Despite having wardrobes crammed full of clothing, most of what we own is rarely worn. Here's an idea: take responsibility and reinvent your wares.
Australians are ranked as the second largest consumer of fashion and textiles in the world. According to stats quoted by slow fashion guru Jane Milburn, every year we buy approximately 27 kilograms of clothing and textiles, while the global average is a significantly smaller 13 kilograms. Our passion for fashion has a huge environmental toll and also wreaks havoc on our budgets. Some studies suggest we wear as little as 10% of our clothing regularly.
While over-shopping has created this problem, the solution isn’t necessarily donating unwanted items into overcrowded charity stores. Instead, rethink what’s already in your wardrobe.
Understand the why
Pinpointing the exact reason you don’t wear an item allows you to problem solve and can also help you avoid shopping mistakes in the future. Take time to consider why the garment is wrong, and then see if you can create a solution. Perhaps the sleeves are the wrong length, you didn’t enjoy wearing that particular fabric, you hate the colour, or the style is passé. No matter the reason, a solution almost always exists.
Over time, whites can become grey, denim fades, our hair colour changes or we realise a certain colour is no longer flattering for our skin tone. Dying the item is an easy way to refresh clothing for men, women or children.
Personally, I’ve had great success with Rit liquid dyes and would recommend their product over other brands. For natural fibres, a washing machine can be used to simplify the process. Fill the machine with water then add your dye and clothes. Let it all sit for about 30 minutes then run a regular wash. More comprehensive instructions can be found here.
If the clothing is synthetic, the process is slightly more arduous and will require boiling. Alternatively, many dry cleaning stores offer a dye service in store.
A pair of scissors can hastily transform many garments. Old ripped jeans can quickly evolve into denim cutoff shorts for women or knee-length shorts for men. A onesie can be snipped and sewn into two separate pieces. Scissors, a sewing machine and a piece of elastic allows a maxi dress to become a maxi skirt within minutes, and your child’s pyjama pants only need cutting and hemming to change into pyjama shorts.
Just remember the golden rule: measure twice, cut once. In the event of a hemline mishap, refer to our next step.
Lace or ruffles in contrasting fabric can also be hand-stitched to the bottom of a skirt, dress or shorts to add some extra length. This particular tip is especially useful for growing children and can help get extra wears from a much-loved piece of clothing.
Replacing buttons is also a simple and inexpensive way to change the look of an item. Try swapping small buttons for big statement pieces or using different coloured buttons for a fun and creative look. Op shops often have bags of buttons for sale, or you might be able to swap buttons from within your own wardrobe.
Knotting a T-shirt or button-up is an easy way to transform the length of a top and add a bit of flair to an otherwise plain outfit. Long skirts and dresses can also be knotted on the side to add detail or shorten the hemline.
Knots can also be used to transform a T-shirt into a shopping bag without sewing a stitch. At the last Green Heart Fair, we ran workshops demonstrating the process which involves cutting a fringe along the bottom of the shirt and tying the pieces together. The top of the shirt is then cut to form handles.
Iron on patches can be purchased online or in craft and haberdashery stores for a few dollars each. Hannah Klose, the op-shopping legend and creator of Never Ever Pay Retail, has a great tutorial using patches on a denim jacket. While her example is a women’s jacket, a men’s denim jacket could also be altered using the same method. Or, if you prefer to hand stitch, she also offers a nifty embroidery tutorial to spruce up a plain cotton T-shirt.
Hot glue guns can also be used to add sequins, beads or other embellishments.