I wanted to write a post that explained how to recognize a dated wardrobe item, but although I make these decisions on an almost daily basis as I review the closets of my clients, it was impossible for me to distill my thought process into a set of simple guidelines.

It used to be an easy rule: wardrobe items that are 10 years or older are dated. Pass them on. Hmmm. Not so fast. Some wardrobe items date well before the 10 year mark, and some older items can still look perfectly fab. Four things make the decision more complex than you might expect:

  1. Fashion repeats itself
  2. Vintage and retro wardrobe items can be hip and cool
  3. So called “dated items” can be re-mixed to look current and contemporary
  4. Personal style and fashion persona play a big role

Sometimes a dated item can be rejuvenated with a different ensemble. For example, I recently came across a 10 year old top that looked dated with jeans or trousers, which is how the client wore it before. But when we layered it over a contemporary blouse or a shirt matched with skirt and fashionable footwear, the top was re-mixed to look current.

I had a similar experience with a boxy 20 year old suit blazer that looked dated when worn with the slacks my client bought it with. But 80’s and 90’s fashion has repeated itself, so we tried scrunching up the sleeves and layering it over a short “now” sheath dress with “of this fashion moment booties” and fun hose. Voila, hipness! This is not to say that all blazers from the 80’s and 90’s should be salvaged because many of them do look horribly dated. But sometimes they can work again if my client fancies the idea and is a daring dresser.

Items date at a more rapid rate for some people than for others. If you’re super fashion forward and trendy, wardrobe items feel dated fast. Some clients look at what they bought as recently as last year and say, ”I don’t want to wear that again. It feels tired and dated. Onto something new”. They loved the item when it was a  fringe trend  – but somehow it lost its appeal as soon as it became mainstream. Into the Goodwill pile it goes for someone else to remix!

Sometimes my client needs to be edgy and fashion forward to make a dated item work in a retro-modern ensemble.

In fact, personal style is probably the biggest factor at play. I might convince one client to hold on to a 30 year old 70’s style leather blazer, but with another client and the exact same item I might suggest passing it on. Why? The first client has a strong arty and retro element to her style and has the coordinating contemporary wardrobe pieces to complete the look. It wouldn’t be a stretch for her to make the item work. The second client is comfortably modern classic and would be much happier updating her leather jacket to a new style that she can wear with almost everything for the next five years.

So no simple guidelines, but there are some things to think about when dealing with an item that might be dated: Has it come back into fashion? Can it be remixed with other items to make it current? Can it be part of a vintage or retro ensemble? Is the result aligned with your personal style? And the most important question: do you feel confident wearing the resulting outfit?

If you are still uncertain, ask your friends what they think. After all, talking about it can be half the fun! My challenge to you for the next week: post an item that you think is dated on the YLF forum. Together we will brainstorm the possibilities and decide whether it really is time to pass it on.