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Your Old Clothing: Recycle by Redesign

June 18th, 2009

old-clothes-recycle-redesign.jpgIf you have a talent and knack for sewing, you may want to study all the clothing you’ve pulled out of your wardrobe during this spring’s cleaning and consider a redesign of your favorites. Become your own fashion designer. Here are a few tips and ideas for redesigning clothes from your “so last year” collection and giving them a second life. As a result of your creativity, you will likely hold some money back from this year’s clothing budget. These are easy ideas, but some sewing experience is necessary.

1. A dress with sleeves can easily be turned into a summery halter dress simply by removing those sleeves and cutting away part of the shoulder. To do this, lay the dress flat. Place a ruler from the underarm seam to an inch out from the neck line. Draw a chalk line along the rule. Then draw another chalk line 1/2 inch out from the first chalk line. This establishes your new hem allowance. Press the hems down and stitch them closed. You’ve just added a halter dress to your new wardrobe.

2. Redesign a long dress by shortening it and using the excess fabric to turn into a matching shawl. If the fabric is diaphanous, silky, and thin, you can add a ruched wide sash with that excess fabric.

3. Long-sleeved t-shirts can easily become short-sleeves or very trendy three-quarter length sleeves, simply by cutting them to a new length. To do this, put the t-shirt on and mark where you want the sleeve to end. You only need to mark one sleeve. Lay the t-shirt down and cut evenly one inch below your mark. Take the removed sleeve end and place it over the second sleeve end. Mark it and cut. Press your hems and stitch them closed. It’s that simple.

4. There are numerous things you can do to give new life to your tired old bluejeans. You can add a hip flared leg. To do this, unpick the lower outside seams to about 12 inches upwards and add a panel of other fabric. The fabric can be whatever you choose from flowery cottons to silver sequence. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you could add beaded appliques to the pockets or a piece of embroidery trim to the hems. Let at least one pair of jeans become your canvas and have fun with the creation.


These are just a few ideas to consider before you toss the clothing you no longer wear. Clothing is one of the worst culprits filling up the landfill sites, so if you can find a way to rejuvenate your old clothes, you’ll be doing a service to the environment as well as saving money in a very creative way.

Lorraine (Rain) Syratt is a writer with interests in travel, history, and gardening. She is presently working on two historical novels set in 17th and 18th century England. She was an editor for a small press publisher and has been published in Canadian Living Magazine.

3 Responses to “Your Old Clothing: Recycle by Redesign”

  1. comment number 1 by: Sandra


    I would like your opinion on something. I bought a balck and white dress a couple of years ago. When I washed it the colours mixed together and it looked terrible. So, I dyed it black, but now it doesn’t look so nice, I want to to do anything about it, because i really liked that dress..

    Any suggestions???


  2. comment number 2 by: Terri

    Cut it apart at the seams. Save the pieces for a pattern. Find a good dressmaker, choose new (colorfast) fabric and have it made into a new dress.

  3. comment number 3 by: charles

    I have a trench or rain coat. I want to shorten the length of it. What do you suggest.

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