New Year, Same Clothes: How to Restyle Your Wardrobe for 2020

Image: Onloan / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Marketing and retail consultant Emma Slade Edmonson’s businesses is to do social and environmental good. With a passion for sustainable fashion, she shares her expert advice on how to restyle your clothes for the new year, without investing in a whole new wardrobe…

As another new year rolls round many of us will be intent on committing determined scribbles into notebooks declaring how we will be better, kinder, faster, shinier, more successful and no doubt better dressed in 2020. 

Somewhere along the way, New Year’s resolutions got co-opted by capitalists and consumerism to create the perfect storm to sweep us up in. This philosophy of ‘new year, new me’ which intrinsically links the idea of the turn of the year with the rebirth of a better you is so very personal. The phrase in and of itself implies that we are not good enough as we are, and it lends itself well to the idea that we probably need to invest in ‘newness’ to aid this rebirth and to become a ‘new’ person. 

One of the ways many of us look to emerge on the other side of the chime of the clock in a new guise is by buying ourselves a new wardrobe. We do this so we can fully feel and embrace this fresh, different us…. I mean, buying new stuff has got to be easier and quicker than changing behaviours, right?

But what if we could embrace the idea that we have everything we need to achieve our goals for 2020 already, tucked away both inside our hearts, minds and wardrobe doors? From 2010 to 2015, I ran a consultancy called Back of the Wardrobe, teaching people the lost art of styling themselves and helping them to enjoy their own clothes again. People were consistently telling me that they had so many clothes and nothing to wear, and I realised the root of the problem was that people didn’t know how to feel good in the things that they already owned. ‘Newness’ now felt like the only way to feel good about fashion. The only problem was that the feeling that came from buying new things, was sadly almost always, fleeting.

During my time helping people find new ways of wearing old clothes, I have drawn up a list of tips. Read on for your failsafe guide to a starting the New Year with the same wardrobe.

Images: Onloan and Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Spend a night in with your wardrobe once a month

One of the tips I always used to give to my clients would be to carve out time to spend a night in with your wardrobe once a month or bimonthly. And honestly, I do this myself – regularly I’ll pour myself a large glass of red, stick some tunes on and settle in for a night in with my own clothes. I get everything out so I can see what I have and I experiment pulling together looks that I might not be sure of. I certainly wouldn’t have time to play with these looks or test run them on any given day when I’m in a rush to get out the door to work.

This is such a great way to remind ourselves of what we have – after all, the value of clothing sat unworn in UK wardrobes is already estimated at £30 billion worth of garments…We simply are not getting the best out of the clothes we already own.

So have a go – I promise you you’ll discover new combinations and because you’ve tried them on in a relaxed environment you’ll feel confident and happy wearing them when you go to reach for that something tried and tested at a later date.

Simple switches and seasonless wardrobes

One of the biggest impacts that fashion has on the planet is linked to the relentless overproduction that is caused by new collections being released every season – or in some cases, every week. One way to make your wardrobe go further and to actively contribute to changing the culture around constant over production is to lead the way by evolving your wardrobe into a seasonless one.

Here are three simple switches to get that ‘new’ feeling from the clothes you own:

  • Switch your dress to a skirt as summer transitions to autumn/winter. Layer chunky knits over it or layer both a roll neck underneath and a relaxed thinner pullover or sweater over the top of the dress for added texture and depth to your look.
  • Layer up. Try layering that statement sleeve shirt you ordinarily wear with jeans over a dress cinching the waist with a belt, or slip it under dungarees.
  • Wear it any way you like. I often find that I prefer a dress with a high neck as opposed to a dress with a low-cut front so sometimes I wear my dresses back to front for a different look that might feel more season appropriate.

Use your muses to become your own muse

Instead of using your Instagram muses to find out where to buy new things, use their style prowess to inform and inspire yours. I often look at my muses or other sources of creative reference and think to myself: ‘What do I have in my wardrobe that I can use to style an ode to this with?’ I’ll start with one piece that’s evocative of their look and build around it. It might not end up looking quite the same as theirs, but you can be sure it will still be fabulous, and that’s the fun of it. Learn to have fun with your clothes again. They deserve it!

I often use Who What Wear – not to see where to buy new things, but to riff off of the trends and to create my own take on them using my existing wardrobe.

Hold on to it – mark my words, it’s coming back around

Trust me. 

And if you don’t trust me trust J-Lo. 

Trends come back around – I might not have been there for flares the very first time around but I was there for pedal pushers and Alice bands in the 90s. I was here for this girly 60s style nod then and I’m still very much here for it now (and so is my wardrobe). I held on to things and it’s paid off. 

I only wish I didn’t give my baby pink barbie Huaraches to charity just before they became the hottest kick again in 2015 – I missed out on that one, but hey maybe you can’t win them all. 

Care for your clothes like the good friends they will be this year, and next 

You wouldn’t expect a friend to stick around from one year to the next if you neglected them. You wouldn’t call them up thinking they would be ready to jump to attention at a moment’s notice if you hadn’t shown them any love all year round would you? Well clothes need love too babes….

A few pointers

  • Use kinder detergents like Method and Ecover that won’t break down the fibres in your clothes
  • Wash them less to stop them getting worn and bobbling. Try spot cleaning specific areas that need attention. If it’s just a bit whiffy try air cleaning by hanging it by an open window overnight
  • Fix things – if you can’t do it yourself use services like the Clothes Doctor
  • Rotate and wear the breadth of your wardrobe 
  • Keep things in airtight bags under the bed or in wardrobes as you pack them away
  • Use cedar wood moth balls and lavender bags to keep the moths from feasting and keep things smelling sweet
  • Attend to stains swiftly: get grass out with vinegar, blood with salt, sweat with lemon juice, and for stains on soft leather, use warm soapy water sparingly before drying in a well aerated room.

I hope these tips have inspired you to get creative with your current wardrobe. And whatever your plans and aspirations, I’m sure you’ll go into 2020 in style.

Danielle Copperman delves into the world of eco layering and discovers the most sustainable options.

Care for your clothes for longer with Eco-Age’s denim and wool fabric guides – and make sure you know how to read your clothes labels.

Read Aja Barber’s advice on how to invest in garments for longevity.