How to style the show-stopping New Year's Eve look that's already in your closet

Stylists Zeina Esmail and Toyo Tsuchiya share tips for turning something nice into something totally memorable.

Stylists Zeina Esmail and Toyo Tsuchiya share tips for turning something nice into something totally memorable

Left, a person draped in a dress made of embroidered, colourful rugs. Right: a person wearing a long white dress with voluminous sleeves.
(Source, left: @ishistudios/Instagram; right: @davidreissphotography/Instagram)

As the final chapter of the year unfolds, the excitement around what to wear on New Year's Eve begins. After all, this is your opportunity to bid adieu to the old and welcome the future in sartorial splendour. Your choice of outfit allows you to step into the new year with confidence, elegance and a touch of extravagance. So why not make it one for the books?

But there's no need to spend precious time and money shopping for your outfit. You can embrace your existing clothing items — and the spirit of sustainability — by repurposing a forgotten piece, elevating an existing outfit by adding some dramatic touches or making a statement by mixing different fabrics or textures. 

All you need to pull this off is a dash of ingenuity and the willingness to rummage through your wardrobe.

The tips ahead from top Canadian stylists Zeina Esmail and Toyo Tsuchiya are sure to inspire and help. They break down their own work and share suggestions you can use to create a look that exudes your creativity and originality — so you can turn something nice into something totally memorable.

Reinvent your old clothes by restyling

DIY tricks are a way to add inventive flair to your celebratory look, and it can be a simple matter of styling. "If you have an old piece of clothing you used to love but have grown tired of, think about wearing it differently," said Esmail, a fashion stylist and founder of The Fashion Edit, a luxury resale site, with a store in Toronto.

She suggests looking at your existing pieces in a different light. "Turn a button-down shirt around so it's backwards, roll up the sleeves and tuck it into a skirt. Tuck your blazer into your skirt, if it's not too bulky. Take your dad's jacket and belt it with a pair of jeans and heels," she riffed. "You can even take a scarf and [find] different ways to wear it as a top."

And Esmail doesn't stop at repurposing scarves. "So, this is the epitome of a DIY dress, made of embroidered rugs I purchased in Vietnam," she said of the look seen here. "They are actually thin so it wasn't hard to hold them together with pins. Not saying you have to wear your carpets for the holidays, but sometimes the most incredible fabrics are right in front of you," she said.

Play around with textures

"Looking in my closet, I see shiny faux patent leather, a jersey with tassels, crochet sleeves, chunky knits and smooth silks," said fashion stylist Tsuchiya. "For your NYE 'fit, go wild and mix these textures," she suggested.

"This is a great way to look at the clothes you already have differently [and enjoy] experimenting [as you] find that perfect eclectic combo," she said. "Don't be surprised if people keep touching you all night with that crazy texture you have going on!"

Elevate a drab dress with feathers or fringes

If you're a maximalist who wears their mood loud and proud, try adding embellishments to one of your more simple pieces. "Many of us have a classic, somewhat boring staple in our closets that we don't get rid of but simultaneously never gravitate to because it's 'blah,'" said Esmail.

"This dress is covered in feathers and, while you don't have to go all in, you can order a trim online — it can be anything from feathers to rhinestones to fringes. It's inexpensive, and you just sew it on your neckline and hem — or be even more creative — to give a basic dress a facelift," said Esmail. The best part? "You can always just cut it off if you want to swap it out or get tired of it," she suggested.

Make your look about an eye-catching accessory 

If you love accentuating your outfits with an accessory, try building your look by picking your statement add-on first.

"It's time to find that favourite hat, bracelet, tie, necklace or earrings you may have forgotten about and bring it back to life by creating a stunning 'fit [around it]," said Tsuchiya.

"Pair a simple top with a necklace … [or] your favourite hat with a cool patterned shirt. The options are as endless as pairing any fun accessory with your favourite piece.… Be creative and think outside the box," she said.

Add a layer (or two) to a plain, boxy T-shirt

"Dig out that boxy tee …  and create a stunning multi-layered look," said Tsuchiya. This quintessential wardrobe staple is versatile and makes creating a gender-neutral look almost effortless. 

Simply wear the tee with a fun pair of pants or jeans and a blazer or jacket, she suggests. "Or, wear it over a dress and layer it with a bright-coloured cardigan."

Revamp your jacket with '90s-style shoulders

Channel your inner Spice Girl with a statement jacket or blazer that's imbued with '90s energy: "As we all know, the '90s is a huge, consistent trend that doesn't seem to be going anywhere," Esmail confirmed.

"Everyone has a black jacket. One simple way to update it ... is to buy a pair of shoulder pads and either sew them in or just place them to give your jacket a boxier, cooler look," said Esmail. "This can work for anything — sweaters, dresses, tops."

Pair different fabrics

From cashmere and corduroy to velvet and voile, pairing diverse fabric types can produce a seriously impressive look for men.

"I am sure you have [more] fabrics in your wardrobe and didn't even realize," said Tsuchiya. "For the big party this NYE, try mixing denim jeans with a shiny fabric top or faux leather pants with a heavy-knit sweater or a ribbed jersey top."

To ace this look, Tsuchiya suggests mixing heavyweight fabrics (like denim, corduroy, velvet, wool, flannel or tweed) with lightweight fabrics (such as chiffon, silk, georgette, viscose, voile or gingham). "Doesn't matter [what] the combo," she promised, "you will end up with a stunning 'fit your friends will be envious of."

Rely on the magic of monochrome

A monochrome outfit is perfect for many, including those who want a more gender-neutral look, or one with minimal vibes.

"Pick your favourite bold colour," advised Tsuchiya, "and mix the same-coloured textures, like pink sequins with pink faux leather! You will look so chic in your monochrome 'fit that people will be sad they missed the memo."


Shweta Gandhi is a Toronto-based fashion and lifestyle journalist. Follow her at @svetarot.

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