Refashioning. Clothing surgery. Reconstruction. Call it what you will, but this trend of crafting through recycling fashion is growing.
My first experience at re-purposing clothing involved my Barbie dolls. I found that cutting two holes in a section of otherwise unusable tights created a cool, slinky garmet for the dolls. ("Cool," of course, was relative, as I also considered beds made of tissue boxes to be quite clever.)
Out of need, people have long re-purposed clothing. Pieces of clothes became quilts or perhaps garmets for children. As part of sewing most of their own clothing, people used to maintain a use-what-you-have mentality. But, in Western cultures, the prevalence of affordable convenience items trumped that mindset. Thrift stores became preferred destinations for those who didn't buy into the consumerist ethos. Then they became a trend in themselves. Thrifted clothing lost the stigma of poverty, especially if it was vintage ('60s or 70s); then it was hip.
Back in the day (ok, if 1995 qualifies as "the day"), you could easily find choice vintage duds, sandwiched between the '80s power suits and gem sweaters, at the Salvation Army. Nowadays, it seems like eBay entrepreneurs and vintage store owners have gutted the thrifts of any cool and unique finds.
Even the queen of thrifting Al Hoff—creator of the defunct zine Thrift Score—lamented the lame state of thrift stores these days. She said this when I met her at the Bazaar Bizarre craft fair in Cleveland; she was selling crafts made from her numerous thrift scores over the years.
Rebirth of Cool
That appears to be the new direction: reconstructing things out of old things. It fits in well with the recent rebirth of crafting and the resurgence of eco-mindedness. Many crafters are turning to discarded clothing to create new fashions.
The photo to the left is the work of Amour Sans Anguish, which sells such reconstructed fashions online.
The sweater to the right was made by Mod to Modern.
Some others who are successfully reinventing fashions:
• Supayana (to the left below)
• Akane clothing
• Worn Again
If anything, crafting is democratic. So while you may not be able to finangle a piece like above, there's simple "surgeries" you can do. And there's a growing stockpile of inspiration or advice on how to do so. The site Wardrobe Refashion is a blog anyone can join—after taking its pledge to "refashion, renovate, recycle pre-loved items for myself for the term of my contract." Or, for just visuals of refashioning go to the Wardrobe Refashion Flickr pool.
T-shirt refashioning—like the one from the Flickr pool, shown to the left—seems to be a starting point for people who want to recycle clothing. There's an overabundance of tees and you don't always have to sew the edges, making the projects easier. There's a number of books out there, too, that share the manifold possiblities of t-shirt reconstruction. Like Generation T:108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt, which is available at ASCPL but I only found about ten "transformations" I'd actually wear. (Sorry, not fringing a t-shirt unless it's for Halloween.)
Here are a few online "refashioning" tutorials:
• Making a twist-top t-shirt
• Make a halter from a t-shirt
• Man pants into cute skirt
"Refashioning" can be as simple as altering a piece of clothing so it better fits you, and some basic sewing skills can help you accomplish that. If sewing clothing is too daunting ('cuz it totally freaks me out), think about re-using clothing to make things like pillows or hand bags—anything you might need fabric for—instead of going out to buy new stuff.