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How to Upcycle Clothes with Only Materials From Your Dorm Room

How can you save money, stay on trend, sharpen your creative skills, and help the environment? The answer is simpler than you think: Upcycle.

Upcycling is a fairly new term, but the concept is as old as time. Take something you don’t need or use anymore and create something that you will. Transform by-products of prior crafts, misfitting clothing, outdated styles, waste materials, and more to repurpose into something you’ll love. It usually deals with clothes and accessories, but can also include household decorations and furniture. 

I’ve been upcycling for three years. My sister’s favorite pair of jeans got a hole towards the crotch and across her right butt cheek. She couldn’t wear them to school anymore. I had two piles of ill-fitting jeans in my drawer and a new sewing machine. We spent the day cutting up old pairs of jeans, planning the styles of each piece as we went through them. 

We used every part of the jeans. Since the seams if used in the squares would make the jeans have weird bumps, we cut them off, and sewed their holes up inside-out. We use them as creative hair ribbons and headbands. I get compliments on them everywhere I go, people asking where to buy them. Since we cut off the legs of the jeans, we were left with four pairs of shorts. We fringed one pair’s bottoms, gave another hip cut-outs by removing the pockets, and added embroidery to the remaining pairs, selling them all on Depop. Finally, we sewed the hole in her jeans shut and added the patches all around the jeans so she didn’t just have one obvious spot. 

Now, I make headbands from cut off sleeves of summer camp t-shirts. I make cute tube tops from stained shirts. Everything goes, so long as you have the right materials. Pinterest and Etsy are known for doing their own renditions of these crafts, but you can too with these easily-found dorm room items.


Cut up the ends of a pair of jeans that is now too short. Pull apart the fibers of the fabric in that area, then wash. They should look frayed and fabulous. 

Cut an old sweater into a crop top. Give an old t-shirt an open back or cut out towards the neck. Play a  classic and patchwork some old jeans like I did. 

Sewing Kit

You know that sewing kit your mom bought you just-in-case freshman year you haven’t touched? Yeah? Take that out and get to work. 

Stitch some cool phrases into your jeans. Fix the holes and blemishes in your favorite pieces. Sew on cut outs from other pieces into other clothes, like hearts onto your jacket or pockets on a tea length skirt. Alter a cheap piece you found at your local thrift store. Still upcycling, even if it wasn’t yours to begin with.

Ruler / Measuring Tape

To make sure everything that you’re cutting or sewing looks its best, make sure to measure out that it fits and is equal on both sides (unless that’s the look you’re going for. Take twice, to double check, and write them down. Maybe even mark off the area with a pen that will ash off in the laundry.


Lilli is a Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Emerson. This is her second year as a member of Her Campus and second as a Campus Trendsetter. Lilli is a senior journalism major at Emerson College with minors in fiction and women, gender, and sexuality studies. She's a bubbly Aries who loves to keep a busy schedule, but she always leaves enough room for food, friends, and curling up to watch HGTV. Follow her on Instagram @lillircohen
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