Ways to create fashion from old clothes

Written by rebecca eve schweitzer
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Ways to create fashion from old clothes
Old clothes can revisit their fashion prime with simple alternations and reinventions. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Everyone is faced with occasionally cleaning out the closet to decide what stays and what goes. It can be hard to part with those old items and even harder to "waste" perfectly good clothing just because it has gone out of style or no longer fits. Fashioning new pieces from old clothing, often called "upcycling," is an excellent way to reinvent items that are past their prime while building a new and stylish wardrobe.


T-shirts offer endless possibilities. An oversized tee can be cut down into a variety of cute tops, turned into a mini dress or stylish swim cover up, and twisted or cut to create interesting new shapes. Tees can be cut into small strips and pulled to create rolls that can then become scarves, necklaces, headbands, bracelets or decorative flowers and loops on other projects. T-shirts can also be transformed into tote bags and other types of carryalls with a little sewing skill. They can even be turned into comfy cotton underwear.

Vintage Clothing

If you're lucky enough to have clothing that is old enough to be considered vintage (20 to 30 years old or older), then try going with the vintage look. These clothes may need a little updating, such as shortened hems, new buttons, removal or addition of sleeves and other touches to keep the clothes from looking too outdated to be stylish. If you want to avoid sewing, try adding modern items such as a studded belt and trendy shoes to a vintage frock to make it feel more modern.


You might be tempted to toss those jeans with the holes and fraying, but consider reinventing them instead. Cut legs off jeans, sew the openings shut and install a zipper and handles at the waistband for a jean purse. Fashion the material from the legs into a tote or messenger bag. If old jeans fit, cut them a bit below the knee then cuff them to hit just below the knee for cute summer trousers. Slit the seams on the insides of the legs and sew the fronts and backs together to make a long denim skirt. Hem it if you'd like it shorter.


Jackets are usually classic items that can stand the test of time, unless you have a trendy version that now looks out of date. Cut the arms off an old suit coat to make a vest, or cut the bottom half of the body off a feminine jacket to make a shrug. Replace buttons, trim, zippers and other decorations with current, stylish versions to update an old look. For example, if you have an acid wash denim jacket from the 1980s, try dying it and adding studs to the shoulders to give it new life.


Dresses can be easy to update with accessories and slight alterations. Add a belt or fitted vest to a boxy dress for a slimmer look. Restyle an old slip dress as a cute new jumper or vice versa. If needed, add material to vintage nightgowns and slips to make them sexy cocktail dresses. Use iron-on decals and fabric pant to make a plain dress more interesting. Hem the skirt for a modern length or add material to an old mini for a fresh, less revealing look. If the dress does not work as a dress anymore, just cut off the top and fashion the bottom into a new skirt.


Update old skirts by changing the length. Make a new A-line skirt by combining material from two straight skirts. Pull a long skirt up over the bust and add a belt under the bust to make an empire waist strapless dress. Gather the waistline of a skirt into a neckline, cut arm holes on the side and belt the skirt under the bust to make a unique trapeze blouse. Skirts also make excellent oversized tote bags.

Dress Shirts

Old dress shirts can be turned into vests by removing the sleeves. Cut off the sleeves and cut out part of the back leaving the collar to make a sexy halter top. A large dress shirt can be recreated as a skirt or even a short dress. Update a dress shirt with new buttons or ditch the buttons for an exposed zipper. Cover stains with designs drawn in fabric paint. Cut up dress shirt material to make a summer scarf or thin drawstring backpack bag.


Old bags, belts, hats, scarves and other accessories can be easily updated as well. Use an old silk scarf to reline an old bag. Update the outside of the back with new pockets, studs, zippers and charms. Replace cracked bag handles with premade purse handles from a craft store. Turn the leather from old belts into cuff bracelets or purse handles. Twist a short scarf or old necktie into cute knots and add elastic to the ends to make a headband. Turn a larger scarf into a tote bag. Remove decorations from an old hat and replace them with modern ones or a simple ribbon. Turn broken hair accessories and jewellery into clips, pins and other adornments for all your newly upcycled fashion.

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