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Refashion Clothes: How to Upcycle, Recycle, and Reuse Clothing

I enjoy making things at home using earth-friendly ingredients and materials for my family and pets.

How to Upcycle, Recycle, and Reuse Clothing

There is really no good reason to clean out your closet and throw clothes in the garbage. You can recycle clothing by donating them to a thrift store or other charity. If you gain or lose weight and can no longer use the clothing, they can be given away and reused by others. Even if clothing is not in great shape and seems like it can't be reused, consider using the material for cleaning rags or other craft projects. besides recycling or reusing clothing you can also upcycle or refashion clothes. Upcycle is to take clothing and make them new again my adding embellishments or changing the style.

Whether you choose to upcycle, recycle, or reuse clothing, shopping at thrift stores or your own closet is a great place to start. You may even want to get a group of friends together for a clothing swap. You can buy used clothes and sell refashioned clothes on Ebay. Even clothing with stains or rips can be bought or swapped if they are going to be upcylced or refashioned.

From frumpy to fabulous. Learn to make a refashioned shirt that you can feel good about wearing!

From frumpy to fabulous. Learn to make a refashioned shirt that you can feel good about wearing!

How Do You Refashion Clothes?

Once you have decided that you want to try refashioning clothing, you will need some basic materials to get started:

  • sewing machine
  • seam ripper
  • iron/ironing board
  • variety of zippers, buttons, bias tape, ribbon, and lace
  • clothing

If you can't sew you could try some simple refashioning with fabric glue, however it does help to have some basic knowledge of clothing construction. Most refashioners get clothing from thrift stores, eBay, clearance racks, and their own closet. For your first refashion you may want to use a pattern or have a person that has refashioned before, help you with the project.

Here are three easy ways to get started with your first refashion:

  1. Get ideas and inspiration from Refashionista or Craftstylish.
  2. Do some window shopping and take pictures and use those for inspiration.
  3. Check out other inspiring articles related to upcycling and refashioning.

Tips from a Clothing Refashioner/Upcycler

After talking to my friend Staci about her refashions, I asked her to offer some tips for people who might be interested in clothes refashioning. Here is what she had to say:

  • Often, you can find a whole bag or basket full of assorted notions for just a few dollars. You can just add them to your stash, and when you want to work on a project, sort through the treasures while looking for the perfect details.
  • When it comes to picking fabrics, it really depends on what you want to do with them. Flimsy fabrics like rayon or polyester may require interfacing or something heavier to give it some shape and stability, but again, it depends on your goal.
  • Refashioing can help you save money and get the clothes you really want. Why spend money on new clothes when you have clothes in your closet you don’t wear for one reason or another? For short, round women, clothing options can be limited, as most stores believe that all large women either have bad taste or are octogenarians. Any woman can look great when they refashion clothes.
  • Get ideas, but do your own thing! Have fun and own it! Make it yours!

Why Do People Refashion Clothing?

There are many reasons why someone may want to refashion clothes. For some people their body style may not go well with the latest fashions, so buying items and refashioning them allows them to have clothing they like and feel good about wearing. For other people, recycling clothing and buying clothing from thrift stores helps them lead a greener lifestyle. Finally, many people want to reduce waste but still want nice things that seem new, so upcycling has become a reason to refashion their clothing.

My first exposure to reshioned clothing was a friend who posted some pictures on Facebook of a shirt she 'refashioned'. She had been refashioning clothes for some time because she is short and she can not find clothing that fits well on her body. When I saw some pictures of the stuff she refashioned, I was impressed! The refashioned shirts really flattered her body and they were so stylish.

Fortunately, I am 5 foot 7 inches and wear a size 8, so I have a lot of stores to shop at and can find the latest fashions and look stylish. I didn't realize that shopping wasn't as fun for other women until after I went shopping with a shorter and heavier friend. I quickly saw that not everyone is so lucky when it comes to finding clothes they like and look nice on them. I came to the conclusion that the clothes they have out there for petite and plus size women must be made by men because there is no way they flatter those women's body types. Refashioning clothing almost becomes a necessity if these women ever want to feel good about themselves when they leave their house.

Refashioning can be for anyone though. Lately, I started to think about refashioning for myself and my daughter. There have been some nice things on clearance racks that were a size too big and I was not going to gain weight to wear it. Could I refashion those items? What about my daughter, who is so skinny and wants the latest teen fashions but we have to stick to the children's sections due to the low necklines on the teen stuff. Could we use material to sew in under a shirt to look like a tank top underneath? Suddenly, I realized maybe learning to refashion clothes is something everyone could benefit from whether they need clothes that fit and feel good or they just want to try something new.

What Do You Think?


peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 11, 2014:

i once refashion my daughter's clothes but she felt embarrassed to wear it. So, I gave up

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on December 10, 2014:

Really like this hub and appreciate these ideas. Thanks and sharing.

deborah barnes on June 25, 2014:

Hi, I am starting a reFashion Hub with several orgs in Seattle area after being into this and the whole of eco fashion for several years.

So nice to find this blog. Knowing about others who are do-ers in this arena adds to the energy of all of us.

The Hub will start with free sewing classes, we hope to engage some of the homeless people because they have the resource of time valuable an asset! As this will be near a college campus, we hope students will also come in..this way we will be developing a relationship bridging enterprise as well..all sorts of things after...pop up shops and the like. Anyway i am posting this in hopes to inspire ever more reimagining of values.

thank you again

deborah j barnes

fashionRIP Project

chrissieklinger (author) from Pennsylvania on July 28, 2012:

Sounds, great! Would love to see your first refashion. Feel free to link.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on July 27, 2012:

Hello chrissie. I loved this hub! I know basic sewing which perfectly qualifies me to some re-fashioning, at least I believe, lol. This is a surefire idea of reviving vintage clothing, re-fashioning old clothes. Our environment will love you for this. Please allow me to link my "Most Beautiful Home" hub to this work of yours. It would complete many people's knowledge on what to do with things that are still worth making use out of. So happy to have made it by. Thanks.

chrissieklinger (author) from Pennsylvania on July 27, 2012:

Josh, I saw online someone made a skirt out of old ties...maybe you can refashion some ties and make a gift for a lady friend???? Thanks for reading!

Joshua Zerbini from Pennsylvania on July 26, 2012:


Very informative hub! I have never tried this out, maybe I should, it would save money!