5 ways you can upcycle your clothes

An outdated closet can be transformed into something completely new and trendy with a little effort. (Photo: Unsplash)

With the many changing trends floating around social media and the environmental impact of over-consumption, upcycling could be the way to go.

An outdated closet can be transformed into something completely new and trendy with a little effort. (Photo: Unsplash)

Did you know that 208 Million pounds of waste was generated by single-use fashion in 2019? With the steady rise of the ‘Fast Fashion’ industry and its environmental impact. Many are starting to look for alternatives to remain fashionable in an ever-changing style world and to keep up with trends that could change at a drop of a hat. 

Upcycling clothes is one of the many ways to remain in trend while lessening the impact on the environment. Upcycling involves taking old or worn-out clothes and transforming them into brand new pieces. 

With fashion taking a more eccentric turn in the coming season, this is the perfect trend to try out. 


Examples of #reversetiedye. (Photos: Pinterest)

The 1970’s were a large inspiration for many of the current fashion trends in 2021 from wide leg jeans to a more muted colour scheme which was a great contrast to the jewel tones of the 2010s.  With the ‘Reverse tie-dying’ trend taking the Internet by storm with the hashtag #reversetiedye clocking over 43.7 million views on TikTok, it brings a spin to the traditional tie-dying technique where normal dyes are replaced with bleach as a dying agent on dark clothes to produce a brown stain on the fabric. 

Tie-dying is a great way to transform clothes and has since re-surged as a trend, replacing  the recognisable neons of the 70’s. The technique does not require expensive equipment or a high level of skill. All it takes is bleach, a dark colour garment and some creativity. 


Adding a little bit of life with paints or embroidery can go a long way when upcycling old clothes. (Photo: Kilian Seiler on Unsplash)

Clothes can sometimes use a little sprucing up after they have been in the closet for a long time. One way to bring life back to your old clothes is by painting, it is an amazing way to decorate old denim pieces as the heavy fabric holds paint perfectly and is quite easy to work with. Embroidery is also another simple fix to add personality to clothes and is quite easy to pick up.

Alterations can also be done on clothes that do not fit as well as they used to, whether you do it professionally or do it yourself at home. Some alterations that you could try include taking in the waist of jeans that are too big or turning a shirt into a crop top. So there is no need to purchase new clothes. 


Get your creative on when combining your old clothes, who knows what styles you can come up with. (Photos: Pinterest) 

Have two pieces of clothing that you don’t wear anymore? Why not combine them to create something completely new? While this idea requires a little more skill around a needle and thread, refashioning is definitely worth looking into.

There are countless ways to transform old clothes and turn them into brand new pieces.  Refashioning is inspired by the ‘Vintage Remake’ movement that started in Tokyo where streetwear designers would combine their high end pieces with vintage items they found in thrift shops to create new eccentric outfits that merge the old and new. Some simple ideas that you could try include adding lace to ripped jeans, combining two shirts or turning a button up shirt into a skirt. You may want to look for more ideas online. 


With transformations you can turn too-small clothes into a plethora of useful items! (Photos: Che-Cheh Lifestyle)

Sometimes old clothes cannot be salvaged due to them being too small or too aged to be wearable, but fret not those clothes can still be upcycled into useful items such as headbands and tote bags further extending the lifespan of our closets and preventing us from throwing away clothes that could further flood our landfills. 

There are plenty of ideas for you to explore when it comes to transforming old clothes, however  similar to refashioning, transformation may require some sewing skill. But with access to the internet and plethora of resources like Donna Wolfe’s Youtube channel, The Spruce Crafts, and Polkadot Chair to start your sewing journey. 


Relocate your would-be-trash into treasure by repurposing old clothes for things you can use in the kitchen. (Photos: Kalyn Brooke)

There are still ways to upcycle your clothes even if you think they have past the point of being salvageable. You can turn them into things you can use in the kitchen. Instead of kitchen towels that are thrown when used, try turning your old clothes into rags that can be washed and reused which minimises the waste you throw out both from the closet and the kitchen. Another option you can try is to make reusable food wrap with the clothes by combining the fabric and food safe beeswax. This helps with reusing and in turn reduces plastic waste. 

All in all upcycling allows us to move towards a more sustainable fashion culture by allowing us to prolong the lifespan of our clothes so that they can be used for longer, reducing the waste that we put out and allowing us to avoid the many negative impacts of the fashion industry. 

So why not save the environment in style?