A Fashionable Guide to Hand-Me-Downs

We’ve all been there before – lost in a heap of our own wardrobe in search for the perfect sweater or scarf or pair of flats. Well it’s time to wrestle your way out of that long-overdue stockpile and move on to bigger and better things. That’s right, hand-me-downs.

Okay, so maybe hand-me-downs aren’t bigger and better, but that untouched trunk of funky and questionable apparel may be your next fashion breakthrough. It’s just a matter of finding the right things and working them the right way.

My older sister, who’s the same height as me with about three times the bust, has a wardrobe most girls would dream of, including me. If you’re looking through your sister’s untouched attire, pick out things you can rework or use to accessorize.

Tie a knot in the corner of an oversized tee to make for a casual, edgy look. Or pick out statement pieces to work with a pair of your favorite dark jeans and solid heels – a crazy-patterned blouse will certainly get some attention, or even a strappy dress that you can tuck in. Accessorize with old bracelets and a long, simple necklace for a unique look.

My grandma, also blessed with a big bust and an equally big heart, isn’t necessarily your modern day fashionista, but she has kept in good condition a number of unique pieces. She’ll occasionally spot me perusing through her moth-ball-scented closets, filled with shoulder pads and vibrant nylon. I’ve left with knitted wool sweaters, Polo button-downs, cotton ear warmers and loads of gaudy jewelry. Though at first glance the pieces in your gram’s closet may seem out-of-date, give them a chance and you may be surprised.

Pair a comfy sweater with leggings and boots, or under a preppy vest. Roll up the sleeves of a button-down top with high-waisted pants and flats for a clean, business casual look. If your search seems unsuccessful, grandma’s always have oodles of cat sweaters and holiday wear, so stock up for the next themed party.

The number of retro windbreakers my brother and cousins have taken from my grandparents’ backroom is steadily growing, as is the number of missing Red Sox baseball caps and stretched-out, bulky winter sweaters. Pop into pop’s closet for some old caps and vintage cardigans. He may even have one of those hefty coats from those years he worked as a mechanic or a fleece with a howling wolf on it.

Knit hats are in this year and chances are, your brother’s got one or two. Complete an ultracool look with a cotton knit hat and that Bruins scarf he hasn’t worn since age 12. Or dress up his old Star Wars or The Simpsons tees with a flashy watch and combat boots. Dads probably got some unexpected gems too, like those Wayfarer sunglasses he bought when he wasn’t allowed a Harley, or those old Levi’s jeans that would make for a perfect pair of high-waisted, cut-off shorts.

So keep your mind open and your eyes peeled next time you’re home. Though your family’s hand-me-downs may not always fit or match or smell right, you can always find a way to make things work. The key is searching through what closets for… well, who knows, exactly. Just search!