My small private elementary school’s rule that “skirts must never hit above the fingertips” left zero room for a young lady to give her crush, who wore his neon headgear loud and proud, even a hint of skin. Which was just as well since white cotton socks, folded at the ankle, and drab loafers left much to be desired in the shapely limb department.

So a full week before out-of-uniform day — the one day we could ditch those conservative, in other words unflattering, plaid jumpers — was dedicated to attire selection. My mother, understanding the magnitude of this event, convinced my father a new outfit was a must — a carefully constructed dance only she had mastered. It was she who took me shopping and approved my mini, but not too mini, skirt and turtle neck ensemble. And it was she who witnessed the horror on my face the next day as I spied my classmates all wearing jeans and T-shirts. Shoving me down out of sight and giving a convincing wave to the teacher, she calmly drove past my denim nightmare and straight to the closest store to purchase outfit No. 2: jeans and an oh-so-trendy smiley face baby tee. Music class be damned — this was Social Studies 101 and my beautiful, feminine, innocently clever mother knew rule numero uno: Never show up over, or under, dressed.

In the grown-up world where Daddy no longer funds my fashion emergencies, avoiding humiliation falls squarely on my shoulders, and my income.

There are quite a few creative ways to upcycle casual attire into something appropriate for more formal events.

I was headed to an out-of-town wedding last weekend, and needed to make my new strapless maxi dress, perfect for brunch, translate to such an event. In this shabby chic day and age, I might have gotten away with it, but the vertical row of silver hook and eye closures running down the front screamed “corset.”

I’d also purchased a pair of pink wedges on clearance for the rehearsal dinner that would be perfection — if not for the overkill of the fourth ankle strap and casual hiking boot laces that had seen better days.

On the way out of town, I swung by my personal time lapse portal, aka Hobby Lobby, and purchased the following:

  • 2 packages shiny round gold buttons ($1.99)
  • 1-inch black elastic band ($1.99)
  • 1 spool ¾-inch canvas ribbon woven with gold thread ($2.99)

I spent the drive camouflaging the bra-like hooks, 11 in total, by “sewing” on gold buttons. I use the term “sewing” lightly, as it is one crafty activity that eludes me. As a dedicated user of Liquid Stitch, the backside of my stitching resembled the web of a spider on amphetamines, but from the front it dazzled. Then I used the elastic to add straps, which added an element of class and kept me from the trappings of the dreaded strapless bra.

Upstyling casual clothing can not only bring a dash of fancy but also offer comfort or a more flattering fit. My fabulous wedges are an example of the latter.

Requiring the illusion of length, my short legs have never agreed with shoes that wrap around the ankle. But these were pink and on sale for $14.99, so rational thinking was tossed aside. Four eyelet straps were originally laced together with matching shoestrings capped in gold.

After the laces were replaced with canvas ribbon, the leg-shortening top strap was unsympathetically chopped off. Any remaining material was given the Liquid Stitch treatment for a finished look.

Slipping on these revamped wedges, my feet were wrapped up like presents I’d given myself. The barrage of compliments that followed gave me a boost of self-confidence and a priceless realization: My uniquely fancy upstyles would have most certainly clashed with neon headgear.