One of the most resource-intense industries in the world is the apparel industry. Plant-based fabrics like cotton usually cause deforestation for land and use up a lot of soil, which is a fast-depleting resource. Wool also takes a lot of land and other precious resources. And processing the fabrics and turning them into clothing takes millions of gallons of water.
Unfortunately, most old clothing ends up in landfills, sometimes even when it is still usable. The average U.S. citizen throws away 81 pounds of clothing annually. This is despite the fact that clothing can be recycled at textile recycling plants into cleaning rags, insulation, and even playground equipment after it has lived out its life.
However, there are plenty of ways to get the maximum use out of old clothing and to update your closet. Here are some fun, eco-friendly projects to make fashionable clothing out of old rags.
1) Eco-Friendly Lingerie
Lingerie can be a fun way to spice up time in the bedroom or to just feel sexy, but for such a small amount of fabric, it costs a lot and often does not fit exactly right. Not to mention the resources used for it, like the water to make the fabric and the gasoline to ship the product to you or the store is better spent elsewhere.
This design lets you make budget-friendly lingerie that fits well and looks hot.
What you need:
- 1-2 old fabric scarves, preferably soft cotton or silk. Avoid polyester or thick fabrics.
- Wide ribbon
- needle and thread
- a bikini that fits you well, preferably with side ties
What to do:
- Untie the bikini and lay it flat. Use it as a pattern to cut the scarf in the same shape but slightly bigger to allow room for the seams and sewing. For more coverage, cut even wider. For less, cut a little smaller.
- Hem the cut fabric pieces.
- Measure and cut the ribbon for the top so you can comfortably tie it in a bow in the back with the ribbon sitting just under your breasts. Sew the top pieces onto the ribbon to create a bra that ties in the back. Add pieces of ribbon to the top of the bra so it can be tied around the neck as well.
- Cut and measure ribbon for the bottom. Cut two pieces that can be comfortably tied around your hips in bows on either side. Sew the bottom piece on to create panties with a ribbon side ties. Enjoy your new lingerie!
2) Eco-Friendly Projects: Two-Shirt Dress
Instead of throwing away old shirts when they are tired, outdated, or unwearable, you can turn them into new dresses to wear instead. That means less clothing going into landfills and fewer resources used to meet the high demand for new dresses.
What you need:
- 1 adult-sized T-Shirt
- 1 adult-sized button-down shirt
- matching thread
- sewing machine
What to do:
- Make the neckline of both shirts the same length. Do this by measuring the neck of the button-down and then cutting a line straight down the front of the t-shirt to the desired neck length. Trim the t-shirt neckline.
- Cut the button-down just under the armpit. Hem the bottom seam of the bottom piece so it is even all the way around without any tails if needed. This is going to be the skirt.
- Line the bottom hem of the t-shirt with the top of the skirt so it is ready for sewing with the t-shirt inside the skirt with the right sides touching. Pin them together and make pleats if needed.
- Sew the skirt and t-shirt together and turn right-side out.
- Take the top part of the button down and cut the collar and down the sides of the neckline. Leave about two inches of fabric for seam allowance.
- Fold the opening of the t-shirt into a v-neck and pin the collar on the inside of the t-shirt and sew around the neckline. Enjoy your new dress!
3) Eco-Friendly Projects: New Sew Sequin Top
Need a new dressy top but don’t want to sew? Take an old men’s t-shirt and turn it into a sequin top that will look cute for any occasion. The jersey knit fabric of the t-shirt will not fray, so no hemming or sewing required.
What you need:
- one oversized men’s t-shirt
- colored sequins
- fashion glue
- aluminum foil
What to do:
- Cut off the t-shirt collar to get an off-the-shoulder look.
- Place aluminum in between the shirt to protect the shirt from glue.
- Arrange the sequins in the pattern you want.
- Use the fashion glue to glue the sequins to the shirt.
- Let dry overnight. Wait 48 hours before washing. Enjoy!
Upcycling can be a lot of fun and it is a great way for green living. While it may seem complicated and like a lot of work at first glance, it actually is not, especially after some practice. Not only does it allow you to make unique clothes that actually fit you, but it also helps save the planet by cutting down demand for an industry that consumes a lot of resources. You also get to keep things out of landfills by taking the old and making it new again. With eco-friendly fashion, the sky is the limit. Before you know it, you will be designing your own projects and having fun while saving the world and looking good and fashionable at the same time.
About the Author
Jen is your go-to guru for crafting a cozy, green cocoon. 🪴 Her dive into sustainable building wasn’t just about saving the planet—it started as a mission to make family movie nights eco-friendly (and to ensure the popcorn was the only thing getting heated!). With a knack for breaking down the jargon, Jen turns eco-lingo into everyday language. Swing by the Green Living blog for a mix of earth-loving advice and home improvement hacks. Whether you’re just dipping your toes into green waters or you’ve been swimming in the deep end of DIY projects, Jen’s here to guide, giggle, and remind you that every eco-choice is a step towards a planet that thanks you… and maybe even sends a rainbow your way! 🌈