Two New Ways to Reinvent Your Old Sweaters // The Real Gal’s Fashion Files No. 2

sweater header

Sweaters are the chicken and dumplings of the winter wardrobe, the comfort staples of our closets.

From Fair Isles and chunky knits to cashmere and luxe wraps, there are countless ways for women of all shapes, sizes, and ages to rock the sweater.

But it’s easy to tire of the ones we have. We reach for the same combo each time — sweater + jeans + boots. And if we’re really feeling adventurous, we may layer on a scarf and call that living on the edge.

For the love, let’s thank the sweater for all her faithful years to us by reinventing her just a bit and breathing new life into our well-loved wintry cables.

Here you go, two ways to revive the sweaters you probably already have.

1. Wear it as a “shirt.”

Why should sweaters always be the top layer? Did you ever consider that maybe your sweater is a bit on the shy side and doesn’t want to be so much on display? Fitted sweaters can serve as a cozy, texturey “shirt” under vests and blazers.

sweater + vest

Here I am in Starbucks wearing a chartreuse fitted sweater under my vest. {Let’s pretend this is a quality photo.}

I love this combo and could wear it every day. See how the chartreusey color makes it pop under a neutral vest? The sweater is a bit too fitted to wear on its own {for my personal taste.} But layered under a vest or sweater, it serves as a warm and cozy shirt.

And because I don’t want to break into a sweat or feel too claustrophobic in all of these layers, I just wore a long-sleeve tissue tee under the sweater. This combo is as comfy as fleecey loungewear but a little more appropriate for public spaces.

Let’s look at a few more examples, shall we?

sweater + pink vest


girl + fur vest


sweater + blazer + tie shirt



2. Wear it as a tunic.

Soft, cozy, drapey goodness over anything with lycra and preferably an elastic waistband? Yes please. Especially since it’s the season for Candy Cane Joe’s Joe’s. {Curse you Trader Joe’s.}

tunic sweater + scarf


This ensemble makes our slackness look intentionally chic, relaxed, and modern. The fact that it’s uber-comfy is a bonus. Tis’ the season to make merry, not make ourselves miserable by wearing clothes that punish us. {I’m looking at you zippers and fitted shirts.}

tunic sweater + fur scarf


What’s the key to wearing an oversized sweater without looking, well, oversized? Follow the rule of contrasting proportions. If you’re going loose and drapey up top, go slim on the bottom. Think leggings and skinny jeans. And might I suggest a pair of booties or winter wedges to elongate this look and dress it up a bit?

Here’s what I’m talking about.

long sweater + booties


This would be super cute with flats or riding boots but the heel on the booties make it modern, slimming, and spiffy for date night. {I hear some couples actually get those.}


How to Make These Looks Work For Real Gals With Real Budgets

I know what you’re thinking. “Marian, these looks are all fabulous because they are models.”

I hear you. That’s the thing about putting clothes on long, leggy people all under the age of 27 — they have a way of looking fab in a potato sack.

But I know for certain that real gals like all of us — gals who are 5’1 instead of 5’11, gals who are over 65 instead of 16, gals who are full-figured instead of stick-figured, can wear these looks. {I know because I help them choose outfits from their closets and give them lists of what to shop for.} But I also see them out and about in real life — at the elementary school, church, family gatherings, and my local Target.

Here are a few tips for making these looks work for you:

Tip #1: Work with your proportions and with contrast in mind. {See above comment about that.} Drapey sweater on the top? Go skinny on the bottom. And vice versa. Fitted and tailored on the top? You can go with a more generous fit on the bottom.

Here’s another example of proportions. This petite gal pulled off a long, drapey sweater by adding skinny pants and booties. See how much it elongates?

leggings with booties


Tip #2: Work with your stage of life. That’s a polite way of saying “age.” I doubt my mom will want to wear black skinny jeans and black suede booties. But she could still make this look work for her by wearing dark denim slim-fit jeans with maybe a lower-heeled brown leather bootie. Long sweaters look cute on everyone from my teenage daughter to her Nana. {Hi Mom!}

Tip #3: Work with your budget. I didn’t have any long sweaters but I recently found a “vintage” Adrienne Vitadini number at the thrift store for $3. When my daughter’s friend told me she loved it, I figured I was doing alright. Thrift stores have sweaters galore.

Tip #4: Work with different sizes. If you want to wear a sweater as a “shirt,” you can shop a bit smaller since you’re looking for a fitted piece. The sweater as a shirt number I’m wearing today is a smaller size than I’d choose if I was going to wear it solo. And if you’re wanting a sweater as a tunic, you can shop a bit larger. The one I scored recently is a couple of sizes larger than I’d normally wear. I did a bit of thrifting today and bought a drapey Mossimo sweater in an XL. I’m normally a smaller size but for the look I wanted, this actually worked.

Tip #5: Add pattern to spruce up blah colors. My long Adrienne sweater is a chocolate brown and cream-colored weave. It’s fine but dark brown + denim jeans + gray-ish booties left me feeling sad and colorless. However, once I added a navy and white gingham button-up underneath, it was party time. The contrasting prints broke the sweater of its 90s blah-ness. A patterned or colorful scarf can work the same magic.

See how this lovely gal took her gray sweater from plain to party with a patterned shirt?
sweater + gingham


Remember, these aren’t rules. And this isn’t revolutionary fashion information. These are just simple ideas to get you thinking outside the box, ways to refresh what you already own or find something fun and new for a few dollars.

Now go forth and pull those old sweaters from the back of your closet and see if you can’t reinvent one. Or if you’re like me and need to add a sweatery piece to your wardrobe, go find one at your favorite thrift store for the price of a latte. And then come back and tell me what you scored.


P.S. The last couple of weeks I’ve had real-life friends text, call, and hunt me down at church to show me their blazers. Some were rescued and revived from the backs of closets. Others were scored at thrift stores and given a second chance. You guys! I’m so proud of you. Let me say that you inspire me back with your enthusiasm and quick learning. Keep it up.

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