Build your personal style with gifted clothes (read time: 7:56)

Build your personal style with gifted clothes (read time: 7:56)

Gifts are nice. We all get excited when someone hands us a present and it’s been carefully wrapped with a thoughtful card. Joy shines across our faces as we tear open the wrapping, only to find… a piece of clothing.

Cue THIS face.*

Gifted clothing items will live in a closet for up to eight years - virtually unworn - which is FOUR TIMES longer than we keep a cell phone (on average). Please note, this is an average from science people - I am a fashion person. *(for the full article from Inside Out Blog click HERE)

Let that sink in. You’ll replace your cell phone on average every two years but you will keep a gifted piece of clothing that you do not wear for eight years. The difference? You use your cell phone every day, trends or technology change, and because of the frequency of use we get bored and start looking for something new. It cracks or breaks, the usual wear and tear of a frequently used item. The gift that your loved one said, “would look SO good on you!” is still  sitting in the back of your closet, in the gift wrapping. (They always think it will look good on you, that’s why they give it to you!) It doesn’t take up space in your brain because you don't see it daily. While working with clients on wardrobe edits, I hear the phrase,

“Oh! I forgot I had that.” << because you don't wear it. 

When I ask to discard it, the response is "IMMEDIATELY NO." 

Why keep something you’re not going to wear?
EMOTIONS. We feel bad discarding an article of clothing that someone we care about put time and energy into finding for us. What do we do with the piece of unwanted clothes? We keep it for the one occasion that you see the gift-giver. They THINK you love the piece - which, by the way, will encourage them to buy you ANOTHER similar gift. This is a trap.

Here are some tips on how to work that piece into your everyday style, so that instead of pulling it out once or twice - you work the piece into your everyday wardrobe. 

But first: [The basics of your Personal Style]
There are 3FITS that work together to build what you would call your personal style.

Fit 1: Your body.
Your body is the foundation of all of your clothes. The fashion theories that depend on your body are; propositions, balance, colour, and texture. This is where we’re talking objectively about your physical shape.

Fit 2: Your Vibe.
How would your friends and family describe you? Fun? Boho? Goth? Edgy? Think about these words and how that would visually look if you were to put them into clothes. It may also help you to think of a celebrity that you feel visually represents these virtues. For example, Reese Witherspoon = sweet, joyful, family oriented. Angelina Jolie = edgy, sharp, strong. 

Fit 3: Your Lifestyle.
What does your daily life look like? Are you a mum chasing after a toddler all day? A career woman rocking the suits and heels? Are you a gym rat with a walking commute? All of these habits and lifestyles will determine the wearability and practicality of your wardrobe choices.

(to read more about the three FITS of finding your personal style click HERE)

Using the 3FITS as a guide - there’s only so much that can be
wrong with a garment:

Option 1: The size is wrong.

You receive the gift and it’s not exactly your size. Here are your options if the garment is between 1-2 sizes of your size. *Keep in mind that different styles you may be able to get away with a larger gap, but for the most part it’s easier to fix if the garment is 90% there*

Clothing that's the wrong size can be fixed by taking it in or letting it out. You can also tailor the garment to adjust for length.

  • Take it to a tailor. They will be able to take in/ sometimes even let out a garment to make it a more comfortable fit. They can also adjust the length which will therefore change the balance and proportions of the garment. 


Focusing on the balance means that you want the garment to offset your physical shape. If you have strong shoulders - you may not find it the most flattering to wear an off-the-shoulder, boho-inspired dress. The line across your widest part will make you appear wider than your physical shape. However, by working with balance - we can add the weight of the garment to your hip and it will offset your shoulders.

How to style if you have broad shoulders

Using proportions you can do something similar, you can use the lines in the clothing to draw arrows to wear you want the attention to go. Having a boxy top hit you at your waist rather than your hip will draw the eye up to your smallest part. Acting as magic trick and distracting from your hip.

All of these proportion issues and size issues can be rectified with a tailor. Think about things like sleeve length and fit too. Something as simple as a short sleeve that cuts your bicep right at its biggest part can make you feel uncomfortable.

  • If you notice the size is wrong when you open the gift - insist on trying it on immediately in front of the gift giver. They’ll notice the fit is off and may offer to exchange the piece. This is your opportunity to suggest going with them and exchange it for a piece that you prefer.


Option 2: The colour is wrong.

Colours and prints are tricky because they are so unique to the wearer and the wearer’s personal preferences. My mum thinks I look great in blue - maybe she’s right. Will I wear anything other than black? Very rarely.

People will often gift you pieces to try and push you out of your comfort-zone. (PS. Pushing people out of their fashion-comfort-zone never works.) 

  • Layer the coloured piece on top or underneath your go-to colour palette. Layer it up with scarves, jewelry, any accessory that makes you feel more like you.

    Notice how in the photo below the vibe of the piece, and the brightness in my face changes based on the colour that's closest to my face. These are also some ways to work with layers to move the colour around. 

    one dress three ways - casual style inspiration for women over thirty

When the colour is just wrong for your skin tone,

  • Try not wearing the colour by your face. We can often get away with wearing colours we wouldn’t normally if we keep it as far away as possible form our face. Try wearing a scarf around it, layering something over it. Or if you’re willing to get crafty - dye it! 

    Our eyes will naturally notice what colours are flattering and which are not. Trust your eyes - if you feel that the colour makes you look flushed or sick, it's not the right colour for you. BUT the opposite will probably be perfect. 

If there’s a texture to the fabric (lace, beading, wool, etc) that doesn’t agree with your skin, you should let the gift-giver know. Always assume positive intent when someone is gifting you a piece, but if the physical fabric will cause skin irritation it is perfectly polite to let them know. 


Option 3: The shape is wrong.

The shape of the garment is wrong, whether it’s the proportions or the balance of the piece, or the shape of the garment isn’t what you would normally go for - this can be the hardest to work into your everyday wardrobe. There are Tik Tok and Pinterest hacks galore that go into how to tuck, fold, wear upside-down, or backwards to change the shape of a garment - all of which are a lot of work and generally don’t really work. Here’s what I suggest:


  • If it’s a shape you don’t usually wear because of the volume, try off-setting the volume by playing with volume somewhere else. Gifted a flowy top? Try it with a high waisted pair of shorts. Gifted a tighter top? Pair it with a skirt with volume. It may end up with a silhouette you don’t normally go for, but you might be surprised.

The photo below is an example of volume on top with a fitted pant. The focus of the look is her waist, with a clear line drawn at her smallest point.

Style inspiration for women over 30
(why someone would attempt to gift you a pair of pants or a skirt - I do not know, but it could happen). Bottoms are tricky to gift because there are so many variables. Try the piece on the moment you receive it and make sure of the fit!

This photo is an example of volume on the bottom, the focus is still at the waist, we've just moved where you're creating the volume. 

Style inspiration for women over 30

  • But if it’s just the balance of the pant that’s wrong, remember that there are two main ways to adjust pants: length and cut. You can always make a garment shorter - it’s harder to make a garment longer. If the pant is just a bit too short - make it shorter. Hem the pant so that it hits you below the widest part of your calf. This length will elongate your leg and be more flattering than just the ever too short. If the pant is shorter than that - shorts?

If the pant is flared or cut wider than you’re comfortable with a tailor can adjust the cut by tapering the pant leg. Again, it’s always easier to remove fabric than to add, but it’s not impossible. To widen a pair of shorts you can cut a vent in the sides of the short to add more width. 


Option 4: The vibe is wrong:

This is where we’re talking about the overall style of the piece. You were gifted a boho dress but you prefer an edgier look. This is where you shop your closet and play with styling. Layering, mixing, matching; all of these fashion elements are going to be put to the test. Challenge yourself to use the gifted item and create three looks using clothing from your wardrobe. It might be tricky at first, but the more you play with the item the more you’ll be able to ingrate it into your closet and have it make sense. That boho dress will look a lot edgier with a leather jacket and a pair of biker boots, just like a black tank dress will look softer under a flowy lace kimono. 

 one sweater 3 ways  style inspo for career women

All of these images feature the same sweater, all look completely different based on the body shape and how they were styled. 

Option 5: Everything is wrong.

Your friend doesn’t know you at all, so don’t feel bad about donating or returning the piece. It's not meant to be yours. 

Gifted clothes can be a great way to experiment with different styles and looks, but remember that you're in charge of everything that goes into your closet. Trust your gut - and your eyes - and have fun with your clothes! 

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