Clothes upcycling: what is it and how can you do it yourself?


Upcycling is a perfect way to express yourself in a creative way and save money, which I think at least some of the college students are trying to do. What is upcycling? It’s basically reusing something in a new way, as I like to say, “take something old and make it new.”

I decided to hear what others had to say about clothes upcycling. It was surprising that people had no idea what I was talking about, but they seemed to see some practical benefits upcycling had after an explanation of what it is.

“Upcycling clothes, I believe, is a good way to use clothes you won’t every wear and put them to good use,” Angela Douglas, a UW-Fox freshman, said.

Other students had never really thought about upcycling, though.

“I’ve never done that. Usually I wear clothes until I can’t, then [I] use them for work clothes. Then, they are trash—essentially rags,” Tyler Rasmussen, a sophomore, said.

But upcycling might be useful for students like Rasmussen. Instead of throwing away old clothes, they can be reused and made into something better instead of buying brand new outfits.

Still, some students who haven’t upscaled are unsure, but are intrigued by the idea.

“Me, personally, I have never done it, but I have thought about it,” Douglas said.


But I’m a frequent upcycler, and therefore will share a recent design for the summer to give us hope for winter’s end: a bralette! (Sorry to disappoint any guys who were eager to sew something other than a bralette!)

Hopefully this pattern shouldn’t be too hard to follow. If you can’t sew, use fabric glue, and if you don’t have pinking shears, use scissors and a whole lot of Fray Check.

Here I have these lovely “harem” pants from H&M that I loved until I found a noticeable hole on the right leg. (I actually fell down my staircase and the pant leg ripped). Make sure that the item you choose to upcycle into a bralette is somewhat stretchy; it will make your life so much easier.

  1. Start off by cutting across the thigh, almost like you would make shorts, but cut slightly above the crotch area. We are saving the top part for a later project.
  2. Now that the leg part is separated (I’ll refer them to leg 1 and leg 2), turn it inside out; we’ll take leg 1 and lay it flat so you can see both seams.

    This is important: use the presewed seam to make the design easier. It’s a gift. That will be one of the edges of the “cups” (which will henceforth be referred to as the “triangle”).
    It is important to make sure you sketch your triangle to match up to your size and give one extra inch for seam allowance. (Note: add an inch to anything you cut for the seam.) Repeat the step, you could and should use your precut triangle for a template for the next. The fabric must be inside out, even when you sew, especially if you want a seamless finish. When done correctly, you now have a triangle that retains the pant’s original leg seam along one edge.
  1. Sew together the two unsewn sides (for both triangles), but leave a gap that’s unsewn on the top of the triangle. This is crucial for the straps and to make the triangle piece “outside in.”


4. Now that gap serves as a hole, reach for the bottom of the triangle (in the inside) and pull it through the hole. Viola! The outside face of the fabric is now properly “outside.” Repeat for the second triangle.

  1. For straps, we’ll use the seam of leg 1 and cut an inch away from the seam, then use leg 2’s seam and repeat. It helps if you have removable bra straps from another garment so that you can measure the length. Remember, everything is inside out!
  1. Sew the one side of the strap so that it becomes a finished tube of fabric, and tuck the end of the strap, just as was done to the triangle.
  1. Insert the strap in the hole of the triangle piece and sew along the top corner of the triangle to attach the strap to the top of the triangle (2x).
  1. I went with a thicker band. To do this you’ll have to measure your rib cage or know your band size and add an inch (again, for the seam). For the pants I started with the remaining part of legs 1 and 2 were 14 inches each, which is perfect for my band size. I merged the two together by sewing down the middle so that I ended up with a 28-inch band. What we just sewed is a mark of one of the sides since the seams will act as an outer seam on the rib cage. Trim any excess fabric, if necessary.
  1. Now that it’s rectangular-ish, flip it over, so you can see the good side of the fabric. Attach your triangles with pins to the very bottom, then fold over the top and sandwich the pieces in, back to the “ugly side.” Make sure to only sew up to the end seam we created in step 8.

Front part completed!

  1. We’re almost done! Once you untuck the bralette, you have the back part to complete. Stencil the straps on the ugly side of the fabric (2x). This will be your indicator to leave a gap, just like we did in step 3.
  2. Tuck the whole bralette inside out again and sew.
  1. Insert straps in the designated holes of the band and sew over the edge just like step 7.
  1. Lastly, sew the other side! I basically zig-zag stitched over the two pieces!
  1. We’re done! You have a gorgeous bralette. Because of the design, it’s sewn it in a way that’s reversible too!


If you decide to upcycle, take a picture and tag me on Instagram @nananareen. I look forward to seeing everyone’s creations!