Four styling tips to make your favourite old clothes feel new again

— by Alyson Walsh

Khaki Malarkey and pink. Photos: Claire Pepper

What the Italians call spezzato – a gentle juxtaposition of mismatched items – is the best way to make the essentials look extraordinary. The literal translation is ‘broken’ and having grown up at the tail end of punk, I’ve always liked the idea of breaking with tradition. Besides, mixing something relaxed with something formal is how we dress today. Mismatching old and new clothing, bold pieces and quiet pieces, charity shop and designer – it’s all about the contrast. This type of styling may be the new normal, but it isn’t about throwing random items together; looking chic, confident and considered takes a bit of practise. The one thing I have discovered preparing these outfit posts for That’s Not My Age is that it makes me work harder to find new combinations of old clothes. I spend time going through my wardrobe, experimenting with different looks and reconsidering old favourites. It’s not all throw-on-and-go. There is some outfit planning. Putting clothes on and taking them off again has its benefits. I know what goes with what ( or can have a look at Pinterest to remind myself) and have winning combinations that I can call upon when in a last-minute rush to get out the door.

Here are a four styling tips to help you style old outfits in new ways:

The Military Onesie gets an update

Try a textural twist

One sartorial trick I often rely on is pairing opulent textures (like my old velvet boots and new pink corduroy blazer) with practical ones (the Military Onesie). This also works with different weights of fabrics, think a colourful tweed jacket with a silky blouse. A Lurex top with faded denim jeans. Cashmere with leather (or coated) leggings…you get the idea. It’s also an excellent way to give party pieces even more chance to shine. A little juxtaposition goes a long way.


My Withnail & I coat and denim jacket


Mix and mismatch

Blending unexpected silhouettes, colours, patterns and textures is what keeps outfits looking interesting. Mix sportswear with sharp tailoring, team side-stripe pants or posh joggers with a blazer, liberate your partywear by combining basic and blingy items, like a sequin top and wide leg chinos, a party jacket and a jumpsuit – it’s a trick stylists, designers and editors have been using for decades (remember Anna Wintour’s first American Vogue cover in 1988?).

Combine cool colours

Throughout our lives, both hair colour and skin colour change and this may necessitate a colour re-boot. So, it’s worth playing around with different colour combinations until something clicks – that’s how I discovered my newfound love of pink. Try bolds with neutrals, find opposites that attract. My current favourite team-ups are khaki and pink, mustard and navy, and terracotta and rust.

One cardi or two

Add another layer

The denim jacket under an overcoat is another favourite old styling trick. I first wore this combo in Manchester in the 1980s, and I’m into it again. Another good (slightly warmer) layering option is Arket’s liner jacket, the navy version fits under my longer length, Withnail and I coat, perfectly. See also Uniqlo’s ultra light down compact jacket (or vest). Style one chunky knit cardi over a finer knit one. Layer a roll-neck, long-sleeved jersey top under a jumpsuit. One of the easiest ways to breathe life into existing pieces is by layering them in unexpected ways.


This feature is based on a chapter in Know Your Style: Mix it, match it, love it available HERE.


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What the Italians call spezzato – a gentle juxtaposition of mismatched items – is the best way to make the essentials look extraordinary. The literal translation is ‘broken’ an…