Giving Your Clothes New Life!

Published/Updated on:
October 24, 2018
Have you recently made quite a few impulsive buys? Or are you just not able to fit into your clothes anymore? Perhaps your clothes are out of trend? Fret not - you don’t have to dump it all away. There’s another solution: upcycle it!

What exactly is upcycling?

Upcycling (aka creative reuse) is the process of transforming a clothing item to make it better than the original. It is now a growing trend and is one of the most sustainable things people do in Fashion.

How does it work?

Well, just take a clothing item that doesn’t fit anymore, or is stained or damaged, and refashion it into something wearable instead of throwing it away!

Why should we upcycle?

  1. You’ll lessen the amount of waste sent to landfills, which can take thousands of years to break down.
  2. You’ll help preserve our natural resources (especially our precious water) and reduce pollution!
  3. You’ll save your coin ($$$), and we all know how that matters.
  4. It’s fun, and gets your creative juices flowing!

The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world, next to oil. Reports suggest that growing cotton alone uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides, which can be dangerous for the environment and the farmers who grow it.

One man's trash is another man's treasure

Taste is subjective — what is trash to one may be seen as fashionable to another, and what is considered to be beautiful may be considered to be ugly.

Upcycling challenges people’s perceptions. Because upcycling reuses existing clothing, it often gains the stigma of ‘second-hand’ or ‘old and ‘unwanted’. But that’s not necessarily the case — it’s a way to give new life to worn-out clothes, which provides you with your own unique one-of-a-kind piece you can truly call your own.

There are some ways you can upcycle:

1) Is your t-shirt too small?

Pink T-shirt on a woman with embroideries at the side seam

Bought a tee on sale, only to realise it was too small? Simply cut out the side seams, grab a spare piece of printed fabric lying around to form a panel on each side.

Try this out! 

2) Are your jeans getting boring?

Find your jeans too plain? Found a hole in your favourite pair of jeans? Try DIY-ing your own lace or fishnet insert jeans to give it a little more spunk. You can easily do this by sewing (or gluing) a piece of lace or fishnet behind the hole.

Light washed ripped-denim jeans with lace over it
Photo credits: boohoo, Lula Mid Rise Lace Insert Skinny Jeans; Forever 21 Fishnet-Insert Washed Jean 
Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.10.59 PM
Photo credits: boohoo, Lula Mid Rise Lace Insert Skinny Jeans; Forever 21 Fishnet-Insert Washed Jean 

Watch how it’s done here on:

3) Marks/stains/tears on shirts?

Flatover lay of a white t-shirt with pearls over a purple felt
Photo credits: Popsugar YouTube

 Embellish them with pearls/patches of fabric shapes to hide what you don’t want others to see. 

4) Jeans which are too big?

Dark blue denim with elastic waistband sewn inside the jeans' waistband

The waist of your jeans don’t fit, but everything else does? Cut a slit on the inside of the back waistband (without cutting through the entire band). Slip in an elastic and sew down the ends of the elastic.

Try it out for yourself

5) An old t-shirt sitting around?

Handmade purple hairband made from an old t-shirt worn by a woman

An old t-shirt that’s sitting at the bottom of your dresser which you don’t use Cut strips off the bottom of a t-shirt (slightly stretchy), tug on it to let the edges curl in. Braid the strips and use it as a headband!

You can try it yourself here

Who else is doing it?


Reformation is a L.A.-based fashion company which reuses vintage clothing and fabric from fashion houses that have over-ordered. They use eco-friendly fabrics to create sexy, sophisticated styles – they even make wedding dresses (who would've known)!

ASOS Reclaimed Vintage

From Levi’s denim, pre-loved leather and vintage fabrics from luxury fashion houses, Reclaimed Vintage upcycles the old into new limited-edition collections.


TRMTAB cleverly uses scraps of leather to create beautifully woven bags and electronics cases, which helps to reduce the amount of leather scraps which end up in landfills.

Triarchy Atelier

By upcycling their denim production, Triarchy Atelier managed to save over a million gallons of water. Not only is Triarchy Atelier eco friendly, but they’re also ethical because they focus on giving back through their charity partner, Isla Urbana, that provides fresh drinking water to people in Mexico.

Bottletop Fashion

Bottletop Fashion uses aluminium ring pulls from drink cans to upcycle them into glamorous clothing and accessories! How innovative is that?

If you want to find out more about courses like these, check out our Sustainable Fashion Value Chain course or our website!


Rachel Tan

Rachel was a Marketing Intern at She enjoys roller coasters, adrenaline-pumping activities, and is a huge rom-com fan. Oh, and the only drink she orders from kopitiams is ice milo.

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