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Repurposing old clothes: a sustainable project while social distancing

Lily Painter


Clothing and style are very important elements in most people’s lives. In recent years, with worries about the environment coming to the forefront of people’s minds, there has been a push to cut down on the massive waste that industries like the fashion industry create. Many people advocate for thrifting clothes instead of buying brand new ones, in order to be more sustainable, save money and find unique options. Thrifting, while incredibly popular and a good way to buy new clothes, is not the only option for sustainable fashion. Repurposing one’s old clothing is another great way to engage in sustainability, not to mention the money it saves and the creativity it allows for. Clothing items that are worn in some spots, are out of date or do not fit right do not have to be thrown out. Repurposing these items is a great and engaging project to take on while social distancing. 

Clothing is surprisingly easy to change into different and updated items. Collegian news editor Jasper Jones (‘20) said, “I’ll make different shirts or sometimes dresses into crop tops” while Cristina Chapa (‘21) said, “I made a headband out of an old t-shirt.” Another classic and easy revamp is to cut jeans into shorts. All these ideas are simple and accessible ways to reuse clothing; fixes like these often cost nothing and only require tools such as a pair of scissors, a needle and thread or a sewing machine if you have one. 

There is a chain of sustainable actions that happen when something is reused and looked at in a new way. When revamping an item you already own, you don’t use gas to travel to a store, you help limit the necessary production of clothing and you are responsible for less garbage thrown into landfills. 

Bee Heumann (‘21) said, “It helps reduce waste and makes me less likely to buy more clothes that will then just become waste again.” 

In an Instagram poll of 24 people, 71 percent claimed that they restyle or reuse their old clothing. When this mindset is exercised by many people, the human imprint on the earth lessens due to lowered demand for production. 

Aside from the environmental benefits of repurposing an item, it also offers a creative project and allows you to keep clothing you may be attached to. Heumann explained that sometimes she repurposes items because she does not want to get rid of things, saying, “I get attached to certain articles of clothing and don’t want to lose them just because they got stretched out or got holes.” Many people experience similar emotions in relation to their clothes and can forget about the possibilities of simply transforming them.  

As social distancing takes its toll and people begin to complain of boredom, revamping some clothes can be a fun way to fill time. Not only that, but with clothing stores closed, this offers an alternative to shopping for new clothing. Experimenting with clothing that is already destined for the trash on its own cannot ruin anything and may yield a surprisingly rewarding result. 

Repurposing clothing allows one to express their creativity while on a college student’s budget. It is something that can always be done at home during your spare time. While the world practices social distancing, repurposing clothing can be one way to spend time in a productive and eco-friendly way.

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