Repurposing Your Wardrobe

Last week an interesting thing happened. As I headed out the door to catch the Metro and head to the office, I realized that my pants were too short. Way too short.

Now, I pay fairly close attention to my wardrobe, as you might guess, and I know that all the pants in my closet should fit. Some are more fitted than others, but when it comes to the basics –like length– they all should fit just fine.

I was already running late and did not have time to turn back so I decided to deal with my errant trousers at work. The lightweight poplin pants from J. Crew were fairly new so this turn of events was a bit odd.

Once I took a good look at the hem, I had an on-the-fly solution. Using my handy Swiss Army knife, I quickly ripped out the seams. In just a few minutes I had a new pair of shabby-chic summer khakis in the proper length. Since there is now no room for a new turned hem, I plan on having the bottoms stitched as is with a somewhat raw edge. Though I hate to admit it, in retrospect I think the legs lost their length in the wash – so I’ll take the blame on this one.

I bring up this story because that same day I happened to be wearing a Charles Tyrwhitt banker-stripe shirt that also suffers from length issues. In this case, the sleeves were exactly too short for my arms. The French cuffs landed just above the wrist bones and as a result they just never fit correctly. I loved the shirt but could never wear it as intended.

So, instead of throwing it in the donation pile, I found a simple and stylish solution: I rolled up the sleeves. In fact, because the sleeves we too short to begin with, once rolled up, they fit perfectly without any excess bulk.

Since then, that shirt has been my repurposed “dressy casual” rolled sleeves shirt. Since it has a spread collar and high-set second button, it looks just right with no tie and the sleeves rolled up. Paired with trim khakis and loafers, the whole look strikes a nice Michael Bastian-ish tone.

The fact that I had to perform emergency surgery on my (formerly) dressy summer khakis, while wearing my repurposed “dressy casual dress shirt” seemed somehow appropriate and led me to think about the act of choosing to repurpose good clothes that are just exactly no longer usable.

I say “just exactly” because these are the pieces you still like but are no longer right for regular wear because of an ancillary issue (too short sleeves, too high hems or a too tight collar) and not a primary defect (waist too tight/loose, too narrow leg, major staining or irreparable tear).

As long as it’s otherwise comfortably wearable, you can probably save the item, either through one of my incredibly clever methods described above or through another equally creative approach provided by your tailor.

So, before your toss formerly beloved garments from your wardrobe, take a second look at that shirt, or those pants. If you can repurpose them, then by all means give it a shot. But if they’ve reached the end of the road, pull the trigger and make a donation so that someone else can benefit from your good taste.

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1 Response » to “Repurposing Your Wardrobe”

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