Pass On Your Style …and More


We spend our lives developing our personal style, from the colors that best complement our hair and skin tone, to clothing cuts that flatter our figures, to accessories that accentuate our best features.

Yet one day you open your closet and realize it’s full of clothes, shoes, and jewelry that just aren’t quite right anymore. That stunning formal gown that was so perfect for special occasions or the suit jacket that was ultra-suave? The cuts don’t fit the same on an older body shape. The beautiful peach sweater that made your skin positively glow? It doesn’t look as amazing when you no longer have that sun-kissed tan. What about those comfy shoes that let you dance the night away? Your knees and hips may not agree that they’re quite so comfortable these days.

Just because your personalized style is no longer ideal, however, doesn’t mean the closet has to be emptied into a rag bin, trash can, or thrift store donation box. There are many great ways to pass on your style to a new generation of stylish children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and in doing so, pass on some family history and traditions as well.

Before changing anything about your clothes to accommodate more modern tastes, let those younger generations explore your closet and try on your favorite duds. Vintage clothing is a hot commodity with many teens and 20-somethings, and some clothing may need no adjustments at all to be eagerly incorporated into a younger wardrobe with a retro-chic vibe. Be sure to share the stories of your most special items—the earrings you wore when you got your first kiss, the tie from your first job interview, or even the shoes that walked you down the aisle.

In some cases, small, easy alterations can quickly update an older outfit for a younger, trendier look. Simply raising a hemline, removing sleeves, changing buttons, or adding a few tucks can give older styles new life that a younger generation will love.

More extensive alterations can help preserve some of your fashion tastes in ways new wearers will enjoy, even if their personal preferences may be radically different from yours. Perhaps your granddaughter has your same coloring and that seafoam green sheath gown would look great on her, but she doesn’t like the dress length or neckline. With some careful alterations, however, that gown can be transformed into a flirty sundress she’ll adore, and you’ll love seeing the dress match the color of her eyes as it always did yours. A suit jacket could become a fitted vest, scarves can be transformed into hair accessories, and even clothing that needs no changes other than color can be dyed to appeal to a younger generation.

As you sort through your clothing and consider how younger generations may share your style, be sure to look beyond just a generation or two. Your closet may hold family heirlooms you aren’t aware of, or heirlooms you can create with some simple changes. That bow tie from your wedding? Save it for a grandson, great-grandson, or great-great-great-great grandson to wear to prom or his own wedding, but pen a quick note about the tie’s origins to store with it and keep the family tradition remembered as each new wearer adds to the history. The wedding gown that’s been looked at and tried on so often it’s falling apart a bit? Rework it to be a christening gown for generations to come. An oversized shirt that is a bit too worn out these days? It can become a comfortable maternity top for the next expectant mother in the family.

While you’re looking at different family ties to pass your style along to, don’t forget extended family as well. Nieces, nephews, cousins, or even those close neighbors’ or friends’ children and grandchildren whom you think of as your own may share your style and help you keep your favorite fashions in vogue.

When there just isn’t anyone interested in the clothing itself, it isn’t time to give up on your style. Many items of clothing can be remade into different pieces with just as much personal meaning. Take that lacy shawl that doesn’t suit anyone in the next generation and remake it into bridal handkerchiefs instead, or turn favorite old T-shirts or sweatshirts into a comfy quilt or cuddle blanket. Satin fabrics from gowns or suit linings could become stunning scrapbook covers, and flannel shirts or pajamas can easily be repurposed into baby bibs or stuffed animals for the youngest family members. Even old neckties can become trendy new cuff bracelets or knotted necklaces. And what about those clothes that are left over? All sorts of fabrics can be made into wall pocket panels to help a new generation organize its style and space, or they can be made into completely different accessories, such as upcycled purses or totes that can hold cherished family connections as easily as phones, wallets, and keys.

Your personal style is the ultimate expression of you with different fabrics, colors, cuts, and fashions. When your style changes or isn’t as wearable as you’d like it to be anymore, it’s easy to pass that style down for new generations to love, and you’ll make wonderful family connections and memories in the process.

Melissa Mayntz is a Florida-based freelance writer whose personal style includes her mother’s cozy socks, her father’s Army shirt, and her grandmother’s blue topaz ring.

As you sort through your clothing and consider how younger generations may share your style, be sure to look beyond just a generation or two.