May 10, 2017

Jenny and upcycled jacket

Keeping your wardrobe looking fresh on a student budget can be a challenge – but with a little effort and imagination it can be done!

I took part in the Revive your clothes – Ethical and Sustainable Fashion workshop at Cardiff Met recently.

Sewing machine

Getting to grips with upcycling my belt…

The workshop, run by The Sustainable Studio in partnership with The Green Squirrel project, was a real eye opener. It was just one of a whole range of workshops s the uni’s sustainability team are running, along with Natural Dyeing and Printing, City Harvest, Mead Making – even Urban Chicken Keeping!

It was a fantastic event filled with like-minded women keen to not throw away things in their wardrobes that were looking a little tired.

Upcycled jumper

One happy upcycler!

I used some trims I’d bought in India to make a belt, which when I got home I was really pleased with. It made me realise something simple can quickly update a look, so dresses I had worn a lot looked different, and I could wear them again in a new way.

Changing one thing can revive a whole outfit!

Other people in the workshop added patches to their jeans, embellished bags and created new necklines for their jumpers.

It got me thinking about how as university students, we can quickly and easy update our wardrobes – here are 5 ideas…

1. Upcycling Your Existing Clothes

The workshop reminded me that one of the best ways to save money on new clothes is to update the ones you already have!

There are thousands of tutorials on Pinterest that can show you step-by-step how to give your wardrobe an injection of personality. If you aren’t confident with sewing just add ‘no sew’ into your search and hundreds of tutorials pop up. I’ve come across 30 ways you can transform jeans, great ideas for keeping warm, and there’s tons more on Pinterest, as well as Love Your Clothes.

There are quick fixes too, like iron-on clothing patches and custom clothing transfers (which you can get at the Print Studio  on campus). Even just adding statement button to a jacket to quickly inject your own personality can work – a great way to make clothing feel more expensive is to replace plastic buttons with ceramic ones.

2. Plunder the Charity Shops

It may sound really obvious, but so many people forget to look in charity shops! They are an amazing place to quickly update your wardrobe with a new top, or a jacket.

I find the shops easiest to look in and generally I buy more clothes, are stores where clothing is grouped into colours and then ordered by size. I’ve found some amazing pieces in charity shops, including multiple Ted Baker items still with the tags on for a fraction of the price!

As a general rule of thumb for me, I can buy tops, jackets and dresses in charity shops, but tend to find buying jeans and shoes in high street stores easier to do – so I tend to skip over those sections when browsing if I am rushed for time.

3. Find a Dress Agency

This is the place to go if you need a great dress for a night out, love a good brand, but hate the price tag.

I love dress agencies, I go in knowing they are pricier than charity shops, but I also know the quality of everything in the store is a really good brand (e.g. Karen Millen, Ted Baker, All Saints…) expect to pay around the £30 mark rather than about £10 if you found something in a charity shop.

Beulah Dress Agency in Cardiff is a great place to start – all items in the shop are ready dry-cleaned and of great quality.

4. Buy & Sell Online

If like me, you can easily get bored of some of your favourite pieces from ‘over wearing’ them, selling them online to make room for new purchases is a great way to continually update your wardrobe.

Sites like Ebay, Depop, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are great places to grab a bargain. When selling your clothes, set a low starting bid and make sure to take good photos, with a range of angles and detail shots to maximise your profit to buy new clothes with!

5. Take part in a Vintage Kilo Sale or a Wardrobe Exchange

Cardiff Regularly has Vintage Kilo Sales, where you can fill a bin liner with vintage clothes and pay around £15 a kilo. This is a great way to add bulk to your wardrobe, but be warned – sales like this attract a crowd, so be prepared to queue!

Another great way to update your wardrobe is finding or running your own wardrobe exchange! Sometimes wardrobe exchanges are run inside the university, as well as around Cardiff, so keep your eyes peeled!

They are a great way to get rid of what you don’t need while finding new things, and they are often organised to raise money for charity – so a great cause all around.

DIY Jacket Tutorial

Here’s how I upcycled my old jacket – it might look complicated, but it’s actually very simple to do!

You will need:

  • Sewing machine
  • Free motion foot
  • Thread
  • Vanishing fabric marker
  • An old jacket (mine was denim)
    1. Draw out your design using the fabric marker so that you know what you want to stitch out. This marker can be washed out using cold water, so don’t worry about marking your jacket. Only draw where your machine can stitch – so don’t draw designs on the sleeves, as the machine will stitch the sleeve together, making the jacket unusable!
    2. Set up your machine ready for free motion embroidery- this video explains how.
    3. Once your machine is set up, use a small and tight zig-zag stitch to create a heavyweight but thin line as the machine stitches. This allows you to build up a design much faster, and means the design is much more visible on a more heavy weight fabric like denim.
    4. Stitch to your hearts content until you have your finished design!

The finished article!

Interested in more on being more environmentally friendly and saving money? Check out Jenny’s post on being a sustainable student or Charlotte’s student money tips.