagram and other top fashion platforms. Locally made or sustainable fashion brands are slowly creeping into the mainstream – believe it or not, up-cycling is the next big thing!
8. Break Your Own Rules
Fashion has rules, but at the same time, it doesn’t. Confusing right? Well, if we all really observe how we dress from day to day, we subconsciously have our own styling rules.
These have been touched on in other tips, but we often have a few selected outfits in our head and rarely break away from those. This can be, for example, never mixing print, only wearing certain colors together, or even not layering.
At the end of the day, style and fashion are meant to be expressive and fun. Why keep yourself tied up in little boxes? Go ahead and break your own rules. Wear that printed top with the striped trousers, why not. Try the bright coat with the bright dress. What’s the worst that can happen from trying these combinations together? You never know. You may end up liking the results.
If you look at high fashion and the catwalks, often many rules are broken. Prints are clashing, colors have no coordination, spots and stripes are paired together, the list is endless. If those models can rock the looks, then so can you.
Enjoy Your New Outfits
Hopefully, you’ve found some inspiration from these tips that’s made you go back and examine your wardrobe with a new mindset. Trying these methods out will give you some new outfits without having to buy any new clothes. Nothing feels better than a unique style!