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Easy (No Sew) Thrift/Closet Upgrades

As we move from summer to fall, many of us will inevitably feel inclined to rush out the mall or fill our online shopping carts with this season's latest trends. However, if you're trying to resist any indulgences into the world of fast fashion to reduce your impact on the environment and avoid supporting any unethical brands; you may be feeling a little stuck as to how to reinvent your wardrobe for the new season. It can be as easy as heading to your local thrift store or digging deep into the back of your closet to revamp old pieces to look brand new! Here are 5 easy and no sew ideas on how to upgrade and re-style your old clothes!

Upgrade your Denim with Paint!

This is one of my favorite ways to upgrade old pairs of jeans while also adding a little bit of my own personality. All you need is a denim skirt, jacket or pair of jeans and some fabric paint or acrylic mixed with a liquid fabric medium. You can look on Google or sites like Pinterest for inspiration or come up with your own design! Some of my favorite things to paint are smaller designs on the pockets or add detailing to the bottoms of the legs. Here's a Pinterest board with a ton of inspo to check out!

Tie Dye

Tie Dye definitely had its moment in the spotlight during quarantine and for a good reason! It's such an easy and fun way to add something extra to your clothes. There is definitely a ton of variety when it comes to the medium you're working on, the patterns and colors you use and even what you'll use to dye the clothes. The traditonal tie dye with craft store clothing dye on a t-shirt is one way to go, but also try using bleach on darker colored pieces or adding some color to old sweatpants, sweatshirts or even socks! Here's a link that explains different tie dye techniques from the traditonal spiral to ombre and the watercolor technique. Also, if you have the resources at hand, I definitely recommend trying out natural dyes to add some beautiful yet more neutral colors to your clothes!


This one definitely takes a little bit of time to get the hang of, but is a great way to add something new to a blank sweatshirt or a pair of jeans! All you need is a needle and some thread in order to completely change an old piece of clothing. Here's a guide to the different types of embroidery stitches - some of them can be tricky so I personally stick to the back stitch! Just like with the painted jeans, I totally recommend checking out Pinterest for ideas and then lightly sketching out your stitching pattern to follow along. If you're new to embroidery, like I still am, try adding little flowers, simple phrases or different shapes to your clothes and work your way up to bigger and more intricate designs. This is a great little craft to do in your free time or while sitting and watching a show since COVID-19 and online classes are definitely giving us a little more free time than expected :)

Raw Hems!

This is definitely the easiest clothing upgrade, but can still totally change up a look. Even though we're heading into colder months, a cropped sweater or sweatshirt can still be super cute with a pair of high waisted jeans! You can slightly crop an old top or have an easy solution to make a super oversized thrifted sweater a little smaller. The raw hem method comes in handy to actually make a pair of jeans longer! Being taller I definietely struggle with finding jeans that fit me lenghth wise, so a lot of times I find myself ripping the seams out of the bottoms of my jeans to pull out an extra few inches of fabric that leaves a nice little distressed hem! For this upgrade, all you need is a good pair of scissors!

Upgrading an Old T-shirt

I'm definietely a t-shirt hoarder and always find my drawers overflowing with shirts from my middle school musical or sports team that I refuse to get rid of but never wear. While you could definitely apply a few of the previous points to your old t-shirts, I love to completely upgrade old t-shirts by cutting them up and repurposing them into braided headbands, tank tops or reusable grocery bags! For the headband, all you need to do is cut a few thin strips from a shirt and braid them together to make a cute headband. To make a tank top, follow the directions here to trim the sleeves and neckline of a t-shirt to make a perfect tank to save for summer or add layers to a fall outfit. Finally, here's a guide to turning a t-shirt into a bag!

I hope this list gave some inspo to upgrade your wardrobe without spending a fortune or contributing to the fast fashion industry! 

Meg Cardi

Fordham '22

Meg is an Anthropology major part of the Social Work program at Fordham who has a passion for all things regarding sustainability, fashion and food!
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