Making the Old New
Repurposing vintage clothing and mixing classic styles
The jacket came into York Furrier looking fuzzy and tired, as if putting it on would be like wearing a piece of faded blue shag carpeting.
But it didn’t stay that way. The staff at York essentially gave the jacket a haircut, shearing it to bring out a vibrant royal blue hue. They restyled the silhouette. Inside, they stitched in a red silk lining.
The result — a coat that once had little more than sentimental value was transformed into a stylish, like-new garment.
Heirloom coats need not wilt, unworn, in the depths of a closet, says Kathy Rezny, who, along with husband John, owns York Furrier, which has stores in Elmhurst and Deer Park.
Instead of a dated, floor-length fur coat that a woman may never wear, Rezny says she and her staff can take away the “Michelin Man look,” by taking out the “Givenchy-football player, power shoulders” — alluding to the shoulder pad trend of the 1980s and 90s — and reworking the silhouette. They can also shorten hems to more manageable, walking-coat lengths.
So don’t start tossing your classic or vintage items yet. Take the following tips from local design experts for ways to repurpose clothes, maximize vintage wear and aesthetically mix the old with the new.
Think about your lifestyle.
What do you do? Where do you go? What do you usually wear? These are the first things Rezny asks clients who want to repurpose older garments.
Options can range from jackets with detachable hoods to sleek and slim walking coats, as well as vests, which she calls “a huge idea now.” Making a weighty coat lighter can often make it more amenable to a variety of seasons and weather conditions.
Pair classics with casuals.
“We’ve changed,” says Cynthia Simik, who has owned Deja Vous Designer Resale Inc. in Naperville for more than a dozen years. “We’ve really evolved into a more casual society.” The result, Simik says, is that something like a classic Chanel cashmere sweater from the 1980s can be paired with skinny jeans and boots to look contemporary. “That’s how to intermingle the old with the new,” she says, adding that a navy pleated Chanel dress paired with “really cute, up-to-date pumps” and a scarf can look brand new.”
Know your clothes’ decade of origin.
“Styles continuously repeat,” says Iris Burgos, assistant manager at Trends, a clothing consignment store in Oak Park. Burgos, who studied apparel design and fashion development in college, advises clients not to mix up their decades when it comes to clothing. “Hippie things are back now,” she says. “If you have a really cool, flowing blouse from the 70s, and you want to wear bellbottoms, which are coming back, keep it within that era. You don’t want to wear bellbottoms from the 60s. You don’t want to look like you got mixed up in a time machine.”
Accessorize well — and wisely.
If you have a vintage solid-colored dress, contemporize it with a blazer. “Statement necklaces are really popular,” Simik adds. “It changes the whole look.”
At the same time, don’t overdo the accessories, cautions Burgos, because too many bracelets or bangles can detract from the statement piece. “Make that one classic or vintage piece your main focus, as if you’re dressing for it,” Burgos says. “You want people to say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so pretty! What is it?”Edit Module