London - Rummaging in my wardrobe for a dress to wear to a party, I noticed the frightening number of rarely and even never-worn items with price tags still attached.
A clear-out was desperately needed. I often bag up old clothes and take them to the charity shop. But what could I do with all my unworn dresses and tops?
One friend told me to sell them on eBay, but I don’t have the inclination for all that photographing, uploading and posting parcels.
Another suggested selling them at a car boot sale. Forget it. I’m not flogging my costly mistakes for a few quid each.
Essentially, I didn’t really want to get rid of them. I am one of the 92 percent of women identified by Marks & Spencer in a recent survey as clinging on to stuff they never wear.
My dilemma was solved when I spotted a card in the window of my local post office: “Dress unloved? Skirt unflattering? Make it fit, make it wearable! Renovate your wardrobe, no job too small!”
Perhaps, with a bit of tinkering, those items languishing in my wardrobe could be turned into things I would actually wear.
Not being able to sew and desperate to recoup the £533 I’d wasted on three dresses and a top, I decided to let seamstress Helen Munday work her magic.
First step was a fitting, so Helen could see my fashion faux pas - cue much eye-rolling and head-shaking by us both.
I briefed her on the changes I wanted to make and she set to work pinning each garment as I tried them on, suggesting some ideas of her own.
She told me it would cost between £20 and £45 to renovate each item, depending on the amount of work needed.
So, £105 later, did she manage to create a summer wardrobe from my retail rejects?
NUDE REISS DRESS
BOUGHT FOR: £179
RENOVATED FOR: £25
BEFORE: There’s only one reason I bought this dress - I had the same style in electric blue and, having attracted plenty of compliments, decided I simply had to have it in another shade. Somehow I forgot nude just makes me look washed out.
AFTER: A dress reincarnated as a top. I’m not convinced I will wear this too often, but that’s down to the wishy-washy colour that no amount of renovating can transform. It works with white cropped jeans because their starkness lifts the nude colour.
BLACK ALL SAINTS DRESS
BOUGHT FOR: £95
RENOVATED FOR: £20
BEFORE: I bought this bubble-hemmed dress because I’m a sucker for sequins and beading. Shamefully, I spent £95 on a neckline, despite knowing I’d never wear this dress.
AFTER: The pretty neckline is the star of the show, thanks to Helen hacking the dress into a top and re-shaping it to make it a closer, more flattering fit. The binliner skirt is in the bin and this great top is now one of my favourites.
BRIGHT ORANGE REISS TOP
BOUGHT FOR: £99
RENOVATED FOR: £35
BEFORE: I ration black in my wardrobe having finally realised, at the age of 30, that my Mum was right: I do look better in bright colours. But there’s bright and then there’s looking like a Belisha beacon. The only time I wore this top was to dinner on Halloween with friends - when I realised I was more orange than a pumpkin.
AFTER: What a difference a V-neck makes! With a hint of decolletage on display to break up the orange, I feel far less conspicuous in this ultra-bright top. I wore it to a wine bar with my husband last Saturday.
BELTED KAREN MILLEN DRESS
BOUGHT FOR: £160
BEFORE: My olive-skinned, dark-haired friend looked fabulous in this, so I rushed out to buy it, too - even though it was baggy and unflattering around the neckline and torso, and I hate elasticated belts.
AFTER: Now Helen’s transformed the neckline into my favourite asymmetric shape, I’m planning to give this dress its first outing at a friend’s wedding, teamed with heels, a clutch and a fancy hat.
How to re-work your wardrobe