Designing or buying new clothes during a pandemic is a waste of money. It’s why this seasons it really makes sense to learn the art of upcycling, also known as creative reuse. Regarding textile waste within the fashion industry and how much ends up in landfills. Is why upcycle is the perfect skill to master during a pandemic.
When you buy locally the impact of buying clothes is more personal.
“Wear it out, wear it in, wear it again! Upcycling old clothing is back in style, and it’s a thrifty way to dress better without spending much. With some imagination and a few materials, old T-shirts, pants, dresses and more can be completely transformed.”
What is Upcycle?
I walked into one of the best upcycle boutiques I have ever seen, here in Italy. I was blown away at the designs and quality of fabric they upcycled out of their very own existing closet? I had a flashback of all the quality clothing I gave away over the years.
How many tons of garments have you and I given away regretting it?
I could not believe what they did with an old sweater using a pair of scissors. With a simple needle and thread, they remodelled a pair of jeans giving it such a unique edge. Ready for reselling as a one-off piece of clothing that could be worn all year round.
I was so impressed with these upcycle items, I wanted to pinterest the items right there and then.
Croatia designer has used elastic to create this knitwear cardigan. A fantastic example of upcycling.
Seasonal Fashion Is No Longer Needed
Has lockdown not taught us how much fashion is unused? It has taught me that buying clothes for every season is no longer needed, affordable or relevant. That is why upcycle can make you good extra earning cash.
With digital platforms like Etsy or blogs like mine. Selling clothes has never been so accessible. You can replicate the latest trends by watching fashion weeks as it’s all online to copy.
Where Do You Start?
Us ladies have been guilty of saving clothes that are more than a few years old. Upcycling can be part of your DIY tutorial, who needs fashion school when you can learn how to redesign and craft existing clothes. Instead of throwing them out, give your wardrobe a new life and practice your stitching techniques.
Here are some examples of how you can learn the art of upcycling.
Go through your closet and sort out what I call dead stock or a scrap of clothes you still love. Put them in sections like jackets, old jeans, tees, embroidery, skirts, buttons and belts. If your partner allows it sort through all of his men’s shirt.
Dead Stock is only going to come back to life, by the sustainable fashion choices, you make within your own home.
What Exactly Do Your Carbon Labels Measure?
Inside each denim jacket tag, there is a number representing the kilograms of CO2 that were created in making that product. The number measures five things: raw materials, transportation, manufacturing, product use (washing and drying) and end of life.
By measuring the emissions created across the entire life cycle of that product, even after it leaves the shop. The customer sees the sum of that number but can also access the breakdown of it.
That is why I work with small artisans, I know who made it, where the materials were sourced. The factory conditions they are working in. The exact carbon footprint. The clothes I get made or handbags are clothes or items that were created in positive conditions with an eco-friendly mindset
Accessories are perfect for outfits you are going to sew or need to sitch with. Grab different boxes label and place them in the following sections. Sort through items like a zipper, buttons, pins, old yarn, belts, fabric scraps and scarves. This is all about preparing your mind for creative ways to upcycle the clothes you love but are bored with. Or simply clothes that have stains that can be recycled. It can be overwhelming so get your kid involved too. Turn on some music and enjoy the journey of upcycling. Get your sewing machine out and let’s have some fashion fun.
Organic cotton apparel can be a bit expensive. So by redesigning your existing denim you can upcycle old clothes into new ones for free. Denim lasts a lifetime, but jean styles always go in cycles. I feel the pressure from my peers to wear denim jeans that are in trend.
How about upcycling your denim jacket. Get some embroidery done on the back of the jacket.
I used this technique and weaved the denim and recreated the back of my denim jacket to look like below. Another example, in reusable denim jackets, I was bored with, I cut out added chains using fabric like ribbon intertwined to give it a real punk rock look. A very naughties look.
I also update my denim jeans by adding a-kind of embroidery. By hand sewing the embroidery, my boring dated jeans look super funky. People always ask me where I get my jeans from? I love responding by explaining it’s an upcycled item and one-off exclusive design thanks to me.
That is what upcycle is all about. Street style exclusivity and showing it off like you are owning that runway itself.
Old or Vintage Zips
High-quality zips are very expensive and hard to find. I simply cut out the zip and keep it to upcycle for another jacket or dress. One example I find that on many occasions wool jackets never date. But by replacing the buttons on a blazer and turning it into a zipper blazer. Means I have recreated a new look that represents my lifestyle.
Authentic vintage buttons are endless. Recently using upcycling wool, I redesigned my red cape into a hood cape. I went and spent 6 euro on 6 press stud buttons which resulted in a waste of money. The press studs are not strong enough for my heavy red cape. Cheap crap coming out of Chinese factories sold back to Europe. It is so frustrating as the cape keeps unfastening and falling off. So I will hunt for old ski jackets which have durable press studs made out of very high-quality metal. I know they will be super strong and hold the weight of my wool cape.
Recently I spotted a vintage pillow silk case. The embroidery, colour and quality are why. It was upcycled by stitching and designing it into a pencil skirt. It looks and feels so chic and no one else in Europe has a skirt quite like it. My thirteen-year-old daughter has claimed it for herself.
How many jackets have you got in your wardrobe unused? With upcycling jackets, one can really update an old tweed men’s jacket into a cape. Or with the Burberry trench coat turn it into summer long jacket, like the one below in camel colour.
Another upcycle example is adding original channel trimmings to your tweed bouclé. It’s a great outfit that you could blog about the art of upcycled items like Chanel.
One of my upcycle examples was an old skirt from the brand Karen Millen. This denim skirt was trimmed with leather and studs. The pencil skirt was limiting my movements when I walked. So I cut the skirt to make it shorter and the excess studded trimmings. I stitched onto the denim skirt. I did this fifteen years ago and still love and wear them. Or like below turn the hem of your pencil skirt into a frilly edge.
Silk is an expensive and beautiful fabric to wear or sleep in. Silk rags can be turned into pyjamas, a kimono, kaftan or even trousers. If you have silk pillows that no longer are being used. Cut silk it up and use it for extra accessories for your hair.
This Pucci beach pyjama is an upcycle fabric from leftovers of a few seasons back. No one in the world has this style, it is truly one item.
Wool is an amazing upcycle textile that can be reused with other fabrics to create a unique look. On this occasion, the knitwear brand, Clothes That My Mother Wore, created spider knitted arms and attached them to an old denim shirt. I love this shirt piece design and the upcycle message. For this reason, I have had it for 5years now and it looks brilliant.
n England I scout for tweed men’s jackets. They are way too big in style and date. The tweed quality is super high and warm. The tweed blazer below has been upcycled into a cape. It looked so chic and they also painted flowers to give it more of a feminine edge.
You can use upcycle wool and make baskets for socks and underwear storage.
I have found many embroidery items over the years that I upcycled into a dress using other fabrics. Embroidery is a time-consuming fabric handcrafted. Organic cotton is very expensive and much better than what we use today. Less taxon the environment too. To grow cotton you need lots of water. Embroidery can be stitched onto other fabrics like denim jackets, white shirts, dresses or jeans. This is another example of updating day wear with minimal costs. Or some very flashy clothes to sleep in.
I have many men’s shirts that I have bought in vintage stores. I upcycle them into Audrey Hepburn sleepwear. Men’s shirts are made out of the finest organic cotton and last a lifetime. If you have a sewing machine you can always restyle the man’s classic white shirt.
Etsy and my blog which covers sustainable fashion and are great platforms to sell your upcycle items. If you can get your hands on the above items for free. When you upcycle them the profit is 100% yours. During this pandemic, people are seeking high-quality homeware items that they can treasure. If you are in another lockdown, start using materials fo upcycling your garden.
Display Your Upcycle
There is so much beautiful clothing. I have and even my leather tote bag I just display around my home or the new trend of mantle scape. Displaying items above your fireplace. I am now treating my Tuscan villa as a boutique of upcycling collections. I have bought or been given items that were made for me. We all have plenty of extra creative time to learn the art of sewing. Team up with other beginners and share your upcycle items on your Instagram.