It’s hard to part with some clothes. But if you aren’t wearing them, why do you keep them? Now is the time to weed out that closet and decide whether to sell or donate, throw out or use for rags, or… how about refashion? You can give your clothes a makeover so you WILL wear them!Closet Full of Clothes You Never Wear? Donate, Toss, or REFASHION!

How To Fit ClothesA few months ago I looked in my closet and decided that I have too many clothes. You do too. (Don’t lie.) We keep getting more and more, but don’t weed out what we already have. The last time I moved, I went through a lot of my things, and, with the help of my mother and sister, was convinced to get rid of a lot of stuff. Most of what I agreed to part with was faded, pilled, misshapen, or painfully out of style. I remember there being several trash bags full. But I STILL had too much. I just couldn’t part with a lot of it. I kept thinking, yeah, I don’t wear it, but SOMEDAY when I have the right occasion I will. REALLY!

Now that I’ve downsized my home, my closet is overflowing. I’ve tried all of the space-saving tricks in the book, but it’s still packed. Recently, I started thinking, how many of the clothes do I really wear? Maybe 10%. That number may be high. Yikes. And how many would I really ever wear? For the last several years I’ve been convincing myself that, even though I’m currently a stay-at-home mom who wears jeans, yoga pants, or shorts nearly every day, someday I may go back to work and need “work clothes” and someday I may go out to a club and need “party clothes” and someday I may go to a fancy ball and need “formal clothes” and someday I may lose weight and fit into the “skinny clothes.” Someday. Right.

Ok, back to reality. IF an opportunity came up for one of these occasions, which, if any, of these clothes would I wear? And how many in each category do I really need? I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and tackle that closet.

I went through EVERY item that wasn’t part of my usual rotation and TRIED IT ON and asked these questions:

  1. Does it fit?
  2. Do I like it?
  3. Is it flattering?
  4. Is it still in style?
  5. Do I have something to coordinate with it?
  6. If it’s for a specific occasion, is this the go-to item for that occasion?

Only if I said YES to all of those questions did it go back into the closet. I set up a temporary garment rack in my room to hang the ones that didn’t meet all of the criteria. For each rejected piece I made a note and pinned it to the item. Did it need something to go with it? What? And is it worth buying something else just to keep this? Do I have better choices for those special occasion outfits? If a fit issue, what didn’t fit right and could I fix it?

green shirt to be upcycled

I found this green shirt which is a perfect example. I’ve had this green shirt FOREVER. (decades?) I always loved the textured look of it. But I hadn’t worn the shirt in years because I didn’t like the way it looked on me or felt, but I couldn’t bear to part with it.

Time to get analytical. What exactly didn’t feel right? What parts weren’t flattering or just not my style? Could it be refashioned into something I would wear? After taking a long look in the mirror from different angles, I decided it was too boxy and the shoulders too wide and I just didn’t like the length or shape of the sleeves.  And as I get older, I want bigger and bigger neck openings. I can’t stand to have anything at all confining around my neck, even a simple crew neck T. I tried imagining what I could change to make it better. Then I pinched and grabbed and rolled and folded and pinned, trying to tweak the look. Should I move the shoulders in? Shorten the sleeves? What about this neckline strangling me?

This picture below isn’t of the same shirt (I forgot to take a picture of it before I started hacking), but it has all of the same issues.

similar green shirt before alteration with markup

Here’s what I decided to do… first I removed the sleeves. I’d rather it be sleeveless. Then I took in the sides just a bit (more of an hourglass shape, tapering in then out from the armpit to the bottom hem. I tried it on again and realized now without the sleeves I had a big gap at the armholes. So I added small bust darts to take care of that problem.

The picture below shows some of the disassembly. I had already hemmed the sleeves and taken in the darts, but hadn’t finished the neckline yet.

T-shirt refashion disassemblyOn to the neckline. This was the hardest part to tackle.  Ripping seams and taking in the sides doesn’t seem that destructive. If I made a mistake, I could undo. But cutting into the fabric I’ve been holding on to all this time? Deep breath… here goes… SNIP! I went for a scoop neck. I took a little off of the back of the neck too. Then I got out my seam ripper and carefully removed the neckband off of the piece I cut off, thinking I would reuse it. But the new neck opening was just too big and the neckband too short. I might have been able to create a new neckband by piecing strips of the scrap, but it didn’t seem worth it to me. So I opted to just turn over the edge and topstitch. I used a slight wobble (narrow zigzag) stitch to help with the stretch, although with the bigger neck, it isn’t likely needed now.

T-shirt refashion neck detail

Here’s the final result.

T-shirt refashion result

I’m not done quite yet. What’s left? The scraps! You didn’t think I was going to throw them away, did you? I’m a hoarder (thrifty saver)! The sleeve pieces were big enough I considered adding a cowl neck to the shirt, but instead I decided to make the cowl neck (scarf) separate. I cut off a little bit of the sleeve caps for a better shape, then sewed the two strips together at one of the short ends and turned it into a tube by folding it lengthwise and sewing the long edge. I then turned it right side out and hand stitched the ends together (see (A)s in the diagram below) to form the loop.sleeves to scarf diagramT-shirt refashion - sleeves become scarf

I can wear this with the shirt, or maybe with a plain white T-shirt. If there hadn’t been enough to do this, I thought about making a few fabric flowers to attach.

But wait! There’s more! I still have the piece I cut out for the scoop neck, the neckband, and a little bit from the sleeves. The fabric is soft and not too heavy and the fabric pattern small enough that I might make a shirt or skirt or something for Em’s Barbie dolls. Or I’ll make those fabric flowers to sew or pin on.

Now that I’ve gotten past that initial fear of taking something apart, I have many other items from my closet I found that I want to refashion so I’ll actually wear them. I’ll post more examples as I get to them!

What do you think? Have I motivated you to look in your closet at those neglected clothes and try creating a new wardrobe out of them? Tell me about it!


— 1 Comment

  1. Perfect, Cynthia! I have been dropping weight to prepare for a surgery, but I’m loathe to toss my favorite old Tees. Now I can just Re-Fashion them. I’m so excited!