A Quick Guide to Reworking Clothes

Culture Life
Clothes hanging up on a cloudy sky background : Reworked and second-hand clothing

Following the (very welcome) trend of departure away from fast-fashion consumption, the demand for pieces which have individual flair and originality has increased. Whether this be quirky second-hand items, hand-made slow fashion or reworked old clothes, the emphasis on responsible fashion consumption and the influence of lockdown has unquestionably led to an interest in personalised and unusual styles. Here is a whistle-stop tour of clothes customization from someone schooled in the art of spending too much time scrolling through Depop.

Reworking your own clothes – whether you use a tired old top you no longer love or you buy an item from a charity shop which you want to give a revamp – is a really enriching activity. Before we begin, though, an important caveat to add to any article about second-hand shopping and current fashion trends is the importance of doing so ethically. It is a privilege to be able to make your own clothes and shop from charity shops as a choice rather than out of necessity. Don’t clean out all of the trendy items from your local charity shop or buy out the larger clothing sizes to rework into smaller pieces: before you get started, especially if you are looking to make a profit off your creations, have a quick Google to make sure you understand the ethics of second-hand shopping as a trend, (especially how to avoid ‘Depop gentrification’[1]).

There are quite a few basic methods that you can use to rework clothes yourself. Embroidery first comes to mind, which is most easily done using a hoop and embroidery thread, but can be done sans hoop if you don’t have one. Customising clothes using fabric paint is also an option – especially if you want to make it obvious you have created the design yourself, or don’t like sewing. Little embellishments like fabric patches, which also serve the practical purpose of covering rips in old clothes, are another easy way to rework old clothes and breathe more interest into them.

Little embellishments like fabric patches, which also serve the practical purpose of covering rips in old clothes, are another easy way to rework old clothes and breathe more interest into them

A topical project, and one easy to start with as a beginner, is mask making and customisation. There are loads of great tutorials on Youtube showing how you can use old clothes as fabric for a facemask: this is a great alternative to buying new or disposable masks, as it makes use of fabrics which you already have but don’t regularly use. Embroidering the mask after making it (or embroidering accents onto a shop-bought one) is a quick and low-commitment project: just draw a design onto the fabric (this is easier when the material is pulled taut on an embroidery hoop) using a pencil of a contrasting colour to the fabric, choose some funky coloured thread, and follow the design using a backstitch (again, Youtube tutorials are very helpful when beginning to embroider).

Reworking projects that you will see cropping up again and again on Depop are those which use a branded piece of clothing and convert it into another type of garment (think corset made out of Nike socks…). If you like this sort of look but want to create a more individual piece of clothing this is a project you can do yourself with an old branded item you no longer wear: just make sure when cutting up the fabric into a new pattern that you think about where it would be best to exhibit the brand logo on your new top/mask/miniskirt/crop top made out of socks.

Using paints to customise clothes is another potentially interesting route to take – one which makes producing T-shirts to sell, for example, more accessible as it does not require the ability to screen-print or to embroider. If you are looking to start out in clothing production this is a cool DIY direction to take: slapping some paint onto a tee in using your own designs is a really satisfying way of showcasing or even selling your own art. Again – when selling clothing bear in mind sustainable production – if you are bulk sourcing tees to buy make sure they have been produced ethically, and don’t just buy all the stock out of your local charity shop.

slapping some paint onto a tee in using your own designs is a really satisfying way of showcasing or even selling your own art

Image of embroidery in progress : My first attempt at embroidery – as you can see you don’t need to be an expert to give it a go!

Another trend at the moment is creating garments out of scraps of fabric – for a meta I-made-this-myself look, use cast-offs from other projects and quilt them together. This sort of look is time-consuming, but benefits from the fact that the finished project is not necessarily meant to look neat – exposed seams and raw hems are the modi operandi here. In a similar vein to the age-old argument against buying pre-ripped jeans, why buy a mass-produced top pretending to be an ugly handmade top when you can actually make an ugly handmade top?

Re-working and customising clothing is something that should be more than just a coronavirus-fuelled trend. Not only does it help reduce clothing waste, but it’s also really satisfying to actually make something wearable and unique. Activities like embroidery and putting together new garments are also really nice to have as ongoing projects – the nature of the process of sewing means it is something you can pick up for 5 minutes here and there when you have the time.

Happy reworking!

[1] https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/depop-secondhand-gentrification

Image credit: Jamie Chalmers (Flickr)

 

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