woman with a repurposed denim bag

How to upcycle clothes: a beginners guide

author: Sarah Neate

By Sarah Neate

Do you have a wardrobe full of clothes you no longer wear? Or are you sick of wearing the same thing over and over again but don’t really want to splash the cash on anything new? Give your clothes the boost they need by upcycling them.

Upcycling is when you take your old or damaged clothes and transform them (by modifying) or repurpose them. Upcycling your clothes is an eco-friendly way to get a whole new wardrobe - and it’ll also save you money.

Here’s some inspiration for different ways you can upcycle your clothes:

Jazz them up

If you still want to be able to wear your clothes but feel they need a little sprucing up, you could try one of the following suggestions.  


One of the best ways to transform your clothes is to dye them. Remember, you won’t be able to dye them a lighter colour than they already are, you’ll only be able to dye them darker.

Perhaps you’d like to make those old blue jeans into a nice pair of dark black jeans. Or maybe you want to take your smart white shirt and transform it into a cool blue shirt. Find out here how to dye your clothes yourself at home.

Or you could try one of these easy tie-dye methods for a quirky (and bang-on-trend uplift).

Add sequins, diamantes, or pearls

You can jazz up any old garment by gluing or sewing on some sequins, diamantes or pearls. You can add them round necklines or cuffs for a little pizazz, or you could go a little bolder and use them to spell out an entire word on the front of your shirt or sweater. Learn how to do it here.

Use stencils and fabric markers

If you have some items that are a bit plain and boring, you could try decorating them using some funky stencils and fabric markers. This technique will probably work better on lighter coloured clothing.

Turn your clothes into something new

If you have items that no longer fit, or you’ve just worn them so many times you couldn’t possibly wear them again, the solution is to turn them into something completely new. 

Cut them

It’s summertime, the temperature’s rising and therefore it makes sense to cut those jeans into a cute pair of denim shorts. You could make shorts out of most trousers, but you might need some sewing skills.


Turn your old clothes into some new stylish accessories. Learn how to transform your old t-shirts into cute headbands or turn your sweatshirts into swanky scarves.

Make gifts

Save yourself some extra money by making gifts out of your old clothes.

If there are any little ones in the family, you could make them some funny little sock puppets or sock monkeys out of your old socks. Or if you have anyone’s birthday coming up, what better way to celebrate than by giving them a unique homemade tote bag or cushion cover.

Why not give yourself a gift by making yourself a patchwork blanket out of all your unwanted clothes.  

Cleaning cloths

If your clothes are in such a bad condition that you can’t use them for anything else, you can at least use them for cleaning. Rip up old clothes and turn them into cleaning rags - they’ll be perfect for dusting and wiping down surfaces.

Shoes can be upcycled too

Clothes aren’t the only thing you can upcycle. You can embellish all your old shoes too.

Add lace

Make your old shoes look new by covering them in lace. Do this with heels, sandals and even flip flops.

Add studs

Studs will make any shoe edgier. If studs aren’t your thing, you could always try diamantes or pearls instead.

Check out other inventive ways to repurpose your old shoes.

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woman with a repurposed denim bag woman with a repurposed denim bag