How to Upcycle Clothes: 5 Ways to Revamp Your Wardrobe

by Madison Schramm
how to upcycle clothes

Styles are constantly changing and if you’re like me, that means you like to keep up with the trends. AKA, buy too many clothes. But I’ve started cutting back on trips to the mall and instead, I browse the hangers of my own closet. Upcycling clothes not only saves money, but it’s also really fun and you don’t have to have “Project Runway” level skills to do it! Here, we’re covering how to upcycle clothes and giving you five easy ways to revamp your wardrobe.

1. Crop Your Shirt

The easiest way to make an old shirt feel new is to crop it. This is one of my favorite ways to upcycle clothes because it creates an entirely new style without even pulling out a sewing machine. When cropping a shirt, lay it out on a flat surface, smooth out any wrinkles and cut where your heart desires. Fabric scissors work best when cutting clothes, but you can use regular scissors as well. Pro tip: after you’ve cut, stretch the end of the shirt horizontally, this will make the bottom curl up and eliminate any rough edges.

Photo by A Beautiful Mess

2. Iron on Patches

Photo by Wildflower and Company

Shirts, pants, hats—any article of clothing can be elevated by an iron-on patch! Not only does it add some personality to your look, it can also make it seem more expensive. And who doesn’t love flexing on a budget? To iron on a patch, you should first turn your iron onto the highest heat. Then, position your patch where you want it. When you’re ready to iron, you’ll want to place a pressing cloth (a pillowcase or handkerchief works) between the patch and the iron, then hold it in place for 30-45 seconds. Finally, flip your garment over and repeat step three. Check out these cool patches on Amazon or pop over to your closest Michaels or Walmart for some inspiration.

3. Paint on Denim

Pick a design, your favorite color and paint away on your denim canvas to create a unique piece of clothing. From bottoms to jackets, denim has to be the most worn material in my wardrobe; but after a while, the same pair of jeans can start to feel a little boring. Painting gives you so much creative freedom, and that’s what fashion is all about. If using acrylic paint, make sure to mix in a textile medium so your masterpiece doesn’t crack when being washed, or you can just use fabric paint instead. Once you’ve finished painting, let it dry overnight and seal it by ironing with medium heat.

Photo by Juliya Tesoro

4. Tie-Dye with Bleach

We’ve all heard of tie-dye, but dying clothes with bleach has recently become a popular trend thanks to the app TikTok. To bleach dye, you’ll need a piece of darker colored clothing, bleach, a bucket, rubber bands and gloves. Before you dye, tie rubber bands around your clothing in the shape of your choice. You’ll then want to either fill a bucket or spray bottle with bleach (if using a bucket, let soak for about 10 minutes); to make your bleach solution, mix one-part water to one part bleach. Lastly, rinse your clothing with cold water immediately to stop the bleaching process. For a more step-by-step instruction, check out this blog post.

How to Upcycle Clothes

Photo by Sutton + Grove

5. Embroider a Design

Out of all these tips on how to upcycle your clothes, this requires the most materials. You’ll need an embroidery hoop, embroidery needles, embroidery floss and a water-soluble stabilizer if you chose to print out a design rather than free-hand. I find that embroidery looks the best on denim clothing, but feel free to experiment with any material in your closet. If you’re looking for a design, flowers, phrases or your initials are always a trendy place to start. Embroidery can also be a great way to personalize a gift and make it extra special. The process of embroidery is very specific, but this article by Lauren Conrad explains it perfectly. Before you go, here’s a link to all of Joann Fabrics’ embroidery materials in case you’re confused on what the heck embroidery floss is.

How to Upcycle Clothes

Photo by Crewel Ghoul website

About the Author/s

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Senior journalism major at Rider University and iced coffee connoisseur.

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