Shopping for vintage clothes is a lot like treasure hunting (or life and a box of chocolates) – you never know what you’re going to get. One day you’ll fall in love with a piece, the next you’ll go home empty-handed.
The thrift shop is a paradise for vintage clothes lovers, DIY enthusiasts and those on a tight budget. Whether you get lucky and find the perfect piece or not, there are always patterns, textures and materials that spark your interest. The good news: You can make pretty much all vintage clothes your own, with only a few simple DIY tricks that can upgrade common thrift shop finds.
Choosing to buy vintage clothes from a thrift store is an economical and environmentally friendly decision. Billionsof textiles are thrown out every year, including clothing, shoes and towels.
Unfortunately, many people wouldn’t consider wearing pre-loved clothes, because they’re afraid to look out of style. The simple solution; altering common thrift shop finds to make them unique and trendy.
Easy and quick upgrades like a simple hem or adding a patch, can turn a common thrift shop item into a wardrobe staple.
Don’t know how to start? The first lesson to learn is by far the most important: Not every item is a winner. Bad fabric, for example, is hard to replace. You’ll want to look out for fabrics that will stand the test of time.
Always good choices are cotton, wool and silk. Besides choosing the correct fabric, you should also consider sizing. Sometimes the best items have a size you wouldn’t normally shop. No worries – common thrift shop finds that come in a bigger size than you normally wear can, in most cases, easily be altered. You can always take away fabric. What you can’t do, unfortunately, is magically make a dress larger.
When you’re hunting common thrift shop finds and are planning alterations, consider how much time you want to spend on them and if the tasks will mesh with your sewing abilities. You don’t need a lot of practice with needle and thread, but you should feel somewhat comfortable using them.
You’ll also see that it often doesn’t take much to turn common thrift shop finds upside-down and create a completely new piece. We’re here to help on that front!
Here are a few easy things you can do to upgrade vintage clothes!
5.) Boring Denim + Bleach = Beautiful Ombre
With four simple steps, you can make your very own ombre denim shirt. Simply get a $5 basic denim shirt, which you can find in almost any thrift shop. Besides the shirt, you’ll need a bucket, generic bleach and a little bit of patience.
This is how you do it
1. Fold the shirt in half and dip it into the bucket of bleach, prepared according to the instructions on the package. Dip the shirt in as far as you’d like the bleached part to reach. Halfway is a good start.
2. Very slowly pull the shirt out of the bleach to allow there to be a color difference between the fully bleached shirt and the original denim color. This is how you create an ombre effect.
3. Let the bottom of your shirt soak in the bleach for about three hours.
4. Then take it out and dry it in the bathtub to avoid dripping bleach all over your carpet. That’s it. Just like that, you’ve created an ombre look that would cost you $80 and more at any high-fashion store!
This is where we found the inspiration for this DIY project.
4.) Turn a Men’s Shirt Into a Sexy Pencil Skirt
Thrift shops are full of old men’s shirts. Found a shirt with a great pattern or print? Then here is what to do with it!
This is how you do it
1. Lay the dress shirt out flat and cut across the chest, just under the arms. Keep the collar and cut it into two equal parts.
2. Now it’s getting a bit trickier: Sew four pleats into the shirt;two in the front and two in the back. You should use a ruler to make sure you are placing them evenly. Press pleats with an iron, and then use a sewing machine to sew all four in place.
3. Use a ruler to determine the right place for the two half-collar pieces – place them wherever you’d like, but make sure they are evenly spaced from the middle button. Pin in the right place and sew with a sewing machine. Cut the excess off from the back when done.
4. Take a piece of fabric from the unused sleeve to make a belt loop. Use a ruler to make sure you place it in the middle and sew by hand; add a button. If needed, add a button to the front to secure the top of the skirt.
5. Do a final ironing, maybe throw on a belt, and you’re ready to go!
Find a detailed guide on this vintage clothes upcycling project right here.
3.) Completely Rethink a Piece
If you’re not super-crafty and want to start with a basic upcycle project, consider re-inventing a piece of clothing from the thrift shop. A long dress with a beautiful floral print, for example, can be turned into a skirt, shirt, scarf, handbag or a nice robe.
You could also remove the sleeves entirely and cut out a good part in the front center of the dress and then hem on either side. Voila! You’ve just turned a boring dress in a cute fashion piece!
2.) Turn Thrift Shop Jeans Into Cropped Skinnies
Every thrift shop has that one clothes rack filled with tons of jeans. Once you’ve fought your way through tons of vintage clothes and found one or two pairs that give you that nice peach bottom look, hold on to them.
Even if they only fit on top but are too long or have a little flattering cut, a few alterations can do magic. All you need is a sewing machine and a little bit of time!
This is how you do it
1. Grab a pair or two of bootcut or flared jeans. Make sure to use a denim needle to sew through the thick fabric with ease.
2. To shorten your jeans, try them on and mark the length you’d like, and then add some length for hemallowance. Trim the original hem off.
3. If the length is perfect already, pick out several inches of stitches around the outer seam so you’ll have access to the outer seam.
4. Lay the cut-off portion on the bottom of the other leg to use as a guide, and cut it off as well.
5. The inner seam is topstitched but the outer is not. Make adjustments to the outer seams to keep the topstitching intact.
6. Try on your jeans with them inside out and use a pin to mark where they begin to flare, or where you want them to begin to taper. If your pants are wide-legged, or if you want skinny jeans as opposed to straight legged, you may want to mark starting at the mid-thigh or even higher.
7. Pin the jeans to the width you’d like while you’re wearing them inside out, and add marks with the seam allowance once you take them off.
8. Use a ruler and fabric marker to join the pin from the knee area to the mark at the hem. Repeat on the other leg. Sew along marked lines on each leg.
9. Trim seam allowances to a 1/2-inch and pick out any remaining stitches. Press and steam seams open. Finish the raw edges with a zigzag stitch or serger.
10. To hem, turn and press the bottom edge of each leg 1/2 inch to the wrong side. Turn and press again.
11. Stitch close to the folded edge around each leg opening. Done! Just like that, you have a perfectly fitting pair of jeans for a dime!
We found the inspiration for this project right here.
1.) Remodel an Oversized Tee
Found a gorgeous shirt during one of your thrift shop hunts, but it’s much too big? Buy it anyway! With a few tweaks, you can turn it into a beautiful dress. This is a quite easy way to make the most out of vintage clothes, especially if you have some basic knowledge of sewing.
This is how you do it
1. Put the shirt on inside-out and mark with chalk where your shoulders start. Mark from the top to the armpit and cut!
2. After you sew the sleeve smaller, pin it back to the original hole.
3. Mark the armpit all the way down to the bottom of the shirt, and sew and cut the excess fabric.
4. For the sleeves, put a thin elastic at the top where the shoulder meets the sleeve and make a few stitches to keep it from moving. Hold it tight near the bottom as you sewed it down.
5. For the ruched waist, pull the elastic around where you want it tobe ruched, and cut.
6. Put the dress on inside-out and mark where you want the elastic. Mark around both sides when you take it off.
And done! Congratulations! You’ve just added a super-cute outfit to your dresser and cost you almost nothing! Yay to upcycling common thrift shop finds!
Which DIY vintage clothes upcycle wowed you the most? Let us know in the comments!
Want to master your next DIY project? Learn five great tips to nailing your next craft!