Upcycling puts a unique twist on wardrobe

Step One: Start with a base shirt (Photos by Stefan Lee/The Sheridan Sun)

Step Two: After coming up with the design for your piece, decide how you're going to tackle it.

Step Three: Carefully sew together your garment.

Step Four: Once you think you've finished, take a step back and inspect it to ensure you are happy with it.

Step Five: Find someone (or yourself) to rock your wicked creation.

Voila, upcycled men's button up, turned trendy kimono.


Does the desire to be on trend with the latest fashions without spending endless amounts of cash or dressing identical to the masses of H&M- and Zara-clad bodies sound appealing?

Unsure exactly how to master this feat?

Enter upcycling.

Upcycling, or repurposing is the act of taking old clothes and transforming them into something new.

Upcycling can include hemming maxi dresses into ultra modern high-low skirts, flannel button ups into kimonos and whatever the mind can imagine.

Upcycling can also mean to make use of the fabric from older pieces.

Making use of older garments can be an alternative to splurging on pieces that might not be in style come next season.

It also allows for a more unique look in today’s world of numerous fast fashion stores.

Upcycling can be more rewarding than buying what’s hot.

Hundreds of YouTubers have vlogs dedicated to helping viewers transform old or thrifted items in wonders of trendy in style pieces. These videos range from tutorials, to how-to’s on how to find garments to transform.

Gia Arcos, 23, purposely enrolled in a Fashion Management program because she doesn’t like sewing. However the few skills she did pick up from mandatory college sewing classes enabled her to tackle upcycling.

“Before college, I’d never been much of sewer, but I slowly became more comfortable with it, I still wouldn’t call my self an expert, but I do know enough to make my own tweaks to clothes.

According to Arcos, the methodology is simple.

Start with finding inspiration for whatever you want your final product to be.

Next, figure out what article of clothing will be best suited for repurposing.

In other words, if a chic kimono cardigan is your goal, why bother killing yourself pulling apart an old pair of skinny jeans to make it, opt for that baggy ill-fitting flannel top.

After deciding on what the design of the final piece will look like, come up with a tactical way to construct it.

“Try sketching it out a million times over if need be,” said Arcos.

“Never actually do any ripping or sewing until you’re pretty positive.”

Even before the sewing process, holding your garment with pins in place where you want it sewn can save a lot of grief later.

“There’s nothing worse than a shirt with a bunch of little holes from a seam ripper. Practise makes perfect, even if whatever you made didn’t exactly turn out as you wanted, there’s still no reason to not take pride in your work,” said Arcos.

Morgan Otto is just one of the few who calls themselves a master of thrifted transformations.

“Ever since high school, I would always buy bigger flannels shirts from the men’s side, then take in the sleeves to make it fit better,” said Otto.

The 24-year-old budding fashionista, and later fashion school grad turned visual merchandiser, still regularly makes use of older items.

“My favourite thing to do when I’m bored of plain band shirts is to rip off the back and the sleeves, find a big silky scarf from Value Village or Salvation Army, and turn it into a new back panel.”

Upcycling older garments also ensure fewer items end up in waste bins.

Some projects are obviously more challenging, whereas some require little skill.

Upcycling may not be for everybody –it certainly takes practise, patience and lots of effort.

However, the results certainly make up for the hard work – more dollars in the bank, one-of-a kind pieces, and less waste in the environment.

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