Each year, around 24% of Australians throw away an item of clothing after wearing it only once. What this tells us is Aussies are consumed by the fast fashion cycle and the seemingly endless barrage of fashion trends. The good news is that there is a way out!
Upcycling, whilst certainly not a new concept, has found a renewed fame in recent years as buyers and brands alike have become more environmentally-conscious. By its very definition, upcycling means taking something you no longer have a need for and repurposing it. Breathing new life into something to avoid it ending up in landfill.
Upcycling a piece of clothing is a fantastic alternative to buying new for plenty of reasons. You’re saving money, minimising your waste production and, best of all, you’re creating something unique and all your own.
If you’re looking at your wardrobe and internally screaming because you’ve got nothing to wear, great news! You actually do. It might just need a bit of a refresh to become a piece you love again. Here are our tips for making the most of your existing wardrobe.
First of all, do a wardrobe audit
Set aside some time, ideally a Sunday afternoon (this might take a while) to properly have a look at your clothes and sort them into categories. Your wardrobe can be divided into four key categories:
- High rotation - these are your best-loved clothes. The ones you wear constantly that you wouldn’t dare to part with. Essentially, your core wardrobe.
- Low rotation - another collection of pieces you can’t just get rid of, but perhaps you don’t wear as often. Just getting them out and in front of your eyes you’ll sometimes rediscover clothes you had totally forgotten about. Surprise new outfit!
- Upcycle - this should be clothes you still like, that have potential to be made into something new. Think things you love but that may no longer fit you, t shirts with holes, faded jeans or dresses with awkward, unflattering lengths. Put them aside and save for a revamp!
- Donate, sell or swap - anything that you don’t wear, that really doesn’t fit or that just misses the mark. Gather these and set them aside.
Get to work!
Take your items from the Upcycle pile and compare them to any pieces on your current wishlist. Which clothes do you currently have that, with a few simple tweaks, could become a piece from your list? Now that you’ve got your inspiration, it’s time to have fun getting crafty.
What do you have that can be improved with a simple trim? A t-shirt that’s a bit too long can become a flattering crop in less than a minute. Plus, jersey doesn’t fray, so there’s no sewing necessary! Don’t just throw out the excess t-shirt fabric either. This can be used for rags to clean the house, or with a bit of elastic and a needle and thread, you’ve got a fresh scrunchie!
An old pair of jeans can become denim shorts with a simple trim. If you know your way around a sewing machine, you could go one step further and repurpose them into a denim skirt.
If the reason you’re not wearing 50% of your wardrobe is you’ve got a hole in it or it doesn’t fit too well around the waist, the answer is simple. Get it fixed! A simple hole is sorted with a steady hand, some good cotton and a bit of time. The beauty of the internet is if you’re thinking of DIYing something, someone has usually already done - and filmed - it. Hit up YouTube for a tutorial and get busy. If you have a few items that need a more experienced eye, take them to a tailor who will measure you up and breathe new life into your once-loved garments.
Whether it’s a pair of faded jeans that need a fresh colour injection or a plain white tracksuit you no longer wear since you stopped umpiring Netball, a bit of dye should do the job. Tie Dye is having a definite moment right now. Grab some elastic bands and some fabric dye and get to work on that tracksuit to create the loungewear look of the year for a fraction of the cost.
You can also buy a black wash for your washing machine to extend the life of any dark garments that have faded over time.
Swap and sell
Have a look at piles 2, 3 and 4 to decide what is still wearable, what is looking good after a makeover, and what you’ve worn once (usually cocktail dresses) and do a photoshoot! Upload these items to Facebook Marketplace, Depop or just your Instagram story and sell them on to a new home. Selling or swapping your pieces via apps like Depop is a great alternative to donating because not only are you ensuring your once-loved piece has a home, you’re also making a bit of money.