It’s a common tale:
Girl has a closet full of cheap clothes. Girl always feels like she has nothing to wear. Girl learns a little more about the not-so-great side of the fashion industry. Girl commits to changing her shopping habits and doing better.
So I decided to start building a capsule wardrobe of high-quality, responsibly made clothes that would last for years.
My first step?
The closet purge.
I dutifully sorted through everything in my closet, and eventually found myself staring at a pile of unwanted clothes.
Now what? I wondered.
Dropping off my gently used clothes at a local charity store was an option, but after hearing conflicting reports of what actually happens to the clothes, I saw an opportunity:
What if I repurposed my unwanted clothes myself?
Could I personally find a home for each garment?
I’ll admit, it’s a slow process.
But, in the same way the slow fashion movement asks us to consume slowly + intentionally, I saw that I had a responsibility to purge slowly + intentionally, too.
So, if you’re staring at a pile of unwanted clothes, like I was, here’s eleven things you can do to personally repurpose + extend the life of your clothes.
ONE: Do a quick Pinterest search — “denim vest outfits” or “how to wear a midi skirt”. You might see a garment in a whole new light and discover a way to style it that fits your aesthetic.
TWO: Take it to a seamstress. Of course, you can do basic alterations to improve the fit, but if you find an excellent seamstress, you can practically redesign your clothes.
For example, I have a shirt that's too long for my taste now, so I’m having it shortened into a boxy crop top.
I also have a classic fit and flare dress that was beautiful, but the cut wasn’t quite right for my style. So I took it to my seamstress and asked her to give it a modern racerback. It turned out even better than I could have hoped, and it’s special to have a semi-custom dress now.
THREE: Reassign a garment to another category in your closet. If it doesn’t match your style and just won’t work for your everyday wardrobe, it still can be useful. Think sleep shirts, gardening clothes, swimsuit coverups, or workout wear.
I’ve got several pieces that used to be in my everyday wardrobe, but now they are happily serving me in other parts of my closet:
An old graphic tee is now my sleep shirt.
Old tennis shoes that got stained are now my farm shoes — I live in Texas, so farm clothes are a thing.
A pair of shorts that aren’t quite my style anymore are now my gardening shorts.
And a casual day dress that shrunk up a bit too much is now a cute at-home lounge dress — which is important for me because I work from home most of the time, and I like feeling “dressed” even at home.
FOUR: Get crafty and repurpose your old clothes into something else you need: dish towels, potholders, makeup bags, cleaning cloths, etc.
FIVE: Text your friends + family and ask if they are looking for specific garments. People usually have a piece or two they are actively shopping for, and you just might be able to help.
When I tried this, my sister-in-law responded that she needed some cute tees that were durable enough for her stage as a new mom. I had a couple that fit the bill, and she still wears them today.
SIX: Try a virtual clothing swap. I’m not going to lie, I love the idea of hosting a clothing swap party, but I have a hard time making it happen. So I decided to try a virtual clothes swap.
I simply started a Google doc, shared it with my friends, and we all add to it and list out the pieces we want to get rid of. Then we just barter via text.
It’s an easy, ongoing, virtual clothing swap.
SEVEN: Grab your phone and Google search for an upcoming city-hosted clothing swap or sale. Put it on your calendar — done!
EIGHT: Have a garage sale. Don’t overthink it. Just put it on the calendar for your next available weekend.
NINE: Spend 4 minutes searching for a good consignment store on Yelp. Then go + consign.
TEN: Sell your clothes on eBay, Etsy, or ThreadUp. Bonus: you’ll learn your way around the world of second-hand online shopping, which will come in handy if you have any clothing purchases on the horizon.
ELEVEN: Finally, recycle your clothes. Check with your city first — many larger cities are starting to adopt textile recycling programs.
Then search around online a bit. There are innovative organizations popping up all the time that recycle fabric into something specific + useful, like Blue Jeans Go Green (they turn your old jeans into housing insulation). Or try a charity with a specific mission, like Dress For Success (they equip women with the skills and clothes they need to ace a job interview).
Although it’s an ongoing project, the process is incredibly valuable. The effort I spend repurposing helps me pause + think before I buy a new garment.
It taught me to shop slowly and intentionally … because if I buy it now, I know I’m responsible for where it ends up it later.
MEET THE GIRL BEHIND UNFANCY
As a style blogger with a minimalist approach, Caroline Rector has been featured on The Today Show, WhoWhatWear, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and The Lively Show. Her capsule wardrobe approach was named one of Pinterest's Top Trends for 2016.
When she’s not blogging, you can find her tackling home renovation projects, making + sharing playlists, taking her pup for walks, or practicing yoga.
Learn more about her journey towards a small + conscious closet at un-fancy.com.