How to Breathe New Life into Old Clothes

Hey Skint chums,

Hope you’re all doing well, and for those of you in the UK, hope you’re continuing to enjoy this truly amazing weather. Or are you sweltering? It’s a bit churlish to complain about it, but boy it’s hot at night!

And because I’m not buying any new clothes at the moment – waiting till baby Skint is on the outside rather than the inside – I’ve been trying to update the summer clothes that still fit me, by using a little jiggery-pokery. That’s the technical term they’re all using this season in the fashion trade, don’t you know.

So here are Skint’s thoughts on how to breathe new life into old clothes: whether you want to do so to save money, because your shape has changed, or just because it’s just too darned hot to go shopping. I blogged these ideas last week at Penny Thots, a site I contribute to, and thought you guys might like to see them too.

Customising your clothes is all about having fun and expressing your creativity, and it ranges from the ridiculously simple and effective, like changing the buttons on a cardigan, to the slightly more ambitious, such as transforming a pair of jeans into denim shorts. Advanced sewing skills aren’t necessary; when it comes to customising, imagination is your best resource! Here are a few of the easiest ways to make your clothes truly your own:

  • Buttons: It’s often the buttons that give away a cheap shirt or blouse – you know, those little clear plastic numbers that populate every school shirt in the land. Sewing gorgeous new buttons onto old clothes zazzes them up in an instant. Many markets have button stalls where you fill a plastic cup to the brim with buttons for $5, and charity shops often sell assorted bag of buttons for about $2.

    SATC final episode

    Carrie Bradshaw, the customiser-extraordinaire, though admittedly not a skint one. Love how she fastens the brooch at her throat, instead of lapel.

  • Flowers: Pin fabric flowers to coats, dresses, jackets and cardigans. Very Carrie Bradshaw, very chic – go as big as you dare.
  • Brooches: Brooches are sociable little things: they always look happiest when clustered together, four or five at a time, on a plain cashmere jumper. They like to get around too – pinned on hats, scarves, belt loops, the knot of your favourite wrap dress. Cheap as chips in charity shops: it’s as if they were sent from heaven.
  • Double Up: A simple way to add interest to your wardrobe – and give you twice as many outfits – is to make your clothes multitask. Try using scarves as belts – they look great threaded through the loops of your jeans – or wear jewelled, elasticated bracelets in your hair instead of hairbands. Clip-on earrings jazz up the neckline of a jersey and also look good clipped through the buttonholes of a cardigan. 
  • Ribbon: Add bright ribbon to strapless dresses (for real interest, make the straps on each shoulder different colours), or tie some round the brim of a boring hat. Ribbon is also great for trimming the necklines, cuffs and pockets of cardigans and spring coats. You won’t believe the difference that a band of silky ribbon sewn around the cuffs and belt of a standard-issue beige trench coat can make. And fixing a broad strip of velvet ribbon down the outside seam of your jeans legs is so simple but it will have people thinking that you’ve just discovered some hot new designer brand.
  • The long and short of it: Adjusting the length of garments is a great way to ring the changes. Sew a panel of contrasting fabric onto the bottom of a miniskirt, or chop a bit off a skirt that feels too long. Don’t discard the bit you chop though: use it as contrasting material on another garment, such as tied round the handle of your bag or fashioned into a corsage for a sweater. It makes for an interesting, pulled-together outfit when you wear the new item together with its parent.
  • Accessories: The lifeblood of the skint girl’s wardrobe. From scarves to necklaces to a new pair of sparkly socks worn with an old pair of heels, skint girls know that accessories let you lead the style pack without breaking the bank. Think creatively about accessories: could those broken pieces of jewellery be threaded onto a pin to make an eye-catching brooch? Could that brooch, together with a few sequins, then jazz up last winter’s beanie hat?
  • Be Bold: A coward dies a thousand fashion deaths – probably in a black trouser suit and a pair of court shoes. Don’t be afraid to take a risk: what’s the worst that can happen? And once you start customising you’ll find your desire to shop for new clothes satisfied by a bag of buttons or a fabric flower rather than a cocktail dress or new suit. Result! 
Do you have any tips on how to breathe new life into old duds? Or do you prefer just to ditch them and buy new?




About Skint in the City

Skint in the City provides stylish, practical tips and advice on how to live the high life on a shoestring budget.

6 thoughts on “How to Breathe New Life into Old Clothes

  1. […] you enjoy customising your clothes, why not take it a step further and make your own outfits. With this skill, you can create a […]

  2. Kathleen

    Hi there, Just stumbled across your site whilst looking for some ideas to save money on clothes. There are some great ideas on here, thank you!

  3. I have reached the “I am fed up living in jeans and fleeces” stage of Mummy-hood, so have spent a day making a “master dress pattern” that fits me perfectly. Now I am ready to adapt the pattern to make a whole new capsule wardrobe of fabby and frugal fashion.

    First project a party frock from a Laura Ashley sheet – crazy but such lovely fabric. I will keep you posted.

    • How exciting, Elaine! How creative of you – I’d love to see a pic of the finished dress as and when you do it. Sounds amazing – Laura Ashley have such lovely prints.

  4. cee cee t

    Thanks for another fab post – great ideas – you’re saving me loads of money, Skint!

    • Aw, thanks cee cee! Really appreciate you taking time to comment.

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