Old Meets New: How To Upcycle Clothing for New Looks

  By Jacqueline Parker

February 25, 2018

About three weeks ago, my boyfriend asked me to drop off some of his clothes at the local Goodwill. Since I drive by there daily, I agreed but, as it turns out, it’s three weeks later and five trash bags full of clothes are sitting in the trunk of my car. Procrastination finally paid off, after learning about the #REPURPOSED fashion show on March 10 and chatting with organizer Davita Galloway, I’m inspired to create a new wardrobe from my man’s castoff clothing.

By upcycling clothing, not only are you extending the item’s life outside a landfill, but you’re making something distinctly your own. Galloway calls it the “individual footprint” and it’s an important mark of next month’s fashion show. Recycling clothing and buying second hand can save you lots of cash, too. You might not have an innate knack for design, but everyone can find a good deal.

Repurposed Fashion Show 2017

Besides, keeping clothing out of landfills can be good for your health and the earth. In 2014, the EPA reported that 89 million tons of recycled and composted MSW (municipal solid waste, which includes rubber, paper, plastic, and textiles! etc) accounted for the annual reduction of the equivalent of 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s about 38 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions. Let that sink in: 38 million vehicles. That’s a car for every person in Tokyo.

I was surprised to learn how easy it can be to create new pieces from old clothing by making just a few modifications. Betsy Homemaker I’m not, but I do have a creative bone or two somewhere and I’ve been known to Pinterest the hell out of cute designs, so these ideas and how-tos for creating repurposed outfits are worth a solid try:

For Jeans and Denim Jackets…

Pants too short? Try turning them into shorts or skirts, like this one from Emma and Elsie at A Beautiful Mess. On the other hand, you can try to craft unique decor from old denim with this rad hexagon pillow tutorial.

via abeautifulmess.com

Give Old Shirts New Life…

You’ve heard that unwearable T-shirts can be made into kitschy quilts, but they can also be remade into new shirts. Make a few snips and sew to make a baggy T-shirt fitted or change it completely and dress it up.

Button down shirts can be restyled into more feminine styles like this one or , perfect for sipping mimosas on the patio.

via clevergirl.org

But I Can’t Sew…

Me neither, friends. A quick change of buttons can turn a boring ol’ business shirt into an eye-catching blouse, for example. Or, you can add embellishments like embroidery to pockets or iron on some patches.

However, a few basic stitches can go a long way and it’s good general stuff to know anyway. Learn basic stitches by following online tutorials and videos like So Sew Easy or take a local SkillPop class.  

Photo: Ethan Neville

Even if you don’t have sewing skills or the creativity to transform treasures from trash, you can still make a difference. Just don’t throw it away! Take your old clothing to second-hand stores, participate in a clothing swap (or organize one!), or take them down to a shelter. The more we can repurpose an item and prolong its life, the more we’re prolonging our own. Small differences like that can make big, long-term changes and, if we can look good while doing it, that’s just a win-win.

Explore more possibilities and have fun doing it at the Repurposed Fashion Show at Warehouse 242 on March 10.

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