Have you got a pair of shorts lurking in your wardrobe that look worn and battered but fit like a dream? What about a shirt that you wore before going on the pre-summer diet that is now a little roomy but has an adorable design?
If you answered ‘yes’ to both of these questions, you’re in luck, because the upcycling movement is in its prime! Fashion hoarders everywhere, who can’t bear to part with those discontinued comfy trousers or that limited edition tank top, are now revitalising their most loved items with a little creative TLC; and now you can join the revolution too!
1. Embellish, embellish, embellish!
Adding a lace trim to heavily worn yet loved clothes is very much a trend amongst the DIY upcyclists. Used lace, whether bought from a thrift shop or cut from your granny’s voiles, is a great fabric to stitch onto pocket openings, hems, or on the end of seams. Even if you bought your shorts from a contemporary clothing store, lace can add an element of vintage flair that taps into with boho/festival trend.
You’d be amazed how different an item of clothing can look with a simple fabric off-cut stitched neatly on to it. Pop down to your local fabric store and ask if they have any cheap off-cuts available, as many will have cuttings that they are now unable to sell due to their small length. Stitch these off-cuts to the cuffs of shirts or lower hems of trousers or shorts. Then turn the embellished hems up into some neat turn-ups to reveal your new patterned hem item!
Adding a little sparkle is a great way to jazz up an otherwise boring wardrobe. Craft stores have shelves crammed with jewels of different sizes, shapes and colours that can be stitched onto clothing to capture the attention of those passing by. In the winter months, why not consider embellishing your favourite woolly sweater? Many catwalk designers bejewel their fall/winter collections, so do a little research and take some inspiration from them when creating your shiny knitwear.
2. Snip and chuck
Think back to your childhood and those days on the beach; do you remember what you were wearing? What if you were asked to remember tassel t-shirts; those t-shirts were worn wore over swimsuits, with cut out tassels on the bottom that were often adorned with beads? If they ring a bell, you may be happy to hear that they are back in fashion – only now the cutting is a little more intense! From cut out butterflies to holey skulls, it is amazing what you can create with a couple of snips and a little gentle stretching.
The use of scissors on old clothing is not only there to create interesting, snipped-out patterns, but also to tailor larger clothing to suit smaller physiques. A couple of snips along the seams of your favourite slogan t-shirt, together with some neat knots can help reduce a t-shirt size by two-to-three sizes. What’s more, you can also create some neat knots so that you can loosen or tighten your tailor tee perfectly, to suit your frame.
3. Dip into colour
The ombré effect
Dip dying is another common trend amongst fashion DIY-ers and is created using a bucket, water, and dye. The ombré effect is fashioned by leaving each section of the clothing in the dye longer than another section, as the longer it is sat in the dye, the darker the colour becomes. If you want to get extra creative, you could create a diagonal ombré by hanging your clothing in the dye at an obscure different angle, dipping only the sleeves, or by wrapping rubber bands around the clothing and dipping each section in the tie-dye technique, to create a radial ombré.
Another way to dye creatively is to grab yourself a bleach pen and doodle on your clothing. Push a piece of cardboard inside your item to prevent the bleach from soaking through onto the back of the shirt. Then, get arty! You could write your favourite phrase in a nice typographical font, or just go mad with the scribbles and produce an abstract, paisley style pattern. The bleach will extract the dye from the shirt, revealing your design in the material’s natural colour.
4. Change the purpose
Up/downgrade the thrift dress
If you pick up a dress from the charity shop, whether formal or informal, you can change its purpose by making a few careful amendments. To swap casual for going-out, look at creating a cleavage on the upper half of the dress, whilst also dressing up the straps and adding some minor embellishment under the bust. Also add a subtle petticoat to add volume to the skirt whilst upping the class factor.
For turning formal into everyday, cut the length and remove a couple of the underskirts. Look at also taking off some of the adornments on the dress, such as beadwork or crystals. This will dress it down enough to make it suitable for everyday wear, ideal for lunch out with the girls!
Innovation is key to creating beautiful and interesting upcycled clothing. Before you reach for the scissors, the dye or the fabric glue, make sure you have planned out your ideas first on paper as this will give you an image to work from and is likely to help your first upcycle task be a greater success. Your upcycling project will generate a custom piece that no one else has – but will generate one that they will most likely want when they see you wearing it! Good luck!
Vicky works with designer and printer Stuart Morris. She loves art and crafts and has been a dedicated enthusiasts since she got a card-making kit for her 13th Birthday. As well as paper craft she also loves to sew!