Customising clothes: no longer just for kids


Customising clothes was once the preserve of over-enthusiastic ten year-olds armed with blunt scissors and a headache-inducing collection of sequins, rhinestones et al. However, this month Vogue has reclaimed the primary schooler’s favourite pastime for the adults. The issue’s supplement featured a host of designers from Missoni to Mary Katrantzou transforming the same pair of jeans into catwalk-worthy creations. Admittedly the jeans were £85 Levi’s, and a denim bodysuit bedecked with floral ruffles is perhaps beyond the capabilities of the average needle-and-thread phobic student, but fear not, there are more accessible ways to take a trip down memory lane. Now that getting scissor-happy with your clothes has fashion’s ultimate stamp approval, all that remains to ensure success is strict adherence to the cardinal rules of customising:

  1. Denim cut-offs: one would think that fashion’s favourite scruffy garment would be a foolproof entry point into the murky depths of customising. But don’t be fooled by those pictures of Alexa Chung in her raggedy high-waisters: there’s a reason they look so suspiciously perfect. Let’s start with the jeans. Under no, absolutely no circumstances should you attempt to use skinny jeans. You will end up with denim cycling shorts that no amount of intentional fraying or strategic cutting will improve. Instead choose a suitably roomy pair and place your favourite shorts on top, using them as a template to rule a line onto the jeans to show you where to cut the legs. When it comes to fraying instead of picking at the raw hems give them a quick spin in the washing machine. Much more authentic.
  2. Shortening dresses or skirts: surprisingly, you may not require sewing skills in order to pull this one off. Being open to this category of customising is particularly useful as there are no end of beautiful skirts and dresses to be found in charity shops that most people will dismiss because they are too long. The determining factor regarding whether or not you need to hem your handiwork is the fabric of the garment: manmade materials are generally a no-no. One wash and you’ll be left with a spool of unravelled thread instead of the perfectly shortened piece you put in. Silk and cotton can work but you must cut the line perfectly straight – they are unforgiving materials. When it comes to cutting the piece you need to put it on, then make several small marks to show the length you want to cut it at, rule a line connecting the marks and cut using a sharp pair of scissors. Precision is key.
  3. Dyeing clothes: save yourself a world of arm-ache and check the material of the garment before swishing it around in several litres of water for two hours only to find that it looks absolutely no different. This is a true story, and one that should be learnt from. Dylon is the major clothes dye brand, offering 24 shades that can be applied by hand or in the machine, but there is one major catch. Synthetic fabrics do not like dye. You can pour gallons of the stuff on them and they will not budge an inch. Dyeing a natural fabric with a hint of polyester will be more successful, but will result in a lighter shade. You should have no problems with linen, cotton and viscose, but wool and silk will require hand application. Essentially, read the label. Tie-dye if you must. But do not try to achieve the unachievable.