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Get Creative and Sustainable with your Wardrobe during Lockdown

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

We are now two months into lockdown and many of us have been looking at creative ways to keep our minds happy and engaged. Our lives have slowed down dramatically and finding pleasure in simple things like cooking, mending and creating could be a start to embracing a more sustainable, self sufficient way of living, weaning ourselves off trends like fast fashion. But that doesn't mean that we can't still have fun with fashion and styling - below I talk about ways in which you can work with what you already have to refresh your wardrobe and embrace your own style.

Style Not Trend

Seen someone on the telly or social media that is really nailing a look? Our fast-fashion wired brains will see the shiny new trend and start itching to get scrolling through reams of pretty little tops in the exact same style. When we tell ourselves off for being so fickle, we feel sad, guilty and doubt our resolve for a more sustainable wardrobe. The joy of fashion and styling slowly seeps away...

But take a closer look at the fancy image that started it all off. What is it about the way they are wearing that outfit that you really love? Is it the combination of shapes? Perhaps a clash of colours or prints? Or maybe it is the addition of accessories in a way that is fresh and new. Take the excitement of finding a new style and make it unique to you, by really looking at what it is that you love about how someone is wearing an outfit and applying it to what you already have.

If it was the combination of shapes that you loved, then combine pieces in your wardrobe that could recreate that - try tucking in a top you usually wear left out, or layer a piece underneath. Maybe put a jumper over a dress to give the illusion of a skirt, or could a wrap dress be left undone to look like a jacket? Have a play! The same applies if it was a print combo that looked killer - play around with clashing different sized prints, stripes with florals, grunge with pretty; it all helps to bring that excitement back and get you wearing older pieces in a new light.

Loved Clothes Last

A lot of us have been using our time at home to organise, refresh and reinvent our living spaces (said whilst I pack back away the wallpaper stripper) and I'm sure our wardrobes haven't been excluded from this. But before you fill up another bag of clothing for the charity shop, have you really thought about the reasons why you don't wear certain pieces? What would you change about each piece to make them so that you would wear them again?

The last time I went through my clothes rail, I kept aside a little pile of things that, at the time of buying, I loved the idea of, but in reality for one reason or another just don't work for me, my shape or the way I wear things. So I went through them, popped them on and re-imagined how I would like them to be to suit me and my style properly.

The first item up for the chop was a vintage denim button up dress with huge pockets that I bought a few years ago. I thought at the time it would be the most comfortable, easy going dress, however after catching my reflection in the mirror a few times, I realised it was incredibly unflattering and I would never wear it out the house again. I kept spotting it in my wardrobe, so decided to give it a restructure. After putting it on and pinning it to shape (which if you can do without stabbing yourself then hats off to you), I started by shortening the straps so that the waistline was sitting in the right place on me and then taking it in at the waist. As it was for myself I was less worried about being super neat on the sewing and recreating the french seams, so I could whizz through it, next marking the length of hem and giving it a chop (as a rule, always do the hem last when altering items, as changing the fit elsewhere will change how long it hangs on you). Now completed, I have a cute new denim dress, that I will wear layered up or on its own and it won't have to make another trip to the charity shop!

My next rescue mission is a big fluffy jumper that is too wide on the neck and is just the wrong length, but I love the cosiness of it. I'll soon be stitching along the neck to make it smaller, making it a tighter fit in the body and shortening it to waist length, so it'll be a cute cropped jumper, just what I've been looking for to wear over a dress.

Even without a sewing machine you could alter the length of something with a handstitch hem, create a belt with the leftover skirt fabric, add a trim to an otherwise uninspiring top or create a crop top out of an old tee. Any bigger and scarier projects that require a machine, get thinking and imagining how to improve your once loved pieces and if you don't feel up to it yourself, get in touch with a seamstress to help you get them worn again, it almost always won't be as expensive as you think.

Re-invent and Upcycle

Some pieces will be past being salvaged or perhaps a redesign is just out of the question. But many of the things that have been wallowing away in our wardrobes, gaining holes and creases are there simply because we are too attached to them to give them away; we all have that dress that reminds us of an amazing night out, or perhaps a top that you wore to death as a student and every time you see it you can't believe where all that time has gone (speaking from experience here!).

There have been lots of creative ways to transform these pieces into something new popping up on Instagram recently, from turning old tees into a plant hanger, or cutting up clothes and weaving them into a rug. This can not only get your creative juices flowing, which is a wonderful way to help mental health during this period of isolation, but can give something that is loved but worn out a new lease of life, whilst maintaining that all important emotional link.

You could try following this video, which shows how to turn a t-shirt into a macrame plant hanger.

Perhaps you want a bigger project? This website shows 7 ways in which you can turn old clothes into rag rugs, with both sew and no-sew techniques.

Or maybe you want to be able to mend those holes in a beautiful and creative way? Visible mending can celebrate those signs of life and create a beautiful feature out of them - view this quick tutorial here and I recommend reading this blog post about the Japanese art of visible mending, Sashiko.

Keep slow fashion fun and fresh, by supporting small business that have sustainability at their core and loving what you have for longer by updating, re-styling and re-inventing.

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