Wardrobe Multi-taskers

wear a skirt as a dress

When I first moved to Minneapolis, I lived in a neighborhood called Uptown. Near my tiny little studio apartment was a place that was a combination video rental store and tanning salon. Same shop, two very different services. And, initially, I thought this was quite odd but the longer I lived here, the more multi-tasking businesses I discovered. Bowling alley / restaurant / black box theater. Art gallery / accountant office. These places exist and thrive here. Perhaps because Minnesotans value a bargain, and engaging multiple activities in a single place is a good value.

This kind of value – the multi-purpose kind – can be found in your closet, too, if you use your imagination. Here are a few possible wardrobe multi-taskers to consider.

Necklace as belt

This is the example is poached from an older post about alternate uses for jewelry. Just about any long, fairly regular necklace will do. I prefer to use clasp-free necklaces myself, and slip a ribbon through to seal the deal.

Belt as necklace

Of course, it works in the other direction, too! Most leather belts will make fairly wacky looking necklaces, but beaded and chain belts are likely candidates. I’m almost certain I learned this trick from Kasmira, shown here, who kicks it up a notch by layering her chain belt over a marvelous printed scarf.

Scarf as bracelet

If you’re looking for a way to inject more color or pattern into an outfit – or just wondering how the heck to make use of a tiny vintage neckerchief – try rolling it into a snake and tying it around your wrist, cuff style. Add a watch or wrap a long chain bracelet around the scarf for a funky, modern touch.

Skirt as dress/tunic

Zounds, I’m reaching into the archive for some of these. Need to practice what I preach a bit more, I guess! This patterned tunic is actually an asymmetric-hem skirt that I thrifted years ago. It looks downright awful on me as a skirt, but so fun as a tunic. Depending on the cut and length of the skirt, hiking it up to your armpits can transform it into a flirty dress or fun tunic. This works best with skirts featuring elastic waistbands and fairly full silhouettes. (Pencil skirts are unlikely candidates.)

Brooch as hair ornament

Sure, this is a bit more likely to work on dressy occasions, but why not decide that “Thursday” is occasion enough? Brooches often languish unworn because they can feel like an afterthought, but many of them can easily double as barrettes. Either slip the pin mechanism through an actual barrette, or carefully slip the pin itself through a snug portion of your up-do.

Scarves on hanger courtesy Huzzah Vintage, scarf/bracelet courtesy Pasinescafashion, necklace/belt courtesy What I Wore 2Day., brooch/barrette courtesy liveweddings.

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  • Thanks for the tiny scarf-as-bracelet tip, Sal – I just wrote about how I find them fairly useless, and bam! here you are with a great idea : >

  • I like how Kasmira styled her belt as a necklace — how fun!

    Bowties make great hairbows/headband adornments/brooches/shoe clips.

  • Love these tips! I used the brooch-as-hair ornament one for my prom once! I also bought a cheap rhinestone necklace and wove it through my hair for my last prom (way cheaper than usual hair ornaments!)

  • StPeteMom

    I have used earrings (both post and clip) as decorative pins/ brooches and clip earrings often look great to dress up plain pumps. I have used rings as a “slide” on my scarves – usually I put a safety pin behind the ring on thinner, silkier scarves.

  • Great ideas!

    I have used necklaces in my hair updos before, too. Not recently, though. I need to start experimenting again.

  • Sonja

    Ooooh, I love that one.
    I think I’ve already mentioned in some comment how much I love strapless tube tops – they are my go-to versatile multitask-thingy.
    I wear them as they are or as a breezy layering piece underneath something with a low neckline, I’ve also crunched them and used them as a belt over a voluminous dress/top to define my waist. Come to think about it, they could even work as a circle scarf, if you like those.
    Lately I’m totally into these clips with fabric flowers. I suppose they were designed as a hair embellishment (this is not going to happen with me…) but I usually wear them as a brooch, mostly clipped at the neckline. But you can totally clip them at a belt, a handbag handle, your shoes, a necklace …
    And I think you do not have mentioned that you can layer a skirt or a shirt over a dress, so the dress is a multitasker, too.
    My newest idea: to fold in one of the straps of a tank to get a one-strap top. You can do it on the left one day, on the right the next, and thus get a nice tan, as well… 😉 Although I think this will actually look better in the evening, because the disappearing seams give away the trick, so as little light as possible would be better to get a seemingly polished look.

  • Christie

    I have a hair flower that I often wear as a brooch by putting a safety pin vertically on my sweater and clipping the flower to it. Compliments all day, every time.

  • Trudy Blue

    I keep my wardrobe pretty small, so I love multitaskers. I use long narrow scarves as belts, headwraps, and to tie on a purse strap. I use wider scarves as shawls. I use small clutch purses as wallets inside larger bags. I wear short sleeve sweaters and tops alone, under jackets and cardigans, and as vests. I wear shorter dresses as tunics over skinny jeans. Lately I’ve been wearing long skirts as sundresses (inspired by a new Patagonia Kamala skirt: http://www.patagonia.com/us/product/womens-kamala-skirt?p=58666-0-576, which is made to also transform into a dress). Rather than go strapless when wearing a normal skirt as a dress, I sew one or two lengths of coordinating ribbon just inside the top edge to use as a halter strap. (This is very simple hand sewing, so anyone can do it. Either fold a single long ribbon in half and stitch down the center of the ribbon inside the center front of the skirt/dress for a vee style halter, or stitch two separate ribbons wider apart. Pin them and try it on first to test placement. Cotton twill tape also works well, as does bias tape that’s been stitched closed. The ribbons tuck inside when it’s being a skirt again.)

  • K

    I love scarves as bracelets! Last year I got a really disgusting case of poison ivy on my wrist, and for 2+ weeks I had to keep it all bound up with gauze, so I starting wearing scarves tied over it, held in place with bracelets. Most people assumed I was doing it just for style reasons and I got a lot of compliments. I’ve also been known to use a skirt as a scarf sometimes.

  • Skinny belts as wrist cuffs! Dresses as vests/jackets. I try to make the most out of everything in my closet. Doing double or triple duty means something is going to stick around longer.

  • Anna

    I am inappropriately amused that my browser is abbreviating this post title to “Wear skirt as a dress, a scarf as a bra…”
    I actually did once turn a scarf into a wrapped tube top one time during a wardrobe emergency! It worked okay, actually. Anyway, I do the skirt-as-dress thing all the time, but other than that I can’t think of any other examples of wardrobe double duty in my life. It’s definitely something to think about! The necklace-as-belt sounds especially fun.

    • Sal

      Not inappropriately. Scarf as a bra … hee hee hee.

  • Sarah

    Okay, this one is a little strange…I use my work-out capris/shorts year-round as layering pieces under dresses. I love wearing dresses, especially in the summer, but I hate when my thighs rub together all day. NOT FUN and a fire hazard. I also hate pantyhose and don’t own a single pair. So my solution is to just layer the sweat-wicking workout capris or shorts I buy at Target under my dresses. I find that this extra layer actually keeps me cooler (I am wearing it today, and it is 101 degrees in Baltimore.)

    This is probably TMI, but if I just wore the work-out stuff under a dress at work all day, I will fold them and save them for my next workout, so I get two wears out of them. However, I won’t do the opposite…that would just be gross. 🙂

  • Lorena

    Marvelous tips.
    I am guilty of all 🙂

  • GinaMarie

    Ah, I think that pearl necklace/belt post was the first time I read your blog! I just used a flower pin as a hair accessory the other day, too. I never feel comfortable wearing it on anything.

    I guess the only addition I can make is a halter top as a skirt. I have a beautiful one that makes a far better skirt that it does a shirt. The halter portion of it is really just material that slips easily out of a loop in the front. That winds up as a nice belt now.

  • CC

    I have worn a skinny belt as a bracelet! It turned out surprisingly well!
    Here is the post if you’re interested: http://ccscheapchic.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-belt-its-bracelet-no-its-both.html

    I’ve also done the skirt as a dress thing and worn a scarf as top under a blazer. I have a number of brooches that are sitting unused in my jewelry box, I’ll have to try one out in my hair! And maybe once the weather cools enough that the idea of extraneous fabric anywhere on my body doesn’t make me want to cry, I’ll try out the scarf as a bracelet. Sounds cute. 😉

  • Viktoria

    I have worn scarves as haltertops and skirts, or belts. Even around my neck… Sometimes I tie a small scarf into a bow around a safetypin and use as a brooch. And I have just started to use my pearl necklaces wrapped around my neck and pinned together with a brooch, I love it! And I will definitely try wearing a scarf as a bracelet, that´s new for me!

  • Kylynara

    I have used hair flowers as brooches before. I just pin a safety pin through the shirt and clip the flower to it.
    I have taken larger pendants off their chains and pinned them on as brooches as well.
    I’ve pinned necklaces into my hair.
    I have a sun dress that I wear as a skirt more often than a dress. It’s the kind that is all elastic through the chest, then just full going down. I get so many compliments on it every time I wear it as a skirt. I actually discovered this accidentally. I had a gall bladder attack while wearing it as a dress and they needed me to take my top off in the emergency room so they could do an abdominal exam and since I didn’t have pants I just slipped the straps off and wore the top at my waist. The nurse complimented me on it when she came back in.