How to Make a Whole New Wardrobe by Recycling Your Clothes

Getting tired of wearing the same old thing or looking like everyone else? You don't have to spend a ton of money or shop for hours to get a new wardrobe. Instead of getting new clothes or throwing out your old ones, use these suggestions and tips to recycle them.


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    Set aside clothes that need work. Go through your closet and/or dresser and pick out anything you are tired of, hate, or don’t wear because it’s too worn out. Put these clothes into a pile and put the rest of your clothes back.
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    Go through your pile. Looking through them one at a time, find at least one thing you like about each item. One may have awesome fabric, another, a great print, and another, a unique flair. Maybe your favorite tee is in great shape except for a ripped sleeve, or maybe you have a skirt that’s a hard-to-find color but is two sizes too big. Don’t count something out just because it’s plain or boring; this might make a great base for one of your designs. However, if you really can't find anything redeeming about an item, put it aside for now and move on to something else.
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    Don't automatically throw out clothes that are too small. Jeans that are too short can be cut them into shorts for summer. If a top that’s too small and shows off a little bit of your belly can be cut into a belly top.
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    Start with an item that speaks to you. Decide if you can embellish it in some way to spice it up or deconstruct it into something else. Hold it up next to other items from your collection and see if you can make any interesting matches.
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    Search magazines and the web for inspiration. Useful search terms include "deconstructed clothing" and "DIY" (do-it-yourself). Great sites are listed below, too, but don't forget to look on your own - there are lots of ideas out there!
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    Think of design ideas that don’t require sewing. For example, consider adding fabric paint or beads, slashing it for peek-a-boo effect, shortening it, dying it, cutting off the sleeves, ironing on a transfer that you printed from your computer, or, for a punk look, attaching other pieces of fabric to it with safety pins.
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    Sew your more complicated design ideas. If you know how to sew, (or have a friend or relative who might help), consider reworking or even combining different items from your wardrobe. For example, you might: swap the sleeves of two different long-sleeved shirts to create a two-color effect; cut off and sew the collar of a collared shirt into the collar of a closed-neck shirt to fake a layered look; cut and sew a shirt with a torn armpit into a vest; invert a cheap hoodie and turn it into fuzzy mittens; cut out a long strip of an interesting fabric to make a belt, hip sash, or scarf; etc.
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    Give away, swap, or sell the items that don’t speak to you. Donate them to a thrift shop or sell them to a second-hand store. Usually second-hand stores give you the option of receiving cash or in-store credit for your items that sell. You will receive more in credit than you would in cash, and then when you come back to the store in a month or two, you can use your credit to get clothes you do like. If you bring in clothes to consign every time you visit the store, you will most likely have credit the next time you come in, and can establish a monthly or bi-monthly wardrobe rotation without spending any money.
    • You can also start clothing swaps with your friends. Often the clothes that no longer interest you can feel 'new' for someone else.
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  • If you are not sure you will like the result, practice on something else so you don't regret it.
  • You don't want to do too much, although you may think you're changing it for the better, but just remember a little goes a long way.
  • Don't do too much to an item. Less is usually more and making things too short or with too many holes is not in good taste.
  • Start out with easy projects and work your way up to more complex ones if you are not confident at first.
  • If you don't like what you did or think it isn't good enough, first check to make sure you aren't being too hard on yourself and then try to figure out what you could have done differently to make it better. If you still don't like it, maybe you can fix it or even recycle it further.
  • Focusing on one item at a time helps you to actually complete what you start and doesn't make you feel overwhelmed.
  • Try to tailor things before recycling them. You are more likely to wear something when it fits.
  • Before you start, sketch what you want. Then look for pieces you have which can be used for the item you want. Then go to a craft or fabric store to buy embellishments if you need them. You can also get fabric cheap in remnant bins at places like department stores, fabric stores, and clothes you from thrift stores or garage/yard/rummage/car boot sales.
  • Can't think of what to do? Host a clothes swap with your friends! Sharing clothes with friends could double your wardrobe.
  • Buy books made for DIY projects. You can get lots of inspiration from this! Generation T is a great reference.
  • Try looking at an expensive piece of clothing and recreating it with some of your own style. You will look like your wearing a designer outfit!
  • YouTube has wonderful DIY videos on upcycling clothes as well as thrifting. Give them a peek, helps a lot when you get tripped up on things like how to hem a circle skirt or cool ideas on how to distress jeans. Plus YouTube is free.


  • Use protective equipment when using tools or machinery and obey safety rules (goggles when hammering in grommets for example).
  • Watch out for your friends because 9 times out of 10, they are going to love what you made or did and will want you to do it for them! Better to show them how to do it themselves (give them the link to this article) than to spend all your time on their clothes when you could be doing your own!
  • This can be addictive (but it's fun and not too expensive), so always be on the lookout for new clothes to recycle!

Things You'll Need

  • Clothes
  • Optional: sewing machine or needle and thread, scissors, beads, paint, iron on transfer paper for your printer, beads, dye, fabric paint, and anything else you want to make your clothes look amazing

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