Focusing on style: Mixing styles, trends and making pieces work by shopping your own closet

This is a follow-up post to: 10 steps to get your wardrobe to where you want it to be.

I had a couple of readers tell me that they knew what styles they liked, but they seemed to be all over the place, and they didn’t feel like they could say: THIS is my definite style.

To that, I say: AMEN! 🙂

Can you imagine if you went through your whole life wearing one style?

Case in point: The Kaiser himself, Karl Lagerfeld from Google Images


He rocks it, because he doesn’t FEEL like wearing anything else except what you see above. Standard white and black suit and glasses.

Great for him, too boring for me to stand if I had to choose ONE outfit to wear forever.

So if you can’t just wear one set of colours and you want to wear a whole range of styles, this is the post for you (and me).

1) HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF EVERY STYLE YOU LIKE

Here’s a general overview of my current style:

As you can see, it includes anything from retro Mad Men sheath dresses to something a bit harder. I also like a lot of neutrals, but really bright colours are also on the list.

I made this quickly (in about 10 minutes), so I haven’t included lovely pieces that are more romantic and floral in nature, or more of the other styles I like.

2) WEAR EACH STYLE SINGLY

There’s nothing wrong with wearing one style and then another the next day.

Who says you have to only have ONE style? Have a few, have a billion.

The only problem I can see occurring is the price of having to keep so many separate wardrobe styles, not to mention to find the closet space to do so.

3) SHOP YOUR OWN CLOSET & SAVE MONEY/SPACE

As you can see, I like a whole bunch of different looks, but I am not excited about spending a lot of money to achieve them, nor am I willing to keep and store pieces just to keep separate wardrobes of all of these looks.

It’s a lot to carry!

The best thing to do, is to buy items you love and then make them match to other items in your wardrobe, regardless of what ‘style’ it belongs to.

My favourite example of mixing and matching is in this one image, an outfit worn by Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City: The Movie. Styled by Pat Fields of course:

There’s a mix of patterns, bright colours and then before it falls off the cliff for being too prissy and ladylike, she adds a gorgeous, leather studded belt.

And here is my fast attempt at doing something similar (please be kind!) in images.

WARDROBE PROBLEM: A LOT OF DRESSES

I have a lot of dresses. A LOT. It’s my favourite thing to wear, but sometimes I want to try something different without buying something new, and I want to re-purpose and change what I already own to look like something new.

So I shop and experiment with what I already own in my closet.

MAKING A DRESS BECOME A SKIRT

I started with a very simple, minimalist outfit that I like to wear when I go grab groceries, for instance.

A loose shapeless top paired with jeans. Slap on some sunglasses, put my hair in a chignon bun, add some flats, and I’m out the door.

In contrast, I also own really pretty pieces that are more retro/boudoir/Dita von Teese in nature:

I was browsing through my iPod Touch wardrobe catalogue when I thought — hey, what the heck is this one-note dress doing, just sitting there, UNWORN?

  1. I still love it.
  2. It still fits beautifully
  3. It stretches, so I can breathe and eat
  4. ….but it is so singular in its style that I haven’t worn it out in a while in my very casual-ish life

My thought process of mixing this look up was something like this:

  • I had to at least match the colours somehow (black lace with a black top)
  • I could mix it up as a skirt by covering the top
  • I would have to choose a VERY casual fabric for the top; nothing stiff, nothing structured, something drapey

You can see where this went, and I came up with this:

The shirt is perfect for the top in theory. It’s loose, drapey, a nice casual fabric and it seemed RIGHT with the dress.

Unfortunately, it’s too long and it looks messy because the dress has an empire waist, so the skirt isn’t define until just under my bust.

So I shortened the length of the shirt by tying it into a knot.

Now my next problem — since there’s so much black on top, it really emphasizes my broad shoulders in contrast to the skirt that doesn’t puff out to give me more volume at the bottom to balance me out.

Enter: ACCESSORIES!

I found a thrifted brown belt that was perfect for the outfit. I made sure it was more of a casual feel of a belt and when I give myself waist definition, I make my bottom half look slightly larger, which makes my shoulders look slightly smaller.

I also checked to see that the hardware on the belt was a brass or a gold so it would be right in sync with the sort of pale champagne colour that is underneath the black lace skirt, and the gold buttons on the shirt.

The outfit is ALMOST complete. I still found the top a bit too overwhelming and I wanted to play down my shoulders even more.

So I unbuttoned a few buttons on the shirt to give more of a V-neckline to the look which cuts my shoulders down.

It also makes the look more cohesive. Now you can see just a BIT of the lace on top, but it isn’t a full lace dress which screams FORMAL to me.

With this, I’d just wear ballet flats, or a pair of boots, and I’d throw a simple gold ring on (if I decided to wear any accessories).

MAKING A DRESS BECOME A TOP

Now I have another example I created where instead of using the dress for the skirt, I’m using another dress I own, but this time for the top.

This is the dress I started with:

This is the way I normally always wear it. Belted.

And on a whim, I pulled out this sweater because I thought the colours looked all right together.

It might even look okay if it was belted across everything but I forgot to take a picture. Oops.

This is my first experiment with a skirt being layered over it.

I chose a white one with small black threaded patterns on it because it’s quite neutral.

As always, as an inverted triangle body shape, I had to add a belt.

The A-line shape of the skirt really works as well, because not only do I now have a defined waist, my shoulders don’t look as broad, because the hem of the skirt is flared out slightly.

I BALANCE! 🙂

Note: The skirt is big on me because I bought it 6-8 years ago, and since then, I think I’ve dropped half a size or a size.

I used to be a size 6, now I think I’m considered a 4.

I really like the look. Simple, neutral…

Then I tried it with the sweater to see if it still looked all right.

Altogether now!

It needs a belt, without a doubt. The belt separates the colours and patterns and the dark brown gives it a good, stable ‘base’ for the whole outfit.

I also tried it with two more skirts in my closet (I have a total of 5 skirts, no joke).

Enter: BELT TO SAVE THE DAY!

The last skirt is a grey pencil one that I own.

I tried to belt over the ruffle but it looks stupid.

So I pulled the ruffle out to cover the belt, but to still keep that bold splash of blue at the sides (and you can see it from the back as well).

So there you have it.

This is how I make my wardrobe work around the different styles I own and love to wear.

From there, I just go through my accessories and keep it simple. I only wear ONE item. Either a necklace, a pair of earrings OR a ring. Not all 3 at once, and not all of it matches.

  • Don’t be pigeonholed into only wearing one style in its entirety.
  • Don’t think you can only wear a dress as a dress. Make it something else!
  • Do something similar by picking out one piece that you love but can’t seem to make it fit into your lifestyle and/or with other pieces.
  • Start matching by picking out other items that match in colour and experiment with looks until you find one or two you like.
  • Try wearing tank tops with fancier skirts.
  • Wear blazers over dresses.
  • Layer tank tops underneath button-up shirts.

You just need to play around with pairing items together you would never imagine would make sense.

If it works, you’ll know it.

If it doesn’t, you won’t feel 100% about it and you won’t reach for that combination anyway.

I hope that helped!

P.S. I also found a post today that went quite well with today’s post: Elsiecake — 8 pieces and 8 outfits

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.