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In this world of fast, cheap, and plenty, perfectly wearable clothes are being discarded way too quickly and with no remorse. The growing amount of fabric waste is clogging Earth’s waters and suffocating its surface. However, the newly-found massive nostalgia towards everything vintage made DIY styles look chic and hip again. Enhancing your clothes by yourself is fun and any piece of clothing with a personal touch on it is unique and therefore amazing. Plus getting your creative juices flowing this way makes it immensely rewarding.
Let’s keep reducing-reusing-recycling and we just might muddle through our ecology crisis. For starters, here are 13 ideas for how to give your clothes a second life.
1. Patches All Over
Oh, gods know I love patches! They can turn any blank and unimpressive piece of clothing into a gorgeous punk-inspired eye-catcher. Actually, the simpler the garment is before you stitch those patches on it the better. They’re also priceless if you want to cover up holes, stubborn stains, or lame brand logos where you don’t want them. Now, with the Internet and all, you can find and order any patches that tickle your fancy – from mandalas to psychedelic creatures, from daring slogans to your favourite band’s artwork. You can also use those beautiful patterns from your old garments and patch them up on a piece you’re about to makeover. Just make sure the thickness of your clothing agrees with the thickness of the patches.
2. From Long to Short
Too easy to mention? I don’t think so. I mean, yes, it’s quite easy, though we tend to miss the solutions that are just under our noses. Jeans are probably the best example of getting something new and cool out of old and boring but don’t stop just there. Super-short cropped tops and billowing skirts can be unrecognizably cool after a certain scissor work and they tend to look particularly playful and unsurprisingly comfy when layered with other garments of different lengths.
3. From Short to Long
Sometimes experiments can go wrong. Or, you may start feeling too exposed with that fabulous mini dress or that edgy cropped top. Don’t worry, very often putting on an additional layer to a garment is more creatively rewarding than vice versa. You can finally use those fabrics and other leftovers of your previous experimentations and put all your heart into it. Only this time you might go to a tailor if you’re not so very skillful or patient with the needle.
4. Lace it Up
Lace is pretty. That much we all know, right? It can add a certain sophisticated tenderness and give a grounded character to an otherwise unexceptional piece of clothing. Sew it on a collar, sleeve ends, or put an additional layer to the bottom of the piece of your choice. Ready for something more daring? Make dramatic shoulder pads or cut out a piece of clothing, exposing, say, your back, and sew some lace on instead.
5. You Can’t Have Too Many Waistcoats
Waistcoats will always look cooler than anything they were before. It’s one of the simplest reuses of your shirts and jackets, really – just snip off those sleeves and you’re pretty much good to go. The best waistcoats are the ones coming from thicker jackets or any other thicker tops with buttons or zippers. Of course, denim jackets make the coolest waistcoats, but I’m sure you already knew that.
6. Removable Parts
Keeping your hoodie in your closet only because you love its hood sounds familiar? Perhaps it has a funny shape, maybe it has a secret pocket, or maybe it’s just so wonderfully big, you feel so safe and sound with it on as if back in a cradle once again. Any component parts that have been sewn on the garment can be just as well taken apart and be used elsewhere.
Yes, of course you can decorate your pockets in any way you like, but I have another thing in mind. If you’re about to discard, say, a pair of old trousers with a decent back pocket, you can easily turn this little piece into a cute tiny purse. It can serve instead of a money belt, as a key holder, dog walking supply holder, or an ever-necessary additional pocket while light-traveling by plane or so. You can even make a larger shoulder bag out of multiple pockets sewn together as some sort of a comb. And, of course, you may want to sew pockets from one old garment onto another, because there just can’t be too many pockets, can there?
The zipper is one of the greatest fashion inventions of all times, no doubt. Their usefulness goes hand in hand with the way they look. It goes without saying that good zippers shouldn’t be discarded together with an old garment, but they should go to your handicraft drawer instead. However, the aesthetic aspect is the one I want you to focus on here. Metal zippers, in particular, can look very chic sewn on unexpected places purely for decoration purposes. If it actually splits the garment in half, that’s admittedly outstanding!
9. Buttons and Studs
You probably saw that one coming. As wasteful as it may sound, occasionally I buy a piece of clothing in a thrift shop just because I love the buttons on it. You may do that or just rip the buttons from your old shirts, vests, sweaters, button-up dresses, and coats if you think they’re worth saving. Ask your friends to do the same and save them up for you. A good collection of pretty buttons will make it so easy for you to upgrade your clothes lacking that special something. If your style is even more daring, look out for studs and make a collection of them available to you whenever you feel creative and edgy.
10. Say Yes to Fringe
No matter if you’re a goth, a hippie, a cowboy wannabe, a disco fan, or a DIY fashionista, you almost can’t go wrong with fringe. Almost… But I’d like to trust your good sense of style and a considerate choice of a garment. Long and dense fringe looks a lot richer than short or sparse fringes. I’d recommend experimenting with good quality, yet somehow otherwise inconspicuous 100 % cotton T-shirts or scarfs first and then later embrace a more challenging work of long fringe skirts and dresses as well as taking a ready-made thick cotton or faux leather fringe and sew it on jackets or trousers.
11. Widen up
Gosh, I was really crafty back in the day. I remember many blissful weekends in my early teenage years when I would turn my comfy kitchen into my own tailoring studio. One of my first projects was to put together two pairs of my newly acquired thrift shop trousers. I chose one pair that suited me better and took the pieces of another one to widen the first one’s legs, ‘cause disco style wide-legged trousers had a brief yet certain comeback at the time. So, if you love the fabric of your skirt, shirt, trousers, or any other garment, but you find it too skinny, just sew in a complementary piece in the back or in each of its sides and you’ll get an original and so much comfier thing to wear.
12. Scarfs Are Only Scarfs If You Don’t Let Them Be Something Else
I have no doubt that you often go nuts with one of your huge scarfs while at the beach, using it as a mat, as a sun shade, as a turban, or tight the ends at the back to make an impromptu dress. With that said, when you find a beautiful scarf, don’t limit yourself with wearing it only around your neck. It’s basically a huge piece of fabric that can be turned to anything, really. The easiest piece of clothing that you can make out of it, though, is a kimono.
13. You Can Do Stuff With Shoes Too
Ever since the episode of Friends, where Phoebe introduced her yet another talent of decorating her own shoes, I started seeing all footwear in a completely different light. Not that I’ve tried it myself yet, but I’m sure you’ll experiment with success. That is, as long as you understand that we’re most probably talking about extravagant look and as long as the shoes you’re about to experiment on have undamaged soles and it’s just the upper side looks that you’re not happy with.
The list can basically be endless. The main thing that I wanted to show is how important it is to see your clothing not only as ready-to-wear garments but also as a sum of separate pieces. All the different pieces of clothing can go their separate ways and live their separate lives if not forever then at least for a much longer time than where they originally came from. Notice the details, save what is worth saving, and stay creative!