Shop Class: Recycle clothing for a change

Give worn clothes and the environment some extra love this Earth Day.

In our eco-living age, it is not just our paper and plastic that need to be recycled. Our fashion could use a second-hand spin as well.

With ever-changing trends, women and men are always adapting to new styles. For a fresh change of pace, stop turning to stores for new styles, and look inside your own closet. That heap of old T-shirts, shrug cardigans and flare jeans do not need to be abandoned. Your outdated denim can be converted into skinny jeans, and grubby white T-shirts can be dyed or embellished.

Outdated styles also keep coming back. A vest that was stylish your senior year of high school can make a comeback.

My growing eco-consciousness and dwindling bank account pushed me to go through my own landfill of a closet and see if anything could be salvaged. I brought back a few pieces and thought up a few do-it-yourself projects for the rest. Fashion is always changing, so why not recycle?

After getting a sewing machine for my birthday, I was smitten but had no project ideas. Tempted to put my present to good use, I dug out my old Abercrombie & Fitch flare jeans from high school. They still fit well, but the leg openings were outdated.

I flipped them inside out, put them on and pinned them down along the outside of the leg to create a tighter fit along the knees and calves. Using denim thread, I sewed down the leg. They fit perfectly and looked amazing tucked into ankle boots.

To restore the factory look, I took up the hem using a thick, gold thread and wide stitching. It was amazing how they turned out. My DIY project looked like something I had just brought back from the mall.

After the denim success, my clothes-recycling kick continued.

I wanted to grab a few new T-shirts in bright colors for spring; however, I did not have the extra cash to blow $20 a piece on my favorite American Apparel T-shirts.

After digging around a bit, I remembered my stash of white Hanes T-shirts that had been shrunken to a perfect fit. I grabbed a box of aubergine powder Rit Dye at A.C. Moore and colored one of the T-shirts in the kitchen sink. After following the instructions, I had a vibrant purple V-neck T-shirt that cost only $2.50 to make. The Rit Dye was easy to use and comes in 25 different colors in liquid and powder. even gives instructions on dying techniques and how to make custom colors. I have transformed three other shirts and a scarf since then.

The next DIY scheme was to update an old jacket. A tan tweed blazer from Old Navy had been an eyesore in my closet for years, yet I never had the heart to throw it away. I decided to give it a little love by adding different buttons and by sewing gold ribbon along the sleeve openings and above the pockets. Stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics have a humongous inventory of buttons that could be used to update any old jacket or coat.

Trust my college-student-on-a-budget plan, try some of these projects, or come up with a crafty idea of your own. These tricks to recycle fashion won’t turn you into Martha Stewart, but maybe you will do it yourself right into sustainable style.

Nicole Saylor can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. What about washing the dyed clothing in the washing machine, does it come out easily or is it okay to wash with other garments?

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