Style Stories

How to make your old stuff feel new

Unlikely accessory pairings -- that's the secret.
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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Do you ever get so overwhelmed when you’re around very well-styled people (could be in real life, or through a magazine/website) that it teeters into the territory of helplessness? Like you lose sight of your own sense style or something, you start to think, because of all the good taste in your presence, “I have to have all of that! Every single component.” Even if its not de facto your taste! But especially when it is.

Lately, I’m realizing it is much easier to shake off this feeling than I have previously believed. Like all you have to do is step into your own closet and take the goodness for what it was: inspiration to ignite your own creativity. But I think the thing about the feeling at all is that there’s a thrill in the air around getting dressed again. It’s like we can finally see opportunities to put on a pair of heels (like these), and they don’t seem as far reaching as they have the past two years.

That proposition is so exciting that it can become intoxicating and when you’re intoxicated, you know how it goes, your head’s not on straight so you start to make lopsided decisions. Or maybe this is just me, idk, but I’m so excited about all the new stuff and I want to try it all and wear it all and see what’s me and what’s not, so I have needed to take a bit of a breather, which has drawn towards the thesis of this post: the thrill of unlikely accessory pairings as a way to make old stuff feel new. You use your tried and trues (trousers, sweaters) as a buffer and take risks around the edges. I’ll start with:

Thrill no.1: 2 bags, 1 look

Contrasting bags styled together, from Bottega Veneta Spring 2023

In September, Matthieu Blazy (Bottega Veneta) showed a number of combo platters that included totes that looked like they were made of fishnet, or paper shopping bags that were actually leather, styled under structured, elegant handbags. Not to blow steam up my own ass, but I had done something similar earlier in the semester —

Jil Sander bag (here’s a comp from Etsy) and Blooming Dreamer basket tote at left; Khaite bag (love it in black patent too) and Camilla and Marc shopping tote at right

Where I layered the leather bag in figure A over that basket bag from the same figure. Don’t remember why I did it, but for sure it was a means of necessity and not deliberate styling. It worked out nicely because the small bag carried my key possessions: phone, wallet, airpods, while the basket hauled everything else. In figure B, seen here below too:

I’m using a canvas tote with a suede bag that features a chain handle. The converse serve as a foil to the fancy bags in both instances and if you’re going to try, I would recommend a pair of tennis sneakers to offset the rest of the look if you’re going the streamlined trouser route too.

Here's a good grey turtleneck for you, Venstore polo cardigan, with a belt from The Row, pants by Emi Mess — I do really love these Toteme corduroy guys too, and Converse

I’ve been mostly wearing the trousers I wore all through last spring (these from Emi Mess) with layers of lighter knits from last winter. The contrast between the sneakers and belt feels like it matters more when you don’t have to wear a coat yet, so I take advantage of that dichotomy while I can. Meanwhile, some tips to make the combo of fancy bag to market tote/casual bag work:

  • Go for a bag with a quirky top handle, like this or this or this.
  • Pair the bag with either a semi-structured canvas tote (the one I’m using is my grocery lugger), or a basket bag. Basket bags are more rigid, so if your fancy bag has some weight to it and your market tote doesn’t need to have that much stuff in it, you should probably opt for basket to avoid over-flimsiness.
  • This is a great solve for finding “that perfect laptop bag.”
  • If you’re using a coin-style purse like the one in figure B (Khaite), I’d go for something canvas or net like in the Bottega example (here’s an Etsy ref) — you want your fancier bag to have a little more structure than your nonfancy bag.
  • Make sure the top handle on your fancy bag is long enough that it dangles over the market tote — otherwise it will kind flop up over the handles of the tote like a misplaced wing.

Thrill no.2: a stockings sandwich

Les Belles tights, Bougeotte loafers; I’d have worn a non-polka dot pair but couldn’t find them!

I think the original inspiration for the combo of stockings with jeans/suede shoes was the styling on Toteme’s website last Fall, with a number of their suede flats paired with stockings under various cropped pants. It’s an unlikely combo because suede is a more durable, often perceived-as-casual fabric while tights are delicate and fussy. So immediately the combo is unexpected in a good way, then you try it with jeans, ey vwala: your contradictions, they are-a-many.

Although for what it’s worth, the shoes def don’t have to be suede or loafers. A little kitten heel slingback, or winter sandal would look good too. (If you’re going this route, you’ll want a pair of well-worn blue jeans.)

Loewe jacket (this one from Theory is very nice too), Khaite jeans, Les Belles socks, Bougeotte loafers — and these from M. Gemi are a good copycat

Alternatively, if you prefer the suede loafers w tights, you could consider a skirt or dress to wear with them, a la:

Loulou Studio jacket, La Ligne striped shirt, Courreges skirt, Les Belles tights, Bougueotte loafers

The other thing I’ll say about this combo: if you do decide to try it with loafers, you’ll want your loafers to be pretty soft/narrow in the front, like featuring an almond-shaped toe (I don’t hate these from Aerosoles) as opposed to something bluntly square or very wide in the toe. I’d stay away from doing this with ballet flats lest you’re wearing your well-worn jeans.

Thrill no.3: perfumed knit (but also, cropped and not)

Is less apparent than the ones above. It’s more like, a nod to self-care because:

This rec is to choose a perfume you like.

I had this moment like a month ago when I put on my first sweater of the season and it (the sweater) still smelled like the perfume I wore last winter. I was like, huh, that’s a pleasant surprise. The smell of the perfume catches on to the knit and has a way of sticking around, which is lovely if you actually like the perfume. I have been wearing this rollerball fragrance, 11:11 by Lake & Skye (musty! But also clean) since 2019. I think subconsciously, it reminds me of the best months postpartum but nowadays it also just smells great on cashmere/wool combos.

But if the other combo about this look — cropped sweater over long t-shirt — tickles your hoo-ha, I might recommend you take a knit you don’t wear so much anymore, make like Miuccia (as in, Prada, who literally cut some of the sweaters and skirts before they hit runway for Fall 22) and hack that shit on your own. I did not do this — my sweater is from Cashmere in Love. If you’re going to try chopping yours, make sure it’s a loose fitter to achieve the same effect over a long sleeve t-shirt.

And that concludes this edish of another e-mail too long for e-mail. Thanks for tuning in if this is where I leave you. If not, here’s your summarizing tip sheet:

Greetings to you, member of Cafe Leandra! If you have been wondering what particular good style provoked the intro to this post, it was a combo of these two looks from Toteme’s website.

Glad that’s off my chest. Now:


It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you need, even want, a million things you don’t need in order to feel new at the beginning of a season that is particularly thrilling. This one is just that (particularly thrilling) because it’s the first one that actually carries the weight of being post-Pandemic, with so much gratitude, at least I feel, for little things — both big and small — that for sure, I used to for granted. Hey! Maybe the reason it feels so good is precisely because of the gratitude. That’s a nice thought. Anyway: to achieve that feeling of newness, you may just need to tweak a few old things. Like pair different items you own in ways you never have before. I offer three recommendations.

1. A market tote with a fancy bag.


a. Your best bet for fabrics on the market tote are: traditional canvas, net or straw.

b. Your fancy bag should be a quarter of the size of the market tote.

c. It should feature a quirky handle bag, either structured leather or something like bamboo/chain.

i. You’re going to cross the handle of your fancy bag over the market tote, so make sure the handle is long enough that the bag lays down over your tote. It will flop up otherwise.

2. Suede shoes and knee-high stockings, or well-worn blue jeans and knee-high stockings


a. If you’re going to suede shoe route: they could be loafers or flats, even kitten heels if you have them. Make sure your loafers are narrow in the front.

b. Mini skirts and mid-length dresses are a good alternative if you’re sick of jeans. Trousers are a true no-brainer. But if you’re going trouser, the shoe really has to be suede. Reg leather will read very FANCY. Bets all off if mini skirt is involved, esp if you’re wearing a leather jacket

c. If you’re going the jeans route: The stockings will reinvigorate the ripped jeans you thought you never wanted to wear again! When you bring them back from the dead, do it with a structured jacket or femininely tailored shirt of some sort.

d. This route is also a great way to resurrect old heels you haven’t worn but want to. Leather sandals in partic.

3. Cropped sweater and perfume (but also over another kind of t-shirt)


a. Chop your own sweater, you don’t really need to buy one, just make sure you’re cutting until about an inch below your boob line.

b. Then pair the sweater with a trusty striped long sleeve shirt (though a solid totally works too) and pants that flatter your waist line

c. A belt is optional, but could also be the difference between really good and just good.

d. I’ve been drinking magnesium every night before bed and thrilled to report I’m 3 days strong on full nights of zzz’s.

Ok, that’s all from me until next week! In the meantime:

One other Toteme look that I can’t unsee ft. a crew neck poncho. So stinking smart. Might be able to make my own by cutting a hole into the middle of a scarf. Might be.

Signing off yours,