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Combining current styles with older classic styles

by Tania
(Sydney NSW)

Hi Jane, I found some lovely older clothes – classic styles from late 1980s – until about 2010. Most of these were bought at Katies prior to 1998 and Millers (until about 2010).

I don’t wish to get rid of those but would like some tips how to style the current things so that I can enjoy wearing them.

These don’t appear to be out of fashion, meaning that they were classic when I bought them and not the exaggerated styles e.g. huge shoulder pads.

For example, a few fitted jackets without any exaggerated styles, plain coloured jumpers, fair-isle jumpers (I love those !), straight knee length skirts, t-shirts similar to what was sold this summer at Givoni.

Thanks in advance.

Jane's answer...Hi Tania. Thanks for your question, though I do wish you'd included photos of the actual items you'd particularly like to get more wear out of! It would have allowed me to give you specific examples of how to style the items. However, I'll try to give you some pointers and will use the photos of the tops you have included.

I'm fascinated to know where you found the clothes! It sounds as if they were things that you bought. Did they get hidden at the back of your wardrobe? Did you put them in a forgotten storage place? Did a wardrobe clearout reveal them?

I find one of the joys of taking a new piece of clothing or a new accessory back into my wardrobe or a client's wardrobe is working out ways to use it with things already there to make older pieces feel fresh again.

It's possible to keep favorite items for years, especially if you combine them in new ways, or with new purchases, to keep them looking contemporary. However, having said that please be aware that even classics date! A classic will typically last 6-10 years before it feels dated.

Things to check


Contemporary fabrics are made using different technology than a decade or so ago. Many current fabrics have a high percentage of stretch in them, making them comfortable to wear. Because of this older fabrics, in particular those made of synthetic fibers, especially textured fabrics. For example, fake linen-look fabrics from the 80s now look very stiff, cheap and 'old lady-ish' no matter how contemporarily they are styled.

Natural fibers (or a high percentage of natural fiber) and knitted jumpers will be the easiest to use with contemporary clothes. If the t-shirts were bought closer to 2010 than 1980 then they will work too.


The silhouette and fit of clothing from the 80s, 90s etc was very different to now. That may not matter if you can find a way to style them in a contemporary way, but do be aware of this.


If your older clothes were packed away in a dry place with no sun light their condition may be as good as new. However, do check carefully for fading, yellowing and mis-coloration especially on collars, under arms and at the hem.

Contemporary styling suggestions

Tania, please bear in mind that I'm giving these suggestions having little or no idea of your body shape, coloring, personal preferences or age! However, I'm hoping you can take some of the ideas here and translate them to suit you!

To make outfits using these tees even more contemporary experiment to see if a half or partial tuck works for your shape and personality.

Ideas for styling a polo shirt

current styling ideas for polo shirtImages courtesy:
Birdsnest: necklaces; long skirt; pants
Sportscraft: navy skirt
David Jones: sandals on left and far right
Leisures: sandals in middle

A polo shirt can look very maculine and boring. I've tried to change this by:
  • Using patterned bottoms that contain a color similar to the main color of the polo shirt

  • Using a necklace that ties in the color or feel of the bottoms, in the case of the patterned bottoms. For the navy jean-style skirt I've added a blue based color (the pinky, purple) to add interest

  • Adding a feminine detail into each outfit, for example: silver sandals; skirt; necklace

Ideas for styling a striped tee-shirt

current styling ideas for striped teeImages courtesy:
Sussan: shorts; pants
Blue Illusion: necklace on right
Birdsnest: bird necklace; skirts; shoes

Stripes are very much in vogue at the moment. Some ways to ensure an older striped shirt look contemporary are:
  • Comining the stripes with a patterned bottom (the floral or striped skirt). Notice both bottoms include colors used in the top

  • Make sure your shoes are contemporary and complete the outfit (that is there's something about the shoes or sandals that relates them to you or the outfit). For example, choose a color from your bottoms, or your hair color, or a color close to your skin

  • Choose relaxed, casual pants or shorts and style the top with a half tuck

  • A long-ish line necklace or scarf will make a high neckline line work better for most body shapes

Ideas for styling a pink tee-shirt

contemporary styling ideas for pink teeImages courtesy:
Sportscraft: navy pants
Blue Illusion: grey pants
Birdsnest: earrings; multi-colored pants; floral skirt; shoes
Sussan: striped skirt

The main styling ideas used here are:
  • Using a color from the neckline detail in the bottoms

  • Combine with patterened bottoms that contain a similar shade of pink

  • With the neckline details no necklace is needed, but you could add some statement earrings

  • Ensure your shoes or sandals are very contemporary. This is especially needed with the floral skirt which could look a bit frumpy otherwise -- styling the tee with a partial tuck will also for this outfit

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Thank you and a further question
by: Tania

Hi Jane,

Thanks so much for answering this question – I very much appreciate the time you took for this task and also hope it helps someone else.

I don't wish to be stuck in a 1980's time warp – I worked out why I was attracted to that era, apart from being a teenager then, was that many of the colours (clear brights, mid-toned pastels) in Katies stores at that time were suitable for Bright Springs.

Unfortunately some of the clothes in question are now on their way out – getting very worn out with lots of pilling.

A few favourite stripe combinations were:

1. Turquoise and white. A very favourite of mine – also love aqua and white stripes.

2. Pastel mid-toned aqua/white/pastel mid-toned pink.

3. Turquoise/warmish fuchsia/clear yellow with white between each shade.

4. Apricot/lilac/light khaki.

5. Clear navy/white/taupe.

Stripes and Polka dots are some of my favourite patterns.

However, the Givoni ones I listed are very close to the colour schemes that I wear (Bright Spring). The clothes in question were all bought by me and some of them were rediscovered during a wardrobe clean out.

argyll knit

I also have a similar top to this one (but with a plain crew neck and the main shade is light buttery-yellow and with warm pastel aquas, corals, apricots (warmer in tone than the one in the picture), light khaki in the argyle pattern.

Do you have any ideas on how to style this one ?

Also, do you have any articles on fitting clothes especially jackets tops – I usually have problem with a too deeply cut armscye so I sometimes need to go up a size especially in jackets (so that they are comfortable in the bust area) but then the shoulders can be too big (I would never attempt to get that area re-tailored) and make me feel like a grid-iron player – couldn't stand that look in the 1980s (I have an hourglass/pear shape with broad shoulders) and don't wish to exaggerate that.

Warm Regards....Tania.

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