Upcycled Clothing: Reworked Vintage

Man wearing upcycled vintage clothing, photo credit to Margarita Anatomy

Upcycling clothes is a great way to reduce waste. There are many old sweatshirts, hoodies, and jeans that serve as a good base material for making a reworked outfit. A lot of us have this ever expansive wardrobe that eventually ends up in the trash. But reworking clothing and combining several out of fashion pieces can make for a revolutionary fashion statement.

Upcycling clothing is becoming an important part of the apparel industry. Fashion lovers are always keen to give new life to old fashion, to upcycle garments, and to develop fashionable, sustainable fashions. They enjoy wearing upcycled clothing. It isn’t surprising that upcycling clothes have become so popular. Clothing has no respect for environmental issues. A trend toward recycling clothing is becoming popular among a new generation of fashion lovers who are increasingly environmental conscious.

Why is Upcycling clothing popular?

Reworked clothing is 100% original, there really are never two items that are exactly the same. So it’s pretty much one of the only ways wear you can guarantee you won’t run into someone wearing the same outfit. But also, reworked clothing is inherently sustainable. The amount of water saved from not producing new fabrics combined with the waste reduction, is a net positive for the environment. 

Why should you buy reworked clothes?

It’s interesting. It’s eclectic. And most importantly it’s fun!  With this new way of designing and manufacturing clothing, you can really have fun and transform your clothing into a more expressive art form that represents you. 

And we’ve touched upon how it’s just good for the environment too. The current apparel industry model is highly wasteful and enormously polluted. Clothing production requires a large amount of resources and people only end up wearing them for a short amount of time. By reworking fashion you are extending the life  of clothing.

Two sweatshirts combined into one creating a nice distressed reworked garment

Where to buy upcycled clothing online?

There are very few brands and retailers that sell upcycled fashion. Your best bet to buy upcycled clothing online is through a platform like Etsy or Depop. Over the coming years, we expect reworked clothing to become more mainstream as it has slowly caught on with bigger brands like Patagonia. 

Upcycled Clothing FAQS and Definitions

Upcycling can be defined as a synonym to circular fashion. It’s when textile waste is resued as the raw materials for new garments. This can be either fabric scraps or actually worn finished clothing items. Upcycling reduces the amount of waste that the fashion industry creates. 

Upcycling basically allows you to move towards recycling waste in a much more efficient manner. It not only enables us to reduce waste but functions as an effective way to allow us to reuse materials

In a fashion sense, reworked clothing is very similar to upcycling. Reworked clothing is entirely made of materials from the fashion industry. Often older or less worn pieces in need of a “face-lift”. Adding new details or adjusting garments to fit better, or look more contemporary fall under this purview.

Take a piece of clothing for example, and hem the bottom to feature a crop, or add elastic to the sleeves to sinch them at the wrist. Upcycling takes any item, not necessarily an item used for fashion in a previous life, and incorporates the piece into clothing.

Upcycled items are often more expensive than conventionally produced clothing. This has everything to do with how the garments are made. Upcycled items use waste product from other industries or around the home, and need to be processed to be functional as clothing.

The supply of any one type of waste product is difficult to source at a large scale. The stringent supply of raw materials makes the cost-saving advantages of economies of scale difficult to reach. Plus, most upcycled items utilize a process that is bespoke to the type of waste product used as the main material. Typically, clothes with upcycled materials are produced by artisans with a learned skill set.

Recycling is an umbrella term that encompasses upcycling. Any means to extend the lifespan of a material is a form of recycling. Upcycling takes waste, not necessarily from the fashion industry, and incorporates them into clothing. Thus, giving extended use to the waste material.

With enough creativity, virtually anything can be upcycled. Clothing is remarkably versatile at its core and does not need to be made up into another garment. Upcycled fabrics can be used in decor, like throw pillows, curtains, frames, reupholstering, and much more. Fabrics can be paired with materials like resin, which is a remarkably durable duo that can be used for projects ranging from furniture to guitars.

Limiting factors with upcycled fabric is technique or skill set and tools. Not everyone can produce an Eames chair from upcycled canvas and resin. There are projects ranging from basic DIY to impressive works of craftsmanship. Reducing waste with a new functional item is the goal at the end of the day.

All textiles can be upcycled, but there are fabric types more sought out than others. The best textiles are durable, natural fibers like canvas, denim, and wool. These are fibers that are embraced due to their timeless look and can handle coloring treatments like bleaching and chemical dyes very well.

There are a few textiles to be wary of when upcycling, synthetics like polyester and fabrics containing elastane lose their integrity in fewer washes compared to natural fibers. Always check your material tags, and understand the limits of the fabrics when planning a project.

Other good material options that do not originate from the fashion industry include metals, certain hard plastics, glass, and woods. These are materials that can be utilized for detailing or closures, buttons for example.

Upcycling is a fun and creative means of producing new and unique items without contributing to high consumption. Affordable, as you can source recyclable materials secondhand or made at home. The pieces you make will be personal, as you made the item yourself and with your specific flair.

No two upcycling projects are created equal, and not everyone has the skill set to complete all upcycling projects. There is a learning curve for certain techniques, so a successful finished project is not guaranteed.

Some downside to upcycling is the limited capacity of the material for most applications. Not everything can be upcycled. For the projects that an item can be upcycled, you need to have the tools to execute them. Investment in tools and materials like sewing machines, adhesives, and crafting supplies can be a barrier.

Popularity has spiked in the last decade due to environmental concerns, as consumers have grown more aware of how they shop for clothing. This paired with raw materials reaching a premium, exploring materials at your direct disposal is a great option to build something new from what is already available.

Further, DIY influencers and digital trends have caught onto these market factors and propelled an interest in upcycling projects creating a community driven to save money and feel better about their consumption practices.

Reworked / Upcycled Clothing Guides