Fit for Purpose: How to Save Clothes That No Longer Fit Your Look or Lifestyle | fashion

One of my favorite quotes about fashion is from the late Diana Vreeland: “Fashion is part of the everyday air, it changes all the time. You can feel the approach of a clothing revolution.”

Just as fashions change, so does our need for certain types of clothing. As we get older or older, live through pandemics or enter an era of rising global temperatures, we inevitably outgrow what’s in our wardrobes.

Now is as good a time as ever to reconsider what clothes you own but don’t wear and what to do with them if they no longer fit, quite literally.

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Mats Ekström is the owner of Swensk, a Swedish clothing store in downtown Melbourne that offers a practical service that emphasizes tailoring and fit. If you’ve gained a little weight due to “locking in and drinking wine,” don’t worry, he says. Pants usually have enough fabric stored at the waist line to bring out the volume, something a tailor can handle. Another easy solution for clothes that are a little looser is to move the buttons half a centimeter here or there.

Tailor takes waist measurements
Most pants have enough room in the seams so that they come out at least one size. Photo: GCShutter/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Xtrum assures its clients that small tweaks can make a big difference to how things look. Advocates say it’s important for your proportions to be balanced, making sure the sleeves are the proper length — about halfway between your wrist bone and the bone at the bottom of your hand.

For the pants, the length should be proportional to your height and the width of the leg of the pants, which can sometimes be due to “personality”. As long as there is enough fabric, a good tailor can change its shape, to make it more modern. Ekström suggests showing the tailor a pair of pants you like so they can simulate the cut.

If you’ve grown more than the size, it can be even more difficult, because “making things bigger is really hard to do”. He suggests taking a practical view and asking if you’d ever get the body of a 20-year-old again? If not, he says, then it’s time to sell or give away those clothes (without sending them to a landfill).

Transforming the old into the new

Nicole Mallaleu, fashion lecturer at the Australian College of Art, welcomes the growing movement of designers and young adults who are cutting old clothes and transforming them into new pieces.

Models wear recycled clothing at the Romance Was Born show at Australian Fashion Week
Models wear recycled clothing at the Romance Was Born show at Australian Fashion Week. Photographer: Hanna Lassen/WireImage

From the reconstructed T-shirt dresses of Central Saint Martins graduate Connor Ives, to reinterpreted clothing from Melbourne label TLC World and Romance Was Born found from the Forever children’s collection across Depop, in the fitting pair of scissor hands, old can Give clothes value and coin.

Mallalu suggests getting inspiration from this when thinking about what to do with clothes you really love but probably won’t fit in again. If you can’t sew, she says, a seamstress should be able to replace the waistband with a more forgiving stretch fabric or turn a very comfortable sweater into a cardigan.

Very petite dresses can be turned into skirts and tops. This allows for more flexibility in adjustments, she says: Lowering the waistline on an A-line skirt can give you more room, while the top half can be worn with layers or pants, or tied with a different skirt.

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Sometimes we get over clothes because they no longer serve our lifestyles or moods, says Malaliu, but it’s important to continue to see the value in them. “There is a tremendous amount of potential energy in these clothes,” she says — from the people and from the environment.

She suggests finding someone who might wear it, say a friend or family member, with the understanding that they’ll return it when they’re done with it. Doing so means the stories behind the clothes can be shared, and hopefully save the piece from becoming “another anonymous garment in a pile of unsorted and discarded clothes in the operations store”. She suggests starting these conversations with: “I like this but I don’t wear it anymore.”

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