Have you looked in the back of your closet at all the fancy jackets you own that hardly get worn? I bet some of them are truly stars of your wardrobe…or have been. Sometimes when I ask a client about those pieces, they get wistful. I can tell how much they love them! “How about if I use your fancy jackets in a new configuration so you can start wearing them this week?” I’ll ask.
She’ll sigh deeply and say, “I’d love that.”
I’m going to ask you the same thing. If I could help you wear your favorite jackets that you’ve only worn for dress up, would you like that?
Let’s explore what that would look like.
Step one: Decide that it’s okay to repurpose your fancy jackets
The first step in repurposing your fancy or arty jackets is getting permission to take pieces that lived in a firm wardrobe category in the past and slide them over into a new category that’s about today, now, the present. There could be some mental resistance because it’s always been a certain way. There could be words like:
Client: But I only wear that for weddings!
BK: How many weddings have you been to lately?
BK: Can I turn it into something you can wear now?
Client: Okay, show me how!
I’d like to introduce you to Sheila-Merle
The perfect person to use as an example for turning your fancy jackets into chic jean outfits is my friend and client, Sheila-Merle. (Here’s her Instagram account.) Her hashtags include:
#stylist, #fashionover70, #stylelift, #70pluswithstyle, #over70androckingit, #70plusfashionistas
I wanted you to read her hashtags because it says a lot about Sheila-Merle. She loves fashion and style. She’s artistic—the stained glass art pieces in her home are ones she’s made. She’s a very active 70+ woman. She studies improv, takes a conversational French class, loves interior design, attends lectures, loves to travel—the list goes on!
This would make her a great candidate for taking her fancy jackets and turning them into upscale casual outfits that she could wear for many of her activities.
Step 2: Pull your fancy or arty jackets out of your closet and move them to another room
Erin and I have been helping her purge her wardrobe and all the while making new, modern outfits. When we arrived a couple of closet visits ago, she wanted to go through her fancy jackets. Erin set up our portable rolling rack and we moved all of her fancy (rarely used) jackets to her living room where we assessed each one.
Clothes look a lot different when they’ve been pulled out of the closet and into another room. I saw that look in Sheila-Merle’s eye when she viewed them on the rack. Wistful, appreciative, adoring. I think I’d even add longing to that list.
As her stylist, I wanted nothing more than to please her by creating outfits that would focus on these cherished beauties. After all, Sheila-Merle is a consummate appreciator of beauty, clothes, and style. Her keen eye notices pattern, texture, buttons, collars, pocket details and these jackets had all of those things going on.
So I asked permission. “Sheila-Merle, would you let me style these jackets in a new way so you can be wearing them now?”
Here’s the next thing I want you to know. Even though Sheila-Merle (and maybe even you) said yes, it can be trippy to see the piece you only wore to the opera be teamed with jeans and boots! Your brain needs time to recalculate. The good news is that it only takes looking at yourself in the mirror for a decent amount of time until your eye accepts this as the new normal. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a cheerleading team there to encourage the change. Erin and I helped her brain by explaining the “why” and “how” of this repurposing project.
Step three: Pull out your best-fitting jeans and nice boots or shoes
From the waist down, the outfit will consist of jeans (darker jeans for fancier jackets, lighter jeans if you want to make it more casual) and cool shoes or boots. Sheila-Merle had some great fitting jeans and Lucky Brand booties that were comfortable. I created a cuff in the jean. This gave clearance for the bootie and made the jean look modern and cool which is Sheila-Merle all the way. Our weather has still been cool so booties are a great choice. When it gets warmer, a platform or wedge sandal will be another option.
Step four: Bring on the fancy jacket!
You’ll need an underpiece—that knit sweater or T-shirt that will support your star piece, your fancy jacket. I think it’s easiest to figure out what the support piece will be once you’ve chosen the jacket you want to wear. Sheila-Merle tends to run cold so she has a great selection of layering pieces. She’ll regularly wear ribbed turtlenecks, knits or long-sleeved T-shirts. For warm months, you could easily swap the long-sleeved pieces for short or sleeveless ones.
Erin and I would look at the jacket in the living room and then go back to her closet and pull out underpieces or layering pieces. (I always call them underpieces because it’s what goes under the jacket when you’re most likely never going to take the jacket off, but nice enough that you could if you needed to.)
We had a full-length mirror propped against a chair in the living room and did all of our styling there in front of it. All the better to get your eye used to the new wardrobe plan!
Step five: Add the very important accessories
We loved working with Sheila-Merle’s accessories. Most of us have a collection of accessories but some of those aren’t getting used either. Many times as we chose a necklace or an earring it was like discovering an old friend. “Oh, I love these! Michael bought them for me on a trip to Italy,” she said.
That’s such a sweet bonus that happens when styling new outfits. Old things feel new. Treasures that have been hibernating get brought into this year, this month, this moment and shine once again.
(More ideas about making casual outfits more interesting.)
Step six: Enjoy your newly configured chic jean outfit
There really is so much pleasure in wearing things we love. Those fancy jackets? Pull them out and see if you can make an outfit with one or two of them and take that outfit to the streets wherever your life leads you. You’ll feel great, you’ll be appreciating the things you love, and people seeing you will appreciate the beauty of your look and want to hang around you.
And remember, you can dress any way you want. So if your outfit is more put together than most people walking down Novato Ave., that’s fine! You’re being you and isn’t that just the most divine thing of all?
And one last tip: If you’re trying to pull a creative outfit together using one of your jackets and realize you don’t have the right fitting jeans, go shopping! This is a super important investment that will make all your outfits work.
Questions? Comments? Need ideas for putting together outfits like these? You’re an expert at this kind of dressing and have more tips to share? Please fill in that comment box and we’ll support each other!