Reader Request: Remixing Distinctive pieces


Reader Darby emailed me this question:

I have a little black dress that I love. It fits me just right and is very flattering. My conundrum is, it has quite a distinctive cut-out neckline that I find limits how often I feel like I can wear it. Do you have any ideas of different ways to restyle a distinctive dress for party season so that it looks different each time?

In an ideal world, wearing the same things over and over would be a praiseworthy practice. And in daily life it often is, especially now that we’re learning more about the impact of fast fashion and valuing creative remixing. But when it comes to holiday parties, many people feel odd about doing the same outfit or dress for the entire season. And like Darby, I’m betting some of you have a dynamite dress/top/necklace that you’d like to wear to every fête and festival, but would like it to look different each time. Hopefully, I have some tips and tricks that will work for you, too.


The more elements to an outfit, the less obvious it becomes that one is being worn on repeat. If you’ve got a boldly patterned blouse you want to keep in constant rotation wear it under a sweater, with a blazer or jacket, under a sleeveless dress, with a variety of cardigans. In Darby’s case, adding a dressy jacket or bolero that doesn’t totally block the distinctive neckline could work, as could adding a shawl with metallic thread or a gorgeous pattern.

Draw focus elsewhere

This kinda defeats the purpose of having an item that’s eye-catching and unique, but goes toward getting gobs more use out of it. Say you’ve bought a sequined skirt that you want to wear to four parties in a row. For the first, let the skirt be in the spotlight. For the second, wear with a bold-colored, but solid top. For the third, do a subdued palette and giant, sparkly earrings or a statement necklace (if it doesn’t feel like sparkle overkill). For the fourth, add a dressy printed scarf to the mix. For Darby’s LBD, she could do a bright red belt or phenomenal shoes, though necklaces and scarves would help her distract from the dress’s defining feature, too.

Vary your hair and makeup

We’ve touched on accessories a bit already, but other finishing touches like hair and makeup can really transform how an item or outfit looks. That tuxedo jacket you love? Try it with an updo and red lips, then hair down with neutral lips. It’ll probably look completely different because you do. If you’re into colorful eyeshadows or interesting hair accessories, those can help you create varied looks, too. This is the most subtle of the three options, so you might want to do this AND one of the other two.

And, of course, there’s always the “don’t worry about it” option. Honestly, anyone who cares about seeing the same party dress twice within a season should really get a hobby. Guys can wear the same suit every time, and there’s really no rule saying we can’t wear the same dress/suit/pants every time, too, if we want to.

Any of you looking for ways to rework and remix distinctive items, for parties or everyday life? Will any of these suggestions work for you? Others to add?

Image via The Outnet

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Originally posted 2014-12-10 06:42:06.

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4 Responses to “Reader Request: Remixing Distinctive pieces”

  1. Maya Resnikoff

    You can also vary whether you layering goes under or over your distinctive garment. A shell underneath your cut-out neckline will be a different look from wearing it alone or with a layer on top. A dress can also be transformed into a tucked-n top with the right skirt added on top.

  2. Cynthia Peterson

    Different footwear can make a huge difference. I have a black dress I change up by wearing leopard heels, burgundy shooties, or black suede boots.

  3. Dianne Carter

    I have given my personal style considerable thought over the past couple of years, through reading blogs (Sally, yours is a daily must-read) and experimenting. For this year’s office Christmas party, I made a pact with one of the young assistants in the office that we would shop our respective closets and not buy anything new. The alternative for her was that she wasn’t going to go to the party because she couldn’t afford to buy a new outfit. The focus of my outfit was a bling-y top, and I styled it using all of my “knowledge” and putting together items and accessories that I never considered pairing before. I received several complements that night on my outfit and couldn’t resist telling folks that the top was the same top I wore to last year’s office Christmas party. No one remembered! I also don’t remember anyone commenting on my outfit last year – which tells me that knowing your style and learning the basics is key. I guess I thought that as the office administrator in an office of 14 staff, people would notice that I repeated a Christmas outfit. Not so. My young colleague looked great that night and was so glad she decided to go to the party after all.

  4. marsha_calhoun

    I always lean toward your beautifully phrased “don’t worry about it” option – if something looks good on you, it continues to look good on you (assuming that it hasn’t shrunk or stretched beyond the point of looking good on you, and you haven’t either beyond the point of looking good in it). But I like the idea of the updo for an audience that usually sees you with hair down, and vice-versa. And never forget: scarves can work wonders.