How To Upcycle Clothes | Upcycling Clothes Before & After

Upcycling is easier than you think. Let’s dive in and sway you from ditching your clothes so fast.

Upcycling. It’s a buzzword you may have heard flying around when talking about DIY or sustainable brands.

According to Circular Online, the UK is the fourth largest textile waste producer in the world. That’s a lot of textiles we’re chucking out. And in case you didn’t know already, this can have some serious consequences on the planet.

One of the best ways to tackle this is by re-wearing clothes we own and upcycling them too. We’ve got a ton of ways you can upcycle your clothes, but first, let’s dive into what it is and the types of clothes you can upcycle.

What is upcycling?

Upcycling is where you turn old products into new ones. This is done by modifying it in some way. You could embellish it, take out or add extra features, cut the item into a new shape…all sorts.

In the end, it adds value to the piece. Upcycling as a whole is a fantastic way to turn something you once loved into a new item, especially if it’s on its last legs. It’s a creative outlet too, so if you’re up for trying something new then we’ve got a ton of ways to upcycle your clothes later in this article!

What can you upcycle?

There are tons of items you can upcycle:

  • Clothes

  • Furniture

  • Glass

  • Metals

  • Fabric and textiles

  • …Anything you’d throw away (unless it’s consumable!).

When it comes to upcycling, the sky is your limit. People have made the most bizarre yet useful things out of upcycling old tat.

Read: DIY Mother’s Day Gifts Your Mum Will Actually Love.

What to look for in clothes to be upcycled?

We’re on about upcycling clothes here. Check your wardrobe or ask your friends and family if they have any old pieces they no longer wear. You want to look for items you can see yourself wearing (obviously) and realistically tell how much you can upcycle them.

Here are a few other things to look for when upcycling clothes:

  • Are the clothes torn up? That’s fine! Just make sure it’s not completely beyond repair (unless you’re after a particular look then go ahead)

  • Check out the seams. Can you cut through them or will you have to stitch them back up? Some seams can be hard to untie, so make sure you have a decent unpicker and pair of fabric scissors handy

  • Look at your current wardrobe vs the item you could upcycle. Does it fit your colour scheme?

  • Check the labels to see if they’re made by fashion designers. If they are you, might be able to make money reselling them instead. If you are thrifting you also don’t want to pay a markup for a fashion designer label if you are just going to take it apart when you get home. Trust us on that one!

Upcycled clothes before and after

DIY wrap top

Using an old top, you can change the silhouette of it entirely. We recommend a jersey fabric as the stretch will work

Cropped and embroidered old shirt

We love how @deermorgan turned this old long shirt into a cute cropped one with a snake pattern! You simply need an embroidery ring, a washable fabric pen (or pencil) to outline the pattern you want to sew, and some scissors to shorten the hem.

£1 dress thrift flip

This one is quite advanced, but if you’re a sewing machine queen, then this should be a total breeze.

They explain step-by-step how to achieve this look and we‘re obsessed with it. The dress only cost £1 from a thrift store and they turned it into this super elegant and flattering silhouette. We can’t quite believe our eyes.

Upcycling compilation with paints and reconstruction

We absolutely LOVE how this creator bought a ton of things to upcycle. Including jeans, jackets and t-shirts. They use a lot of fabric paints and even go as far as cutting up and sewing a pair of jeans back together for a frayed and reconstructed look. Love love love.

Curtain into a cut-out dress

This upcycled look is everything. Who knew a curtain could be turned into such a chic look? Creator @andriaahall shows the entire process which mostly involved tracing and using their sewing machine to stitch everything together. It just goes to show what you can do with a blank canvas.

Clothes upcycling ideas

Below are some easy ways to upcycle your clothes at home.

Pom-pom jumpers

A pom-pom jumper is one of the cutest pieces of knitwear you could add to your wardrobe. This TikTok shows a partially upcycled look (they crochet a vest then add pom poms from a pair of earrings). It’s simply a case of stitching the pom-poms in place wherever you’d like. Don’t be afraid to mix colours either.

Raw-hem jeans

Always wondered how to get the raw-hem look on your jeans! This TikTok creator uses the rough side of her rug to rub the hem against. It makes total sense if you think about it! No tweezing the fabric for hours.

T-shirt to halter top

@lexxlayne shows you which parts to chop off when creating this upcycled tee-to-halter top. Got an old band-tee that’s ill-fitting? This is a fantastic way to upcycle it into something new.

DIY scrunchie with bow

It’s easier to do this with a sewing machine but it’s certainly not impossible with hand needles. This creator shows you what pattern you need to cut as well as how to fit the elastic in and add a cute little bow to the scrunchie. Use any fabric you like, including old clothes.

Three ways to upcycle old t-shirts

We love how this creator shows you how to simply cut, dye, or stitch together two different t-shirts to create something new. It’s the ultimate t-shirt upcycling video if you ask us.

Bleach painting

One of our favourites has to be this bleach painting video. They paint a pattern on a hoodie using pure bleach and wash it out to stop the reaction. They use a series of dyes to create a multi-coloured effect and the end result is super pretty. Alternatively, you can skip the dye altogether and it’ll still look fab.

What’s your favourite way to upcycle clothing? Don’t forget to check out our stationery discounts for art supplies to upcycle your clothes!