This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.
Close Banner
This ad is displayed using third party content and we do not control its accessibility features.

Here's How To Breathe New Life Into Old Clothes (No Sewing Skills Required)

Griffin Vanze
Written by
Photo by Stocksy

Ever think that your closet is filled with too much junk? It turns out your clutter could be harming more than your feng shui; it may actually be making you less happy.

After launching a sustainable fashion startup, AEON ROW, I surveyed consumers to find out how their closets actually affect their lives. It turns out that 70 percent of our audience reported feeling like they would be happier if their closets contained fewer clothes. "Less is more" has always been a saying in fashion, but these days it might just be the key to emotional well-being, too.

If you're looking to downsize, even by just a shirt or two, there are plenty of resources that detail how to decide what stays and what goes. But there aren't as many that speak to what you should do with the clothes that don't make the cut. If a piece of clothing is in good shape, selling, trading, or donating it are all great options. But what can you do with worn-out clothing?

For the love of all that is holy, do not throw it in the trash. In the United States alone, 11 million tons of clothing goes to landfills annually, representing years of human labor, millions of gallons of water, and kilowatts of wasted energy. Worn-out clothing still has purpose and value, and the last place it should be going is to a garbage dump. Instead, try these simple ideas to impart your old clothes with new life.

Hack it.

Just because a clothing item is worn out doesn't mean all of it is useless. Try to imagine another clothing item it could become without the worn-out sections. Long-sleeve shirt with a hole in the elbow? Have a tailor shorten the sleeves to make it a short-sleeve or sleeveless top.

Hacking can also apply for thinking about new situations in which you wear the worn-out item. Got a stain on a sweater that won't come out? Good news: Now you have a work shirt for when you need to clean or paint your place. With a little creative thinking, it's easy to add style and utility to your current wardrobe.

Repurpose it.

Some clothes just don't lend themselves to being hacked, and that's OK because the beauty of fabric is that it can make so many different things. The most obvious and practical solution for repurposing old clothing is turning them into rags for household chores like dusting, cleaning the floor, or polishing leather bags and accessories. The added benefit of creating rags is that, depending on what you use them for, they can also reduce your consumption of disposable one-time-use items like paper towels. It's an easy win-win for your closet and your footprint.

Some more imaginative ways to get your DIY on include cutting up old towels into strips and making a braided bathmat and fashioning a throw pillow cover out of a wool sweater. You can even use the sweater's buttons as the opening!

Recycle it.

When all else fails, it's time to turn to recycling experts who can help you figure out the best next life for your old clothing.

At AEON ROW, we want to empower customers to take closing the loop on clothing waste into their own hands, so we offer customers the opportunity to recycle one clothing item for each item purchased. And to show our thanks, we give them 15 percent off a future purchase. Some larger clothing companies are now offering in-store recycling, too. The North Face will take any clothing you don't want and offer $10 off a purchase of $100, and Madewell will give you $20 off a new pair of jeans when you recycle your old ones.

Once an old clothing item is collected to be recycled, there are lots of possibilities for what it can become. For one, it can be transformed into recycled yarn for new clothing, insulation for buildings, carpet padding, or even rubberized playground material. Regardless of what it becomes, what's important is that it won't become trash.

Remember that charting a path to closet happiness isn't a one-and-done ordeal. It's an ongoing practice that you can and should be incorporating into your shopping mentality. When you head to the store, think about replacing clothing as opposed to amassing it.

Fashion is inspiring because it's a delightful medium for expressing yourself and your values as an individual. Editing your closet and getting rid of your old clothing is part of that process. It's an extension of your self-expression. Make it count.

Griffin Vanze author page.
Griffin Vanze

Griffin Vanze is the Founder and CEO of AEON ROW, a sustainable fashion brand for women that offers effortless, cool looks, made from revived fabrics, at affordable prices. Follow AEON ROW’s feed on Instagram: @aeonrow