Sustainable Fashion: Ways you can upcycle your old clothes

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I’m sure we all do our quarterly clean out of our wardrobes and discover we have quite a few clothes we no longer wear. They probably go into a large bin bag for either charity shop donation or to the bin. Fast fashion has a huge impact on our environment. 

According to Oxfam, in Ireland half a tonne of clothing is dumped into a landfill every minute of the day. This amount produces over 12 tonnes of carbon emissions. This figure equals the same amount as driving 65,000 km in your car. 

These numbers are staggering and although they may daunt you a bit, don’t be frightened, because there is a way you can make a positive change to this problem: you can upcycle those clothes that were headed for the bin. 

In this article, we are going to give you a few simple ways that you can upcycle old clothing! Btw, don’t worry about this seeming challenging as I cannot sew myself, this is a complete beginners guide! 

  1. Acrylic Paint
Photo Credit: Elena Mozhvilo On Unsplash

Yes, you read that correctly, you can actually use acrylic paint on your clothes! For example, let’s say you have a pair of jeans you no longer wear, they are plain and very similar to other pairs you have in your wardrobe. Well, to set them apart from the rest of your jeans, you could take some acrylic paint to them and get creative. You could do splatters or buy some stencils to help you get the perfect design or you could free hand if you are really artistic. 

Also, for idea inspiration, you could check out Pinterest. The platform is amazing for everything idea wise from DIYs to food recipes so you are sure to find some upcycling inspiration. You could do paint splatters or paint your favourite Harry Potter’s characters onto them, whatever floats your boat. Before doing this, ensure you Google whether the specific fabric and acrylic paint work together and also ensure you lay down protection so you don’t paint the house accidentally or yourself.

2. Tie Dye

Photo Credit: Flickr

This is one I am personally dying to do when I do my next wardrobe clear out! You could upcycle any old clothes that are white, making them fresh and new by using the tie dye method. There are lots of kits online and you can buy fabric dyes separately to do this. 

In addition, there are many YouTube tutorials that show how to do specific tie dye designs. For example, spirals, splatters and more. Tie dye is such a fun way to make an old piece of clothing feel new and if you are like me, a big fan of bright colours, you will wear the item all the time. 

Alongside that, you will probably feel so proud of yourself for making it and the design will truly be your own. For best results, ensure you use an item that is 100% cotton, although some mixed fabrics still turn out okay! Also remember to wear gloves and put down some protection. 

3. Iron-On Patches

Photo Credit: Flickr

A really artistic way to jazz up the old t-shirt is to iron some fun patches onto it. This is a particularly good idea if an item of your clothing has a hole as you can use the patch to cover it up! You can get lots of different iron on patches from a variety of physical stores and online. 

You could also use Pinterest here for your inspiration on what patches look good. I’ve seen some lovely ones over the years such as bees, dogs, trees, even the likes of Simpson characters. It’s a really fun way to make that old t-shirt you were ready to part with feel brand new.

4. Printing T-Shirts

Remember when people used to go to the t-shirt printing shops to jazz up that old white t-shirt with their new favourite TV show or catchphrase? This is a really cool way to transform an old t-shirt into a graphic t-shirt! A lot of people do this trick by using transfer paper or parchment paper. Have a look on YouTube for some more detailed tutorials if you would like to give this one a go.

5. Shorten/Lengthen Clothing 

A simple way you can upcycle an unwanted item of clothing is by shortening it. You can do this by visiting an alteration shop or if you trust yourself, you can use some scissors to shorten an old dress, t-shirt, jeans etc. Also, if you shorten a dress for example, you can use the excess material to make something else such as a matching headband!

6. Add Personality to Old Clothing

Photo Credit: Alicja On Pixabay 

You can take those old clothes and add some of your personality to them. For example, you could use some old bandanas or excess fabric and chop them into a little squares and use fabric glue to put them on the back pockets of your jeans. Another example is you can add some tears to jeans or glue on some studs/glitter. The world is your oyster here.

7. Clothing Items Differently

Although this article is centred more around DIYs, another great way to upcycle your old clothing is to look at the garment differently. What I mean by this is thinking of different ways you could wear it. For example, say you found some old bandanas that you could wear as tops or if you found a long sweatshirt that is too big for you now, could you add a belt to it and make it a casual dress? Sustainable fashion is entirely about looking for different ways to wear items. So, with this tip in mind, have a look at those clothes in the bag and think about how you could wear them differently. 

To Sum It All Up.. 

Fast fashion has a big impact on our environment and a large amount of clothing goes to landfill every minute of each day to be burned which creates huge amounts of carbon emissions. Although this news is hard to hear for the fashionistas out there, the good news is that you can be part of the solution by using clothing you already have and upcycling it to fit your personality more and make clothing items feel fresh and new! Sustainable fashion is all about using what is already in circulation so if these upcycling tips aren’t for you, please ensure you give the black bin bag of clothing to charity shops who really need our donations.