September 11, 2008

Green Living: Reinventing Your Wardrobe

It was so nice being pregnant, getting to wear loose clothes accented with interesting jewelry. And despite the jokes, I loved those maternity jeans with the stretchy panels (confession: I still wore them after my pregnancy was over!).

Now it's back to business as usual with my old wardrobe. The problem is, my body doesn't want to cooperate. Somehow I've gotten even wider love-handles and that post-pregnancy gut is harder to suck in. Some of the clothes that still fit well are more suited for work and teaching, and it's not like I want to have baby drool all over a pretty blouse. Right now with me staying at home, having to buy a new furnace, pay school taxes and home insurance, we can't afford to spend money on clothes.

So what's a girl to do, short of living in sweat pants--something I will never allow myself to own. How about reinventing my wardrobe? Not only will this save you money, but you'd be buying less stuff and recycling what you already have.

When I was teaching at a place called the Goggleworks, I created two teen classes called "Punk Rock Couture" and "Funky Fibers" where students deconstructed t-shirts and other garments into new clothes. I was amazed at what they created, from jeans with cuffs of different fabrics to necktie scarves to bags made from duct tape.
My sample bag and wallets
The photo above is from one of my examples, where I cinched in a t-shirt at the waist to make a more hourglass shape and cut apart and sewed a second tee to add longer sleeves. I also took some of the extra material and sewed a ruffle around the neckline and bottom and added ribbon on the cuffs. I made the screen print on the front, based on a Russian icon image.

We created those screen prints with old sheer curtains, embroidery hoops, and non-water soluble glue. There's a great tutorial here.

Since jersey material, which tees are made from, doesn't unravel, it's great to cut up and resew together without worrying about hems and such.

Here are a few other ideas for reinventing your old clothes.
  • If you knit or crochet, unravel old sweaters you don't wear and reuse the yarn. Carefully unravel, dampen with a spray bottle, and wind into a big loop. Hang the loop with a weight on the bottom until the yarn is dry.
  • Put those old scarves to use as head bands, belts, or as fabric embellishments to your jeans.
  • strap an old belt around the waist of a sweater for a new look (not my personal style, but it works on some bodies)
  • Turn a pair of too-tight jeans into a jean skirt.
  • Sew some old neckties together into a skirt or a belt
  • Turn old belts into leather cuffs. Raised in Cotton makes beautiful ones that are stamped and embellished
  • add sequins, ribbon
  • Raid your husband or boyfriend or brother's closet. That Annie Hall look of vests, neckties, and button downs shirts always seems to be in for Fall.


  1. Wow, you are creative! I am definitely not that crafty, I knit and do little projects but would love to dabble a little more! I want to try buying some sweaters at Goodwill, cutting up pieces and sewing them into a bag then felting it. Pretty ambitious huh?

  2. I love your jean skirt idea--I've got to try that! I like White Stripes and Racountours too!

  3. Great ideas! I use the leftover scraps from t-shirt surgery as cleaning rags.

  4. What an excellent way to revitalize your post-maternity wardrobe! I am suitably impressed. Oh, and I love the idea of unravelling a sweater and using the yarn for a new project. Very resourceful!

    Happyathome, I think you should felt the sweaters before turning them into a purse. Maybe someone with more fibers know-how can weigh in, too, but I am pretty sure that's what you'd want to do!

  5. I'm impressed but I'm overwhelmed! I could never do that!
    That shirt looks awesome!
    I have been thinking about doing something like this. Not quite this complex...

  6. All wonderful ideas! I recently started repurposing my clothes after doing a large purge of my closet. I am still learning how to sew, so all of my projects have been simple. Tote bags, scarves, cloth napkins, draft stoppers, etc. I am completely hooked and looking forward to experimenting more.

  7. Wow, what cute ideas! I fortunately lost about 20 lbs. before I got pregnant, so I wore my "fat pants" after I had Love Bug. I got pregnant again quickly, so we'll see what happens next.

    Oh, and I confess that I wore my maternity jeans for about two months after Love Bug was born. They were so comfy!

  8. You are amazing! Seriously, you always have add such style to your frugal, green ideas! My baby belly isn't nearly the shape it used to be so I might just have to experiment with my wardrobe as well! Thanks for joining us this Thrifty Green Thursday!

  9. What incredible wardrobe ideas!

  10. Awesome! I wish I could sew...I certainly have those nasty post-baby love handles going on...

  11. Those are great ideas - I'm along way off from sewing anything but I'm definitely tucking these ideas away.

  12. I love your blog :) I am so into t-shirt upcycling! I have been going crazy making adult t-shirts into baby pants lately.

    Pst... don't tell anyone but I had my baby over a month ago and I'm still wearing my maternity clothes. That's all I fit into since I gained 60 pounds with this child. Eek. I have about 30-35 more pounds to lose :(


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