Jaclyn Kennison is a freelance writer living and playing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She owns and manages an art gallery and event venue between fits of shopping and redecorating.
When it comes to sustainable fashion, often the reuse side of the triangle gets all the attention. We look at reducing our footprint by purchasing new products made in sustainable ways and with sustainable materials, or we buy used.
There are a plethora of secondhand and vintage boutiques popping up all over the country now as we seek to shrink our expenses and our environmental footprints. Another new trend is also peeking over the edges of the environmentally responsible fashion horizon—repurposed clothing.
With a pair of scissors and a sewing machine (or a friend with these tools), a variety of clothing items can be re-made into something trendy, inexpensive and sustainable.
Men’s shirts are a simple way to get started. Find a high quality, minimally worn one at your favorite secondhand store. Choose one that will fall to the length you want—just above or below the knee is generally most flattering. Take it home and put it on inside out. Make a small mark on the top seam of the shirt where it starts to fall off your shoulder. Cut the sleeves off the shirt about an inch out from your mark and them seam them. Draw the waist in with a great belt. Worn with tights, boots and a poncho style sweater this is a trendy, chic fashion that is easy on the earth.
A more traditional take on this idea is the classic pants-into-skirts and T-shirts-into-tank tops. Super long T-shirts can act as a dress as well. If it’s shorter than you would like, attach a wide piece of lace or other material to the bottom. Cut off the arms for a sheath-dress-style frock.
A purse made of men's ties is a great sustainable style accessory. Photo By Jaci Kennison.
Another great item I’ve recently discovered is the Bag-of-ties. Men’s ties have long been a friend to the earth-friendly (or low-budget) fashionista, offering themselves as belts, hair pieces and bracelets. I am certainly not talented enough with a sewing machine to attempt this creation on my own. Thankfully though, you can find them in little boutiques all across the country. Those pictured were handmade by a friend of mine and sold out of a local sustainable goods store. A purse this sassy will go with anything and add a funky fashion element without draining our precious resources.
You could take this same idea and cut the sleeves off an old tight-knit sweater, sewing the bottom closed and adding straps taken from another piece, such as an old carpet bag.
Far more non-traditional items are available as well, such as a wedding dress made from recycled plastic bags.
The most important part of sustainable fashion when repurposing or reusing clothing and accessories is to start with high quality pieces that are in exceptional condition. This will assure your new fashion element maintains its unique style look and lasts for years. There are infinite options available so have fun exploring!