Get the UP on upcycling and other tips for shopping second-hand

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Megan Rushton
Megan Rushton

by Megan Rushton

Now that everyone is nestling in to working from home, you might find that in-between online classes you have a bit of time on your hands. With Spring in full bloom it’s around this time of year that you may turn to your wardrobe and wonder if it’s due a good clear out; I hope this article can therefore provide some inspiration on how to spruce up your clothes with the added benefit of helping the environment whilst you do it.

So, what is upcycling? The formal definition is to reuse materials in such a way as to create a product of higher quality than the original; what this means is to alter an item of clothing you no longer wear into something you like. This can take many forms. Say you have a dress you haven’t worn in a while, why not turn it into a top? Or the same with jeans, you could turn them into shorts with only a pair of scissors. If you’re interested in trying upcycling here are a few of my tips!

Be creative- don’t hold yourself back, if you have an adventurous idea then just go for it, what’s the worst that could happen? To get your creative juices flowing, you could browse Pinterest, your favourite magazine or even #upcycling on Instagram. I got my latest idea of lengthening a dress I ordered from Depop by cutting off the straps and re-attaching them with safety pins, from the Netflix show Next In Fashion– so you never know when inspiration may strike. Don’t restrict yourself to just altering clothes into more wearable items though, maybe you have a festival jumper or a top with a pattern you love- you could use those as posters by cutting out the section(s) you like and simply popping them into a frame!

Use YouTube- if you’re unsure of how to alter your clothes, maybe you want to try something more advanced like altering the size of a garment, then YouTube should become your new best friend. There’s a plethora of videos designed to teach you how to upcycle and change your clothes, just waiting for you to watch them. If you don’t fancy needlework, you could try fabric paint- print out a design you like and have a go at free hand painting the pattern onto the back of your worn denim jacket or the back pocket of your Levi’s- if painting isn’t your forte you could always trace or create a stencil to help! Again, if in doubt just check YouTube.

As for shopping second hand I have a couple tips to get you started!

Download Depop- Depop is an online thrift store where users with a range of styles come together to shop second-hand clothes or sell their own. Whether you’re looking for a vintage Nike sweater or a little top from Urban Outfitters, Depop no doubt has it all; If you are interested in labels, you can often get them in perfect condition, sometimes with the tags still on, for a lot cheaper than the RRP. As with many online retailers, there are filters on Depop which enable you to shop by size, colour or brand to help narrow your options and make your second-hand shopping experience as simplistic as possible.

Reinvent the old- although the idea of sifting through charity shop rails can be a bit daunting to some, you never know what you might find. You can view the whole experience as a challenge, how could you reinvent the clothes you find? An oversized t-shirt or blazer- throw on some heels and a bag and wear it as a dress. An old band tee- layer it over a turtleneck paired with some mom jeans for that relaxed grunge look. Whether you alter it with a needle or paint, or simply style it in a way which suits you best, you don’t have to take the garments you find at face-value, it’s up to you how you choose to change or style them.

With the average buyer consuming 60% more clothes than in 2000, by shopping more sustainably and upcycling your clothes rather than buying new, you’ll know you are doing something good for the environment; whether you’re making over your room or you’re fed up with those few items discarded at the bottom of your wardrobe, upcycling is a great way to give yourself the freedom to create something not only wearable, but amazing- transforming a garment from old to new.