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Customising Old Clothes

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Some customised jeans.

This is a great way of recharging your wardrobe for the new season while also helping the planet.

'Old' Clothes

Let's make one thing clear for those unfashionable types. 'Old' clothes are anything you've worn at least once, and have been 'seen' by your friends. You may not be able to afford to buy the latest fashions, or maybe you just want to spice up things you've worn for ages and which you love too much to give away. A plain, pastel-coloured top may look great teamed with a jazzy skirt or old jeans, but people will notice if you've worn it several times. What do you do? Throw it away? Put it in the collecting bag for the local charity shop? No. Get customising!


The great thing about customising is that you end up with something totally unique, plus you've saved yourself a packet by making use of something you would've given away or chucked out when it's hardly had any wear and tear. It's also a nice way of hiding otherwise irreversible stains and tears or rips which are too far gone to be fixed. Try adding to the mystique by stitching an initial patch to the bum pocket of your jeans. Admirers won't be able to resist asking you what it stands for!

Plain tops and skirts/trousers/jeans etc. are easy, visit your local market and head for the dressmaking stall. Take a look at the rolls of lace, embroidery, ribbon and sequins. Ask if there are any unusual buttons for sale. Let your imagination run riot. You'll have an easier choice if you take along the article you're going to dress up. Remember you can go for matching decorative items or totally different combinations, there are no rules!

You may spot a fabulous material but hate the garment: no problem, you can cut it up and use it to decorate your clothes or even make a handbag out of it. Knitted articles provide a wonderful opportunity: unpick the wool and reuse it to crochet yourself a hat with co-ordinating tassel or knit yourself a pair of mittens and matching scarf.

Another bargain are long scarves: these can be utilised into making halter-tops. Sew a border of sequins along each edge and finish with an appliqué to ensure the finished top isn't see-through. Long skirts can be a priceless boon: cut a length from the base, hem it and decorate with lace or sequins and voila! you have a scarf to match the skirt.

Car Boot Stalls, Charity and Thrift Shops

A veritable treasure trove awaits you at these kinds of places. Who can resist a cheap bargain? Watch out for tartan clothing which you can cut up to make patches for your favourite jeans. Check out the costume jewellery as well, a chunky pair of clip earrings can be attached to a pair of plain pumps, a guaranteed talking-point! Don't ignore the belt rack either, even if you wouldn't normally be seen dead wearing such a thing, a couple of old leather belts provide you with the basic handles for your home-made handbag. Chain belts can be customised in a number of ways, from making your own bracelets to decorating an old handbag. Buckles can be useful too, as can tassels (check out the bedding stall for old eiderdowns, quilts and curtains with tie-backs.)

You never know your luck, charity shops have such a rapid turnover that the volunteers rarely have time to check for fashion gold like a Mary Quant original, which everyone would assume you paid a small fortune for on eBay! If you find a pretty top or dress but the straps aren't fashionable enough, buy it anyway. Remove the old straps, then replace with thin ribbon or knotted wool. To hide your stitches you can apply a bow which you can purchase ready-made or make yourself from leftover strips in your thrift box.

What You Can Do

One ingenious Researcher accidentally tore his jeans up the seam, then remembered the old trick where you cut open a trouser leg seam and sew cloth in it, creating bell-bottoms. Looking around in the store for material to use, he found a selection of Elvis fabric. The result is way cool.

Don't Stop There!

Once you have tasted the delights of revamping your own clothes, go a step further and try putting something together from scratch. Look out for easy patterns and utilise the material from something you already own - for inspiration, do you remember how many outfits Marge Simpson made from her pink Chanel suit?

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