If you’re like us, you have a ton of clothes you hardly ever wear. Maybe you just can’t pass up a good rummage sale, maybe you went crazy on Peter Pan-collar tops at Forever 21, maybe you just have some sliiight hoarding tendencies when it comes to your wardrobe. (We get it, we’re there too.)
Whatever the case, you might have some buyer’s remorse about not wearing all that stuff, and you’re haunted by the sneaking suspicion that you wasted good money on that “vintage” pencil skirt that’s gathering dust in your closet.
Well, never fear, because we have a few tips for turning your unwearable clothes into go-to items for warmer weather—and if you’re handy with a needle and thread or a sewing machine, all the better because these projects are so easy for beginners to tackle. Read on to find out how to get a new spring wardrobe with out buying a single thing!
1. Crop it
Crop tops have been a seasonal mainstay for a few years now, and a good collection really comes in handy for the warmer months. Even if you’re not prepared to bare your abs a la Brit-Brit in the ’90s, these can be tastefully worn with high-waisted skirts for a perfect spring outfit. And, bonus, almost any top can be cropped, often with little or no sewing involved. This is basically the grownup version of those tees that everybody cut up at summer camp.
First, pick out a shirt that you can bear to part with. Extra points if it used to be your favorite before you spilled red wine all over the hem, because you’re about to resurrect it. Note: If you don’t want to make it a sewing project, make sure you picked something in a jersey or lycra fabric—these won’t fray much when cut.
Next, put it on and figure out exactly how short you want it to be. Should it hit right at your natural waist, or do you want to show some ribcage? Experiment by folding the edge of the fabric up and look in a mirror to see which length you like best. A tape measure might be helpful here so you know exactly how many inches you want to take off, but you can also eyeball it if that’s more your style.
Mark the length you want with a safety pin, and take the shirt off. Lay it out on a flat surface, and plan to cut about an inch below the point you marked, to accommodate any slip-ups with the shears. If you feel confident about it, again, you can just dive in. Otherwise, mark that line with a ruler and a pencil or piece of chalk. Snip away! Note: if you’re a sewing beginner, it can be a good idea to start a little longer than you might actually want. It’s like a haircut, you can always cut more, but you can’t really reattach it.
Once you’ve cut a few inches off the bottom of the top, try it on again. Decide if you want to go shorter, even it out, get rid of the sleeves too, etc. Make those final adjustments and neaten out your cutting. If you have some basic sewing skills, you can hem the raw edge using that extra inch for seam allowance. Otherwise, let the edge roll up a little, and embrace a slightly punkier cropped look.
PS: Tees in general can take a lot of abuse. Liven up your new crop top by snipping a fringe into the edge of the top, cutting out the collar or the sleeves, or even slashing into the fabric to create a mesh effect.
2. Hem It
This one is probably going to require those basic sewing skills we mentioned before. Nothing too tricky, but you might want to have your sewing machine on stand-by. Just like the crop top tutorial, you can instantly update skirts, dresses, and trousers for summer by losing some of the length. While maxi lengths are often seasonal in their own right, there’s nothing like a short skirt to make you feel like spring is really here.
If you’re in the habit of trolling thrift stores for awesome finds, go for loose trousers with an interesting pattern, or skirts that hit at mid-calf. Both can easily be transformed into a very modern garment with a retro feel. Granny trousers from the eighties can become flattering high-waisted shorts, and polyester pencil skirts in bizarre colors can transform into badass minis that add an edgy pop of neon to your look.
Once again, try on your garment, and decide how short to you want to go. Mark the spot with a safety pin, and take off the garment. Lay it out, and mark two inches below your safety pin. Measure the distance from the current hem to your new length, and the distance between the current hem and the two inch marker. Make notes of these numbers; you’ll need them throughout the process.
Next, use a measuring tape, and measure up from the hem. Moving all the way around the hem of the garment, mark the distance you noted between the hem and the two inch marker. This should create a continuous line all the way around the garment. Draw a horizontal line around the garment to mark this as the raw edge, and cut carefully along this line.
Once the excess fabric is removed, use safety pins to mark your intended length for the garment (this should be the same length that you marked with the original safety pin). Fold the raw edge under twice, until it is even with the safety pins, and then pin into place using straight pins. Remove safety pins and use a basic stitch on your sewing machine to secure your new hem. Voila! An awesome new seasonal garment that only costs you a couple of bucks at a thrift store and a little bit of TLC.
3. Cut It Off
This is the most basic of all of these tutorials, but it’s also probably the most essential DIY: The denim cut-offs.
First, the most fundamentally important thing about cut-offs is that you have to size up. Your skin-tight jeans might make your butt look amazing in the winter, but if you crop those bad boys, they will just bite into your thighs and make you gross and sweaty all summer long. Don’t go huge—the waist still needs to fit, but the legs should be loose. Either find a roomy pair of jeans, troll thrift stores for “mom” jeans, or use your worn-out pants from freshman year of college. It’s actually preferable if they’re kind of shredded and beat up, the distressed look is key to this Americana staple.
The next step is trying them on. You know the drill: Mark where you want them to hit, and then mark an inch or two lower. Make sure you make them long enough; it’s easy to underestimate and you don’t want to end up looking like you’re wearing denim underwear. Use household scissors to chop the legs down. Don’t use fabric shears; denim is tough and will just blunt them. Make sure both legs are even, and tidy your edge a little bit.
Now, at this point, you can just be done, but your cut-offs might be kind of blah. If you want to go the extra mile, try fraying the edges a little bit by tugging out loose threads. Then, fold the edge up, neatly, about an inch. If you have enough length, you can even do this twice. This will give your cut-offs a cuff, and you can either iron it flat with the wool setting on your iron, or tack it into place with a few stitches. For a final touch, add a patch or too, and then settle comfortably into your role as “most casually stylish” at every barbecue you go to.