My closet is so ridiculously tiny that it’s been nicknamed “The Magic Puppet Theater” because my all my clothes have to fit on a four foot long rod. As a result I’m always on the hunt for new ways to streamline my wardrobe.
My weapon of choice for maximizing closet efficiency: convertible clothing.
Convertible clothes are versatile garments that can be worn in more than one way. There are actually a surprising number of convertible garments on the market at every price point. Everything from the classic hiking pants with
I’ve been obsessed with convertible clothing since childhood. My maternal grandmother was an amazing seamstress who made me my first reversible skirt. I credit her with my ongoing love of business on the outside, party on the inside apparel.
Here are the seven hardest working garments in my closet:
The Uniform Project’s Little Black Dress
After rabidly following Sheena Matheikin’s Uniform Project blog every day for an entire year, I not only plunked down my hard-earned cash for one of the 365 limited edition dresses, but bought the kit for the collared version of the dress that includes special edition fabric.
Fair warning: The dresses are extremely short and, although the collared dress is simple to construct, the pattern instructions are HORRIBLE, so it’s not a project for new sewists. That said, I wear these dresses several times a month. And I’m old. And I have fat legs.
The DKNY Cozy Sweater
I didn’t understand the appeal of the wrap cardigan when these first appeared on the market a few years ago, mainly because I never saw them worn any way but open and drooping. Then I saw a weirdly mesmerizing demo on twenty different ways to wear this sweater. Then I was mad that I didn’t think of this.
The Infinity Dress
In 2011 Donna Karan created The Infinity System,an entire collection devoted to convertible clothing. Alas, these clothes are out of the price range of most mortals. Her version of the iconic Infinity Dress that can be worn ten different ways costs $995.
Since my car costs less than the Donna Karan Infinity dress, I did some research on how to get the look for less. Target’s version cost $29.99 and looked like it would fall apart the first time I washed it. Also, since I’m built like a dachshund, most wrap dresses don’t fit my long torso, so I decided to make sew my own version. Rostitchery has an excellent free instructional on how to sew your own Infinity Dress. I, personally, don’t have the boobs for her version, so I sewed my own copy using McCall’s Pattern 6353. My dress cost a total of $55 because I used a really nice, hand washable jersey fabric, but it took me less time to sew the dress then it did for me to drive to the fabric store. For people who don’t sew, etsy features a number of sellers who custom make convertible dresses for bridesmaids in a huge array of fabrics and colors for under $100. Some etsy sellers have even gone the extra distance and carry infinity-style dresses that are also reversible so you can flip the dress inside out for a second color!
The Pashmina Shawl
I was late to the pashmina party. When every girl was wearing one of these in the late nineties, I hated the look. Why are you wearing your sofa throw at the office? But then I was converted when I got a free pashmina at a clothing swap party. While I’ll never wear my pashmina to work, it’s my go-to accessory for travel. It’s warm, but not bulky, so you can fold it up and carry it in your handbag. I use it instead of the plague blankets they hand out on airplanes to keep warm. It’s thin enough to be used as a muffler in cold weather. It’s big enough to use as a headscarf or to cover my shoulders when I’m touring churches or other holy sites.
The Reversible Skirt
I own three different reversible skirts. The first is a tennis skirt that is black on one side and khaki on the other that I bought at a thrift store for $6. The second is a wrap skirt I made from vintage fabric using a free pattern from Craft: Magazine. The third is an amazing vintage Turnabout Skirt from Pendleton Woolen Mills that is two different plaid kilts in one. Turnabout Skirts can be found on ebay for as little as $5.
Reversible Vintage Handbags
Back in the day when Americans purse shoppers were apparently smarter, reversible/convertible handbags were a big thing, with several companies specializing in quick-change purses.
Originally designed in the 1960’s, Burlington brought back their wood handled handbag in the early 1980’s. These bags are so preppy and cute. Interchangeable and reversible cloth handbag covers button onto wooden handles. Because I’m a tweaker, I like to use fabric left over from other sewing projects to make matching handbags for my handmade clothes, but covers and replacement handles can be found on etsy and ebay for under $40. I get a sick satisfaction from the fact that the handles on my Burlington bag perfectly matches my mohop wedgie heels.
My fashionista friend Stephanie recently gave me her old, vintage L and M (Lowy and Mund) handbag. She had used it for years, yet had no idea that the bag was reversible.
In 1957 Edward R. Lowy of Brooklyn designed the patented locking system for “3-in-1″ or “Day-to- Night” convertible handbags. My L and M bag is made of black silk faille and feature a clear, lucite handle. It has a detachable, reversible cover. One side of the exterior cover is black patent, the other a paisley needlepoint.
I am currently on the lookout for other L and M handbags on ebay and etsy, for additional covers to expand the usability of my purse.
I first heard about Mohop Sandals from a fellow commenter on Wise Bread. Designed by Chicago-based architect Annie Mohaupt, Mohops are wooden-soled, eco-friendly shoes that can be laced with any ribbon or fabric tie to create an infinite number of sandal styles. I own two pairs of Mohops: Low Maple Slides and High Walnut wedges. Each pair of Mohops are sent with seven sets of ribbons, metal and wood rings, and illustrated cards showing seven ways to tie the shoes. Right out of the box you have 49 different pairs of shoes.
What is your experience with reversible or convertible clothing? Gimmick or Best Thing Ever?
You can tell it’s the 1970′s, because there’s no way the United States Government would fund anything this cool now. Your favorite psychedelic Sesame Street animator, Vincent Collins, created this short film for the 1976 Bicentennial with a grant from the amazingly named United States Information Agency. Happy 4th of July!
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