10 DIY Ways to Give Old Clothes a New Life

Beauty & Style

Let’s face it. We all have those ratty old clothes gathering dust in the back of our closets. They’ve been there so long, they’ve just become another part of the room.

These unwanted clothes are an unfortunate reminder of the fast fashion industry. Clothes that are hot, and then they’re not. This is one of the primary reasons people discard their clothes- they’re just not cool anymore. Or maybe they don’t fit you anymore. You had a good run with them, but you outgrew them. That too is a very feasible reason for putting clothes to rest.

But what if I told you there was a way to revive these dead old garments? A way to make them fresh, fun, and fashionable again? Believe it or not, there are so many different ways to do this! This article covers just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast realm of DIYing clothes. Read on to find out how you can reinvent your wardrobe!

1. Tie-dye anything white

This is a great way to breathe some life into any white/light-colored clothes. Tie-dying can also be used to minimize the impact of those awful stains which seem to plague everything white. Tie-dying garments has a LOT of potential. You can tie-dye anything, from socks to hoodies to even backpacks. And tie-dying doesn't always have to be a super neon affair. Tie-dying clothes with only one color gives a really cool and hip vibe.

The basic steps while tie-dying are listed below. For much more detailed instructions, visit this awesome tutorial!

  1. Gather your supplies; you'll need dye (preferably from an all-inclusive kit), rubber bands, rubber gloves, a plastic bag, protective gear (plastic tablecloth, aprons, etc), and your natural fiber (preferable cotton) garment!

  2. Wash the garment

  3. Tie it with rubber bands depending on the pattern you are trying to achieve. Some cool patterns can be found right here.

  4. Get on all your protective gear! Make sure to wear gloves and set the garment on a disposable surface, like a plastic tablecloth.

  5. Test and apply the dye. You can play around with the intensity (neon vs pastel) and the location of the dye.

  6. Pack up the garment in a plastic bag (or plastic wrap) to retain its moisture.

  7. Let it sit for at least 12 hours (or according to the dye package)

  8. Rinse by hand under hot water

  9. Wash and dry each garment individually in a machine

  10. You're done!

2. Iron-on a patch

Iron-on patches are one of the easiest ways to liven up old clothes. The potential in these little patches is unlimited! Many cool brands, such as Vans, sell their own patches which you can affix to your clothes. You can find unique designs from small artists on Etsy.

There are countless possible designs on these patches, from logos to embroidered flowers. They can also be attached to virtually anything, from denim to shirts. You could even make a patch collage on the back of a jacket! Be careful not to iron these patches on delicate fabrics like silk, however.

Once you have obtained your patch, applying it is pretty simple. Keep in mind that each patch, garment, and iron is different, however. What may have worked for others might not necessarily work for you.

To apply the patch:

  1. Heat up your iron.

  2. Place the patch on the garment exactly where you want it.

  3. Place a thin, damp towel over the spot.

  4. Press the iron over the patch (for as long as the patch's instructions require)

  5. Flip the garment and briefly iron the other side too.

  6. You're done!

3. Bleach anything pigmented

Bleaching is tie-dye's grunge counterpart. It is a great way to add some personality to dark garments or denim. Bleached jeans are all the rage on TikTok right now, but today I'll cover the instructions on how to bleach a non-denim garment.

Be cautious while doing this- bleach is a highly corrosive chemical.

The basic steps when bleaching a piece are listed below. For more thorough instructions, visit this awesome tutorial.

  1. Set up the same supplies as you would need for tie-dying; however, make sure you replace white garments and dye with dark garments and bleach.

  2. Scrunch up and tie the fabric in the pattern you are trying to achieve.

  3. Transfer the bleach into a squirt bottle.

  4. Generously apply the bleach over the garment. Make sure you are doing this over a protected surface, like a metal bin or a plastic sheet.

  5. Seal the garment in a plastic bag and let it sit for 3-6 hours.

  6. Remove the rubber bands, and hand wash the garment until the water runs clear.

  7. Toss it in the machine for a proper wash and dry.

  8. You're done!

4. Crop the ends

This is one of the fastest and easiest to reimagine a worn-out piece of clothing. You can crop the bottom, the sleeves, whatever you want! This is the perfect DIY, especially since summer is coming up fast.

Cropping a shirt leaves it with a raw hem, giving it a very edgy and chic look. Cropping the sleeves gives the same boho effect.

Cropping jeans is another fun way to enliven old clothes. You can crop a few inches off the bottom and flaunt a frayed hem. This is a bit riskier, however, as the threads may unravel and the jeans may fall apart. Nevertheless, you will end up with a unique and summery piece of clothing.

To crop your old clothes:

  1. Try on the piece to see how it fits and how much you are comfortable cropping it.

  2. Take the piece off and use a washable marker to sketch the line where you will be cutting.

  3. Use sharp scissors (preferably fabric scissors) to make the cut. Remember, you can always cut off more, but you can't regain lost fabric!

  4. You're done!

5. Fringe cut the bottom

This definitely isn’t a look everyone can pull off, but if you can, rock it!

Cutting fringes on a top lends itself to a lot of possibilities. You can let the fringes hang loose for a music festival/cowboy look. You can also knot the fringes in different patterns to create a woven look. This makes for a very beachy look.

The basic instructions to DIYing a fringe top are listed below. For more detailed instructions, check out this awesome tutorial.

  1. Pick out your shirt. Preferably try it on so you have an idea of how high you want your fringes to be.

  2. Using a washable marker, mark the line for the starting point of the fringes.

  3. Using sharp scissors (preferably fabric scissors) cut off the hem of the shirt.

  4. Optional- use washable markers to draw the lines to cut on for each fringe, front and back

  5. Cut each fringe; try to make them equally wide.

  6. Gently pull each fringe to curl its edges.

  7. Repeat until the front and back are entirely fringed.

  8. You can repeat this process for the sleeves or you can knot the fringes into a pattern. It's an open book!

  9. You're done!

6. Patch up jeans

This is a fun way to personalize a drab old pair of jeans. It's also a bonus win because you can patch over gross stains or unwanted rips.

This DIY can be applied to both non-ripped and ripped jeans. With ripped jeans, you can choose to patch over or under the rip- both achieve very different looks. Another thing to consider is what fabric you will use for the patch. Bandanna fabric, leather, camo print, plaid- the choices are endless! Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which fabric will express you (and your jeans) the best.

The basic instructions to patching up jeans are listed below. This is just one of the many ways you can patch jeans up- by no means is it a definitive guide. For more detailed instructions, check out this awesome tutorial.

  1. Pick out your patch fabric and your jeans.

  2. Cut out the patches in your desired shape and size. Go for some variety!

  3. Choose how and where you want the patches to be placed. In this case, I will be describing patches that go over the jeans.

  4. Generously use fabric glue to firmly stick the patches into place. If you want, you can stitch them too.

  5. Apply weight on the patches to ensure they don't fall off.

  6. You're done!

7. Rip jeans

This is the perfect counterpart to patched-up jeans. Ripped jeans are a bold and fun way to DIY your clothes. These too offer so much customizability. Are you going for just a tiny slit or some totally destroyed jeans? It's all up to you!

Ripping jeans is the perfect way to repurpose those old bootcut jeans in the back of your closet. By cropping (see #4) and ripping them, you can make some really cute mom jeans!

The basic instructions for ripping jeans are listed below. For a more detailed explanation, check out this awesome tutorial.

  1. Try on the jeans to get a sense of how they fit and where you want the rips.

  2. Using chalk or a washable marker, sketch the regions where you will be distressing the jeans. Make sure to do this while standing.

  3. Distress the jeans (make them look super worn out) by rubbing them on sandpaper, pumice stones, cheese graters, steel wool, etc.

  4. Once the jeans are sufficiently distressed, use a blade (from a scissor/knife) to horizontally scrape the distressed area until you see the threads.

  5. You can stop there, or you can use scissors to fray/cut the threads (for a hole). Repeat as desired. Remember, you can also go back and do more, but you can't save lost fabric!

  6. You're done!

8. Paint a design

Fabric painting is the best way to artistically revive your old clothes. It's pretty much guaranteed that no one will have an outfit as unique as yours!

Although you can technically paint on any garment, this technique works best on denim (especially jeans pockets!). It needs a fabric that is stiff to a certain degree.

The basic instructions to use paint to reimagine your denim are listed below. For more detailed instructions, check out this awesome tutorial!

  1. Try on the piece to understand how it fits and where it stretches.

  2. Wash and dry it to ensure a clean surface.

  3. Use tape to "frame" the region and make sure no paint will leak out.

  4. Apply white acrylic paint on the denim as a base to ensure the other paint colors really pop out.

  5. Sketch your design over the white paint. For some inspo, try recreating a famous painting or your favorite album cover!

  6. Use acrylic paint to make your design. To make the acrylic paint more suitable to the garment, you can mix in a bit of fabric medium.

  7. Once dry, remove the tape.

  8. "Seal" your artwork by ironing the back of the design for 6-8 minutes on high.

  9. You're done!

9. Crochet or lace the side

This is such a beautiful and feminine way to reimagine old clothes. This DIY will take your drab shirts into something a princess would wear!

Inserting lace or crochet panels onto clothes has so much potential! You could make the side paneled (as shown in the picture), make the chest paneled (to show some skin), or make the bottom half paneled, for a cropped look.

This technique of revamping your clothes does require some less common supplies, however. You will need access to a sewing machine and crocheted/lace material. Make sure you have those supplies before you cut up your garment!

The instructions to make this gorgeous piece are a bit tricky, so it's best to follow the experts. Check out this amazing tutorial for detailed steps on making this. For a more subtle look, try out this tutorial.

10. Embellish with rhinestones

Throwback to the early 2000s! Rhinestones (and similar) have a bad reputation for being tacky and cheap, but done right, they can really make a piece look great! Rhinestones are the perfect medium to give a faded outfit some sparkle and shine.

And you don't have to stop at rhinestones! You can embellish a garment with everything from buttons to sequins to beads. There is also a lot of freedom with this technique with the placement and density of the rhinestones.

To embellish a garment with rhinestones:

  1. Obtain your rhinestones. Here are some great and inexpensive ones from Amazon.

  2. Take note of whether they are self-adhesive or if they require glue. If they are not self-adhesive, you will need fabric glue.

  3. Take the garment and decide the placement of the gems. Use a pencil to mark the spots if needed.

  4. Stick on those rhinestones! Make sure they are firmly attached, or they may fall out later.

  5. You're done!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many other ways to revive tired garments. So what are you waiting for? Dive into that pile of old clothes and DIY something beautiful out of it!

Let me know in the comments what you tried out! I'd love to see what unique piece you come up with!

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Aditi Chaurasia

Aditi is a high school junior in the Bay Area. She has a passion for linguistics, business, and animal rights. When she isn't hiking with her dog, you can find her reading (mysteries!), bullet journaling, or baking.


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