CLOSET RX : It’s the Thought That Counts


A package is waiting for you. You know what it is, but you’re not looking forward to opening it.

It’s another birthday gift from your dear mother or sweet Aunt Lil, who saw a blouse, dress or hat she thought you’d look perfect in. But the truth is, while they might look great in an over-blouse printed with flowers in a shade of pink not known to nature, your tastes are probably different.

However, before you send the thank-you note and toss the apparel in the thrift shop bag, you might want to experiment to see if it could work into your closet rotation.

“It’s fairly common to want to give away pieces of clothing that don’t fit your needs,” says Sandy Miller of Twice the Style in Costa Mesa. “But if you give it some thought, some of those pieces can be salvaged. You might realize that Mom isn’t as out-of-touch with what you wear as you thought.”


If there’s an old pleated skirt gathering dust on a hanger, now is probably the time to give it a good examination. “You can shorten it above the knee and use a large safety pin to accessorize it and you’ll have the skirt that is expected to be hot this fall,” Miller says.

Coordinate this “kilt” look with opaque tights and black shoes to match the pages of the fall fashion books.

“If you’re good at selecting colors and styles for yourself, try using some of your creativity to turn a dull outfit into a hot one,” says clothing designer Sara D’allesandro of Yorba Linda. “Sometimes it just takes a new necklace and belt to keep from tossing out what you thought of as your mother’s dress.”

Another classic you may have winced at when you pulled it out of the box is the cardigan sweater. The short cardigan, which hits the waistline, is on the verge of a revival.


“The beaded cardigan is making a comeback for the fall and winter, and many designers are introducing their own versions of it,” Miller says.

You can apply a beaded applique or a beaded neckline to that gift cardigan to help create a ‘40s look; add a pearl necklace and earrings or even ‘90s-style gold jewelry.

Designer cardigans are expected to start around $300, making your updated version a bargain, especially if it was a gift.

“If you look at fashion magazines quite a bit, you realize that everything comes back in style,” says Evelyn Martiens of Serendipity in San Juan Capistrano. “Blouses, slacks, dresses that a few years ago you would have thrown away are coming back.”


Martiens also recommends hanging on to those clothes your mother sends for more than their fashion. “Anytime someone’s given you a gift out of love, it shouldn’t be tossed away. Find a good use for it.”