One $12 Transitional Dress Styled 10 Genius Ways

You know those friends who put an outfit together and you’re seriously impressed they ever thought of wearing that with that and layering it with that third thing? Um, that’s exactly how I feel about writer Patrice J. Williams, who took on my challenge of styling Forever 21 dress 10 different ways. I knew she was the woman for the job after interviewing her this fall about her pledge to shop only secondhand for the entire year.

I sent her a few different dresses to pick from, and this slim-fitting one was her choice. “I chose the body-con style because I thought I could play around with it more,” she explained to me in an email. “The gray made it super easy to use prints and bold colors.”

Look #1
“I’m all about statement outerwear—it’s the first thing most people see when you’re walking down the street, so make it worthwhile. I’m frugal, but I absolutely believe in investing in a great coat or hunting down a vintage one. This vintage Christian Dior was $23 from the Salvation Army coat sale. The shoes are also thrifted, and the entire look is pretty simple, letting the coat be the real star.”

Look #2
“The fitted dress also makes a perfect fitted top, and it balances out the volume of this pleated H&M skirt. I love basics with a nice detail, like this Rachel Rachel Roy blazer, and the jeweled lapels mean I can go minimal elsewhere. The leopard ShoeDazzle booties are a neutral with a punch.”

Look #3
“Here’s the coat again, but this time it’s all about the skirt. It’s super crisp and has a bit of a quilted pattern, details that automatically make it look more expensive even though it cost about $25. I added a few pops of color with the necklace and the Pink and Pepper pumps, a final purchase from Loehmann’s before they closed.”

Look #4
“I recently raided my grandma’s closet and found this bright blanket scarf. It’s a few decades old but right on trend. I let the bold color be the focal point and added a few metallic accents with the vintage clutch and earrings. The plaid pumps are Charlotte Russe, and even though prints can be scary, the colors are neutral, so they go with everything in my closet.”

Look #5
“Since it’s still cold in my area, I layered a long Banana Republic cardigan over the dress and cinched with a beaded belt I scored for less than $1 from a thrift shop. The hat gives it a boho, relaxed vibe that balances out the boots. I constantly hear shorter women say they can’t wear over-the-knee boots, but that’s so not true! I’m 5’2″ and love them.”

Look #6
“As spring starts creeping in and I want something comfy for running errands, I’d wear this layered look. The knit vest gives me a bit of coverage over my behind, and the billowy front is like a built-in scarf over my Old Navy faux-leather jacket. Since the look is so casual, printed leggings add a bit of fun and serious warmth. I have about 20 pairs of tights, no exaggeration, in different colors and prints because they transform any look so easily.”

Look #7
“I’m obsessed with this Ellen Tracy cape! I’ve have it for about three years, and any time I wear it, it always becomes the focal point. The faux-fur collar adds a touch of glam, plus a luxe look and feel. The lug-sole boots give me some needed height and are comfortable and good for the still-slippery ground.”

Look #8
“To turn the dress into a top, I folded and tucked the skirt part into the jeans, and since the dress is fitted, it worked perfectly and looked like a bodysuit. The T-strap Dolce & Gabbana pumps were thrifted from Housing Works, and the belt breaks up the dark as well as camouflaging any bulk from the hidden skirt.”

Look #9
“I love men’s button-downs, so this pinstripe shirt is a staple in my closet. I layered it with a sequined sweater I found in my grandmother’s closet for a fun, preppy vibe. Sequins can give even the most basic piece an upgrade, but I always make sure it’s constructed properly before buying. There’s nothing worse than embellishments falling off.”

Look #10
“It’s been a long winter, but I refuse to let the cold and snow cramp my style. I make sure to have a super-warm coat like this vintage faux fur, cute snow boots like this thrifted J.Crew pair, and a little layering action under my outerwear. The vintage blouse is a little too big for me, so I wrapped it around my waist like a shirtdress and threw on a faux-leather vest I scored from New York & Co. a few years ago.”

Is she inventive or what? I’ve found myself most impressed by individuals and outfits not for an amazing, stand-alone piece, but when it’s a mix of simple pieces put together in a way I’d never thought of.

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