The Swiss Army Wardrobe part three: Re-purpose

In the third and final part of The Swiss Army Wardrobe we talk about how to adopt some easy DIY methods to up-cycle your wardrobe.

When an old garment dies, don’t be too quick to bin it or give it away YET. Unless it’s a moth-holed, out of date jumper that has well and truly passed on into the next life, there may just be a way to re-purpose your garment into a brand new one.

The internet is crowded with DIY suggestions to up-cycle your clothes, shoes, jewels and even housewares. It may take a little time and strategic search terms to find exactly what you need but here are a few sites to get you started. This LA blogger is the ultimate DIY queen. Her back catalogue of DIY projects is huge and varies from easy to difficult. I’m dying to try her sequined shoes DIY! These tutorials are picture based, often with minimal instructions but are often easy ones. Oh if I only had her elite sewing skills (I’m working on it)! This site has more difficult but very wearable, couture-looking DIYs. If the projects are a little out of your comfort zone, use it as pure inspiration. The power of two DIY pros. Quirky and often unthinkably different for the less creative (me), these are ultra cool projects.

Dresses: The patterns and myriads of fabric mean that the options are almost endless for up-cycling a dress into something awesome.

Measure and chop off the waist of an old maxi dress and you’ve got a new top and a skirt with a pre-sewn hem that can be elasticised at the waist if needed.
If it’s an empire style maxi dress with an elasticated waist: even better. Chop off the bodice, leaving a little room at the top of the elastic and run the sewing machine around it to create a cleaner finish. Or leave it as a raw edge, tidy it up as best you can and hide it under a top or belt.


Long skirts can be made into shorter skirts, tops or even pants if you’re game.

Tees and tanks:
Your boyfriend’s tees can be made into tank tops with a little shaping, stretching, snipping, knotting and twisting. The internet is chocked full with rad t-shirt zombie ideas.


If you have some sturdy fabric, like PU or leather, try making a bag or a belt. My blog has steps for creating an on-trend Bow Belt. If you are a little more skilled with a sewing machine, try a zipped envelope clutch or an easier drawstring pouch. Youtube has loads of sewing tutorials if you get stuck or feel like a challenge.

DIY Fail?:

A poorly cut dress can always be shortened into a skirt, or the fabric saved for another, more-inspired sewing session.
Thank goodness headscarves and turbans are in at the moment. Create and run the sewing machine around a hem, leave the raw edge to roll back on itself or carefully melt the edges if it’s a synthetic fabric.
Cut long strips and braid them to make belts or jewellery.

Bad buys:
Made a fashion faux pas or bought something that somehow looks awful now you’ve left the store? Obviously store credit or a refund is the best option, but don’t despair if this isn’t possible. Just alter it until you’re happy with it. I purchased a jumper recently, brand new from a well known store. However I decided I really wasn’t keen on the wide hem and its styling restrictions. While I’m not in the habit of slicing up brand new, 70 dollar garments, that’s exactly what I did. I knew it would be worn more if I altered it and that it wouldn’t harm the shape or unravel. Now I feel much more comfortable wearing it, can style it many more ways and wear it more frequently.

If you really can’t do anything with the garment, be sure to cut off those lovely embellishments before you throw it away. Lace, sequins, beading, crochet, satin, patterns, fur: anything that could spice up another garment in the future is worth saving.

Sarah Smith |
The Rational Dresser

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