Inheriting — and wearing — hand-me-downs is not only good for your budget, but for the environment as well, since the clothing is getting a second life on a new owner rather than being thrown away. What's more, by repurposing clothing rather than buying an all-new wardrobe, you're diminishing the amount of energy, resources and materials needed to manufacture clothing, not to mention the fuel it takes to transport them from the factories to the stores.
But of course, when you're inheriting clothing for yourself or your children, they might not be perfect — the fit might a little off, there might be a small stain or a tear, or they might be a little out-of-date.
Never fear: With a little creativity, a needle and thread, and a trip to the fabric store, you can turn your new-to-you garments into eco-chic couture! These ideas will help you get started.
1. Get it tailored. A professional tailor can do wonders with an outfit, hemming and taking it in (or out) so that it fits you like a custom-made garment. And you'd be surprised at how affordable tailoring can be. If the professionals in your area still seem a little pricey, consider hiring a student from the local fashion school to do the work — or invest in a sewing machine and teach yourself!
2. Personalize it. For kids' clothes especially, a little personalizing will go a long way. Stitch a patch of her favorite animal onto the front, let your kids use fabric markers to adorn a pair of jeans with designs, use iron-on letters to put a cute saying on the front or back of a T-shirt. For adults, try monogramming a collar or stitching an Izod-style icon onto the breast pocket.
3. Take scissors to it. Never turn down a hand-me-down T-shirt — these simple cotton garments have a world of uses (here are 50!, from repurposing into another piece of clothing or upcycling for another project, like shag rugs or art smocks. Similarly, pants can be snipped to make capris, shorts or even a skirt.
4. Replace buttons. A button-down shirt, cardigan or coat can look completely different just by replacing the buttons. Try dressing up a cardigan with pearl buttons or contrasting-colored ones, or putting new brass buttons on a jacket or a blazer to give it a military look. Look at thrift stores or yard sales for button collections for sale; a shirt looks cute with a row of mismatched buttons, or you can even sew them on in a pattern to make a design. If you're looking for buttons for a specific garment, take the garment with you to the fabric store so you can find buttons that fit into the buttonholes.
5. Embellish and bedazzle! Stock up on lace, ric-rac, ribbon, sequins and other trim, and you'll be able to add interest to a solid swath of color, cover a stain with a little design, or add some sparkle to an otherwise boring T-shirt.
Treat your newly designed garments with care … chances are you'll have some eager friends ready to inherit your hand-me-downs when you're ready to part with them!
How do you make hand-me-downs work for you? Share your DIY improvements and clothing care tips in the comments below!
Follow me here!
When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.