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How to refresh your wardrobe, part II

February 25, 2010

Now that you’ve cleaned and organized your closet you need to figure out how to wear what’s left, but in new ways. Following up on last week’s five ways to refresh your style, here are five more tips.

1. Get inspired!
If you don’t feel like you want to wear any of your old looks, then it’s time to figure out what you do want to wear. Look online, look in magazines, or look at the people around you for inspiration. There are a million style blogs (literally) that can provide you with ideas. I find it really helpful to look at people who put things together in ways that might not have occurred to me. A few of my favorites, some big, some small:
Clothes, Cameras, and Coffee
Hel Looks (though everyone’s all bundled up for the winter right now)
Lookbook (of course)
Second Skin
The Sartorialist
Save photos to an inspiration file on your computer, or if you’re using magazines, tear them out and put them in a folder, or make a collage by hand or with polyvore.

Find your favorite looks and try to re-create them with a dress-up session in your own closet. Maybe you need to buy a few key pieces to get the look you’re after. That’s okay; I didn’t say no shopping ever again! At least try to go with a shopping list in mind, and to avoid closet clutter, you might want to limit yourself to less than or equal to the number of things you purged from your closet.

2. Consider layering.

A great way to freshen up your style is to layer things in unexpected ways. A flowery dress over a striped tee with a blazer on top can keep you warm and stylish. Genius examples of this principle can be found in a J. Crew catalog, and here’s a post that pays tribute to the J. Crew creative director. For more evidence, check out the styling for this “Wool McCoy blazer.” A wool blazer, over a button-up shirt, over a tee, all with a frothy, frilly skirt. The blazer is very masculine and the skirt couldn’t be much more feminine, and when you put it all together you’ve got a great outfit. Here’s another lovely layered look, and here are some layering tips.

Maybe you’re not a fan of the J. Crew styling, but you can still employ layering to great effect with your own wardrobe. The point is that by combining multiple pieces  (and not just, say, jeans and a t-shirt), you add depth and interest to your outfit.

3. Accessorize.

You know how I told you that you should clean our your closet? Well, I didn’t mention anything about accessories, and that’s because you can’t have too many! Belts, scarves, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and hats are like the icing and sprinkles on a cupcake. Without the frosting your cupcake is just a muffin, and so it goes with your outfit. I’m not saying that you should wear a million different accessories all at once, but a few key accents can really make an outfit stand out.

If you’re not accessorizing, start, and if you are, update your accessories to freshen up your style. Add a hat or a statement necklace to an old standby outfit and you may find that it suddenly feels new. Most accessory trends can be easily found in thrift stores, or try making your own. I’ve got a few tutorials you can try, and there are tons more out there. Try One Pretty Thing for links to tutorials, and Outi often posts inspiration and instructions for accessories.

4. Try embellishment.

Still bored with your wardrobe? Maybe it’s time for more drastic measures. There are about a billion different ways to embellish your clothes, some easier than others. You can use fabric paint to add stripes, polka-dots, or a stencil to nearly any article of clothing. RIT dye is an easy and inexpensive way to change the color of natural fibers, and there are other dyes out that will even work on polyester. I once had an off-white sweater that I loved the shape of but never wore because the color did nothing for me. I finally dyed it dark blue, and now I wear it much more often.

If you’ve got rudimentary needle skills, you can even try some embroidery or applique. Add bows, ribbons, buttons, or sequins to a top. I like to troll anthropologie for ideas, and Complete Embellishing: Techniques and Projects is a really good resource.

5. Get scissor-happy.

Cut your sweater into a cardigan, give your long dress a flirty makeover, take a razor to a pair of jeans (and drip them with bleach), or alter the neckline of that constricting turtleneck. Strategically-placed slits and slashes can look incredibly cool, especially if you take your cues from the likes of Ann-Sofie Back. If you’re using fabric that won’t ravel (like t-shirts), you don’t even need to worry about sewing, but of course if you’ve got a sewing machine the possibilities are endless.

You’ve got the power! Just remember what your dad told you about lumber: Measure twice, cut once.

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