Sustainable Fashion: 7 Ways to Upcycle Clothes (and Why You Should)

Fashion model looking at dresses

It’s no secret that much of the fashion industry isn’t too concerned with environmental consciousness. Almost three-fifths of clothing will wind up in an incinerator or landfill within a year of production. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that 12.8 million tons of textile waste were in our landfills. 

What’s an environmentally-conscious fashion lover to do when their closet no longer brings them joy, then? Upcycle clothes, of course.

Reusing your old articles of clothing and breathing new life into them is both wallet-friendly and better for the environment. You won’t need to take trips to the mall or online shop when you have an infinite amount of options already in your closet. 

If you’re wondering how to upcycle clothing, keep reading. We’ve outlined seven unique ways to repurpose the clothes in your closet. All you need to bring is your creativity, an open mind, and a few craft supplies.

1. Bring out the Bleach

One of our favorite ways to upcycle clothes is by taking a little bit of bleach and getting artsy. 

There are several techniques you can use to bleach your clothing. If you love drawing, you can buy a bleach pen and draw designs on your old shirts or pants. Think spiral designs, inspirational phrases, animals, or whatever else your heart desires.

If you’re less artistically inclined, pair your bleach with any stencil from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. Stencils come in all shapes and sizes so the skies the limit here.

One thing to keep in mind before taking bleach to your clothing is the fabric. Natural fibers like cotton and silk will be easier to customize with bleach than others. 

2. Raid Your Significant Other’s Closet

If your husband or boyfriend has a closet full of clothes he never wears, they’re fair game for you to upcycle. 

All you need is an oversized shirt, a pair of scissors, and a bit of creativity and the possibilities are endless.

Their side of the closet is especially fun to raid if you have little ones to dress, too. You can turn a large men’s shirt into a little girl’s t-shirt dress with some scissors and a sewing machine. 

3. Upgrade Your Denim

Jean anything is timeless. Though what’s on-trend may change with the seasons, it’s always a good idea to have some denim in your closet.

If you’re handy with scissors and a sewing machine, you can create almost anything from your old denim. Turn last season’s jeans into a make-up or tote bag. 

If you’re particularly fond of your jean jacket, consider upgrading instead of upcycling. Turn it into a jean vest if you’re feeling punky. You can use the bleach trick above or even buy some iron on patches to give your jacket a new life, too.

4.  Get Lacy

Leftover lace or fabric scraps from other upcycling or craft projects can help transform your old clothes. Sew lace to the hem of a dress to make it more modest while adding vintage flair. 

Add lace trim to your jeans or on the sleeves of your jean jacket to uplevel your denim. If you have a pair of holy pants destined for the trash, sew lace into the holes for a sexy peekaboo effect. 

 5. Reuse Blankets

Upcycling isn’t a practice reserved just for clothing. Do you have an old blanket collecting mothballs in a closet somewhere in your home? It’s time to repurpose that beauty into something new and fashionable.

With an old wool blanket, you can create a homemade coat perfect for those cold winter months. You’ll be looking fashionable and staying warm with a few cuts of fabric and several stitches. 

Blankets can also be repurposed into things like Christmas stockings, tote bags, throw pillows or winter hats.

6. Turn Tees Into Tanks

You don’t need to be a whiz with a sewing machine to make upcycling clothes a hobby. There are countless ways you can repurpose old t-shirts into tank tops with a pair of scissors and some ribbon. 

The first step to transforming any tee into a tank is taking off the sleeves. Once the sleeves are off, you’ll need to decide what width you’ll want your new tank top straps to be. Don’t forget to determine how big you want the armholes to be, too. 

The next steps will be different depending on what style tank top you’re going for. You can cut off the bottom two inches of the shirt and use this strip of fabric as a tie to make your tank a racerback.

Not a fan of the racerback silhouette? Maybe a crop top is more your style? That’s an easy DIY that’ll only take a few minutes to complete. 

7. Give Your Sweaters a Second Chance

Just as with blankets, your old sweaters can be repurposed in infinite ways.  

One of our favorite sweatshirt upcycle ideas is to transform them into other winter attire. Since sweaters are already designed for warmth, using them as a winter-specific upcycle is a logical choice. You can make them into warm hats, leg warmers, a mug cozie, a cowl, or even a pair of mittens. 

Another great thing about repurposing sweaters is that their second life can extend beyond clothing. Make an autumn wreath by wrapping the fabric around a wreath ring. Wrap a vase for a chic take on winter table decor. 

Do Your Part and Upcycle Clothes

Making clothes out of old clothes can be a fun way to spend your spare time. Not only are you helping the environment by not contributing to textile waste, but you’re also sharpening your crafting skills.

When you upcycle clothes, your closet will always feel fresh, and you won’t need to spend a dime. Repurposing clothes allows you to contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry that’s better for the world.

If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability in the industry, be sure to keep browsing our page. We’re raising awareness about ethical fashion and need help spreading the word. 

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