The clothing industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. This fact somehow doesn't get the same publicity as, for example, the negative impacts of agriculture or plastic waste, but it is something we urgently need to address.
Mom of 3 Sarah Tyau is one of many who are helping to break our addiction with 'fast fashion,' where retailers have to constantly tempt customers with endless 'new' fashions to sell products. Old items are swiftly deemed undesirable and binned, Americans throw away about 70 lbs of clothing per person every year.
Sarah began recycling old clothes soon after the birth of her first daughter. What began as a way to save some money became a philosophy for life: “Look good, feel good, do good.” She has transformed hundreds of pieces of old clothing, from oversized shirts to wedding dresses, turning them into stylish outfits for her and her daughters, who love getting involved. “I have been meaning to teach them how to sew, we are supposed to start a sewing series on YouTube together where I teach them how to refashion, but they’re also so busy in their own lives, we haven’t gotten a chance to yet,” Sarah told Bored Panda. “But they have a strong sense of fashion in their young age and have very good taste so I think they’ll take over what I do one day and be better than me!”
With only a high-school home-ec in the way of training, Sarah is pretty much self taught. “Being a stay at home mom to 3 kids, time is very limited so I haven’t refined my skills as much as I want to but I want to take classes soon,” she said. “So my skills are actually very basic. Actually quite few skills are needed in refashioning since you keep the button holes, darts, zippers, and it’s mostly just straight stitching. My vision makes up for my skills though, it takes me 15-30 seconds to envision the piece to something I’d want it to transform into.”
She sources her material from thrift stores, family and friends, and has perfected her sewing techniques to such an extent that she now plans to design her own line of clothing based on her philosophy, with all proceeds going to children in need. “I also have a YouTube series called “Come thrift shopping with me” where I pick out a few items and right on the spot share what ideas come to my mind. Then the readers vote which item I should refashion next and the one with the highest vote is the one I’ll tackle!”
With 135k followers on Instagram, people are clearly enjoying Sarah's work. She also has a Youtube channel where she shares hints and tips on technique and design, so you too can start refashioning your old clothes and reduce your impact. “My advice to limit your impact is to buy more timeless, classic pieces and mix it with a few trendy pieces here and there,” she told us. “This way you don’t throw away as many clothes, and are not always having to buy constantly in order to stay on trend. Also throw a clothing swap exchange with your neighbors, friends, or other groups.”
“What used to be only 2 fashion seasons of spring/summer and fall/winter is now at 52 micro-seasons. Clothes, just like any other materialistic things, don’t buy you lasting happiness but only a fleeting moment of excitement. So if you base your happiness or self worth and identity on what clothes you wear, you’ll never be happy or content because the fashion industry will always tell you what you bought a month ago is now out of trend so you must buy this newly released item in order to stay relevant or happy. So instead of putting so much importance on what you wear or how expensive or what designer brand you’re wearing, focus on being kind, having integrity and morals and you’ll always be in fashion!”
To read more about the enviromental cost of the clothing industry you can start with articles here and here. Scroll down to check out Sarah's work for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments!
Mom of 3 Sarah Tyau began recycling old clothes soon after the birth of her first daughter
What began as a way to save some money became a philosophy for life
She has transformed hundreds of pieces of old clothing for the whole family to wear
One of the easiest DIY's I've ever done, simply add lace to the dress and viola! A whole new dress! For this piece I was featured on the front cover of Altered Couture & a 3-page spread and on Sew, a U.K. magazine
I bought this men’s shirt at Target clearance section for $10 in size XL. I loved the sailor boat pattern and also the fabric, the fabric is a thick, sturdy, high quality fabric which I liked. What you’ll need: -An oversized shirt(mine from Target) -matching thread -needle or sewing machine -scissors Directions: 1. Lay the shirt down on a flat surface. 2. Using a girl’s dress as a reference, cut the sleeves off and the top body piece, and take out the pocket. Cut and discard the extra fabric in between the shoulder area. 3. Sew the sides of the top piece together(shown in pink line). Make sure you turned it inside out first. 4. After cutting off the excess fabric on the shoulder area, you should now have a straight across skirt piece. Baste stitch 1/2″ to the edge(shown in pink line) and pulling one side of the string, gather it together. Sew the skirt onto the top piece. 5. Cut the sleeves smaller. 6. Sew along the pink line. 7. Sew the sleeves onto the top piece. 8. *I made a button hole and sewed the button on right below the waistline(when I cut the shirt diagonally along the waistline, I had to cut right over the button & the button hole so I had to make new ones). Estimated time: 1.5 hours Budget: cost of the shirt(mine was $10) Skill level: a very confident beginner to intermediate
My favorite “pink” refashion I’ve done. It was for Refashion Runway, a sewing competition I entered where it was due on Friday and I started it the day before on Thursday at 6 p.m.😅 I frantically had my husband take a before photo before it got dark, dyed it to blush pink, then cut out the sleeves from the jacket to add to the sleeveless dress, cut the dress in half to separate the top bodice and the skirt, sewed it back together, added darts, a new zipper, cut it shorter, made it form fitting, then used the extra fabric from the jacket to add the floral details. The theme was “Asymmetrical”, hence the different sized florals on each side. I got done as the sun was setting down, so if you see an after photo of me wearing it, the photo looks super grainy due to a lot of lightening to the photo. But I got it done! And it won that week’s challenge! Do you think it was worth all the anxiety, stress and staying up all night?
I got this large women’s coat from my friend’s yard sale for $3 and transformed it into a classy & elegant coat/dress for my little girl. With the extra scraps of fabric I made a clip-on bow that she can wear on her hair or on the coat. Which do you prefer?What you’ll need: An oversized coat Matching thread Scissors Pins Seam ripper Project cost: $3 Estimated time: 2.5 hours Skill level: Advanced beginner
Before -After. It's actually dyed to a cream color(from white) but can't tell in the photo. I felt bad as I unstitched this beautiful wedding dress that I have no doubt the bride looked stunning in and must have meant so much to her, that I said a prayer for her. Am I cheesy or what? Some people have told me they actually prefer the before.
I will be turning this pleated dress into a short sleeve dress with a black bow detail. What you’ll need: Dress Black ribbon Scissors Thread Seam ripper *Fraycheck (optional) Project cost: $8 Estimated time it took me: 3 hours (filming + trying to figure it out as I go) Estimated time for you: 1.5 hours (since I did all the figuring out for you Skill level: Confident beginner
Looking for a dress like this so I can make this jumpsuit again, but better. See the elastic waist? It’s always bugged me how cheap it looks. I literally used every part of the dress and barely converted it into a jumpsuit, so I didn’t have enough fabric to make a waist-tie. If you flipped it inside out, you’d see an orange fabric on the waistband because I didn’t even have fabric to cover the elastic! I’d sew on two waist-ties on the sides so I could tie it in the front to hide the elastic waist, which will make it look more tied together and expensive. I’m all about making clothes that look expensive for $5 or less
DIY: a thrift find dress to a peplum dress. *the peplum is detachable so you can wear it with or without!
I am itching to sew again! (This XXL men’s shirt into a bell sleeve girls’ dress ) But school is starting soon and it’s been so busy trying to get everything done before it starts, where has Summer gone? Did it fly by for you too? What you need: A larger shirt Matching thread Scissors A sleeve pattern Project cost: $4 Estimated time: 3.5 hours Skill level: Intermediate
I barely used the jacket, I only took out the buttons and the wrist-ties so I have a whole jacket left that I didn’t cut up! I will be thinking of something to refashion it into, but do you have any ideas what I could make it into? What you’ll need: Dress pants Matching thread Scissors Seam ripper Project cost: $8 Estimated time: 3 hours Skill level: Intermediate
My newest Refashion Revision is this $4 Thrifted XL Men’s Shirt transformed into a pinafore dress. The bib part is detachable so you can wear it as a pinafore or a skirt!
Little did you know I made TWO versions of this refashion where I used my old XS shirts I had and upcycled them into a peplum top for my girls.
I bought a XL light yellow dress from The Salvation Army Family Store for $4.99 and turned it into a form fitting waist-tie dress. I feel this is a simple transformation and not an elaborate one, and I chose this because I see many dresses like this at thrift stores and thought it could be more relatable, so that you could do this too, unlike other vintage dresses you find that’s one of a kind. I had a vision of the after within seconds of looking at the dress at the store and it turned out exactly the way I envisioned. I got another epic yellow dress from there that you just have to stay tuned to see in the near future! What you’ll need: -Oversized dress -matching thread -needle or a sewing machine -scissors Estimated time: 1.5 hours Budget: $5.00 Skill level: An experienced beginner
Here’s a green dress I refashioned, Happy St. Patrick’s!
Welcome to Refashion Revision where I take outdated clothes and turn it into new. In this episode I’ll be turning these black and white trousers that have been sitting in my closet for 4 years, into a detachable overall skirt. For this project you’ll need: 5-6 buttons for the inside of the waistband sewing needle matching thread safety pin 2 buttons for outside the waistband scissors seam ripper Project cost: $4 for the buttons Estimated time: 2.5 hours Skill level: intermediate
after years of looking for a skirt like this with the right elastic waist, color, length, I finally found it!!! Would you believe it takes less than 10 mins? I actually found it several months ago and I have a huge stash of half finished and need-to-start piles but I just can’t find the will to do it.
I saw this XXL women’s shirt at a thrift store for $5(it still had the tags on, don’t you love when that happens?), I automatically had an image pop in my head so I started on the project hoping it would execute just the way I imagined.
One awesome thing about knowing how to sew is that even if it doesn’t fit you right in the dressing room, you can still buy it and take it home to make it right! So you should learn to sew! What you’ll need: *A larger dress *thread *Thread *Scissors Flip the dress inside out, then sew the sides from the arm hole to the waistband. And you are done! here’s the before and the after. I couldn’t find my nude color top to wear underneath but that’s how I plan on wearing it. Estimated time: 7 minutes Budget: $0 Skill level: A beginner
$4 thrifted dress into a origami peplum dress refashion. I thought instead of a regular peplum design, folding it like an origami would put a unique spin to it, do you think?
A mid-calf length, long sleeve dress into a more fitted short sleeves with a bow detail.
DIY: Make a muumuu type dress into a fitted dress.
I got this cute dress from Chicwish. There’s nothing wrong with the dress and the quality is excellent, but being small and petite(I am 5′ 3″), the length and the size drowns me a little bit. So I did a quick alteration to make it more form fitting to my body. Estimated time: 40 mins. Budget: $0.00 Skill level: Intermediate
DIY Plaid coat to overall dress DIY
Here are photos of my daughter wearing the same shirt back in 2014. It was a lot bigger on her then. I bought 2 of the same exact shirts and made a dress for her in 2014. And with the other shirt, decided to make it into a top for her now since I’ve never worn the shirt. What you’ll need: shirt ribbon thread seam ripper scissors fray check* (optional) Project cost: $4 for ribbon Estimated time: 100 mins. for each shirt Skill level: Intermediate
Old cardigan + sequin fabric = a perfect new year’s dress! I made this 2 hrs. before we hosted a New Year’s party at my house many years ago
It might not look like a drastic transformation but to get to the “after” result, I removed the neckline, shoulder pads, cut off the sleeves, highered the shoulder seams, made the shoulder width narrower, made the sleeves shorter & smaller and sewed it back on, cut across the waistline to separate it into a bodice and a skirt, made the bodice narrower, shortened the skirt and gathered the skirt & sewed it on the bodice, made a waist-strap from the extra fabric, and replaced the old white buttons with gold buttons. And I crack up every time I see this mischievous smile of mine, I have no idea what this smile is, maybe I farted and I was like, “Hehehe, no one will know, good thing photos don’t capture the sound or the smell?”
For this project you’ll need : *Women’s blouse *Scissors *Thread/needle Project cost: $1 Estimated time: 2 mins. Skill level: very beginner I don’t think I could pull off the dramatic ruffles on the shoulders as cute as her, so I am glad I made it into a dress for my daughter. What do you think?
A simple alteration of making the sleeves shorter and narrowing the bodice. . . The reason why I think every person, especially a woman(no, not being old fashioned, keep reading😉), should learn to sew is it helps you to love the body you have now, not when you’re 10 lbs. lighter. By having the clothes conform to the body you have right now, instead of trying to conform your body to a certain clothing item/size. Instead of buying a certain item and saying, “I’m going to wear this once I lose the 10 lbs.”, you alter the clothing instead to fit that beautiful curve, shape and size that your mama gave you! To celebrate the beautiful, capable body that you have NOW. . . Of course I think every man should learn to sew too(so excited to teach my son when he’s a little older!), but their clothes are more straight down and not as form fitting. But that just means it’ll be much easier! So there’s an incentive for you men!
$3 thrift find dress into a skirt
Cut off the sleeves from the jacket and added it to the sleeveless dress underneath, added darts and made the dress form fitting, and cut off the bottom half of the jacket and added it to the dress as a peplum(you’ll see the 2 slits on the dress matching the jacket). Oh, and dyed the dress
Learn how to turn this old, ugly dress into a cute ruffle dress refashion! This dress can be worn as an off-the-shoulder dress as well. What you’ll need: Vintage dress Matching thread Scissors Pins Seam ripper Project cost: $4 Estimated time: 4.5 hours Skill level: Advanced beginner to intermediate
This dress was $5 from Gap but only in XXL so I altered it to my size by narrowing the shoulders & the sides, re-designed the sleeves and finished it with a bow-waist tie.
Refashioned a men’s shirt into a crop top + skirt set for my girl in The Refashion Runway gingham challenge. After competing in that competition in 2015, I told myself that it would be the last competition I’d ever enter, I strongly dislike them! I like celebrating everyone’s unique talents, not comparing and critiquing others to my own, which was what I found myself doing, being the worst critique of my own work but also nit-picking other contestants’ work. I also found out how competitive I could be
Left dress: too short. Right dress: too short. Both dresses: too dry knees. So the solution? Cut the bottom of the right dress so it turns into a peplum top and add the cut fabric to the left dress.
Plain shirt to ruffle pleated sleeves refashion. I’m wearing a Bright Pink pin in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
$4 thrifted dress into a origami peplum dress refashion. I thought instead of a regular peplum design, folding it like an origami would put a unique spin to it, do you think?
You know how you look at old photos of yourself and think, what was I thinking with that haircut/clothes? Well, that’s what I think when looking at this DIY refashion I did back in 2010.
I had a plain white tee that had a bit of yellow stain on it. I thought instead of throwing it away, I would add some designs on it using fabric paint! What you’ll need: -shirt -sponge brush -stamp -fabric paint -wax paper -cup Directions: 1. Cut up wax paper and insert inside the shirt, to make sure the fabric paint doesn’t seep through. 2. Squeeze out some fabric paint into a cup and dip the sponge brush lightly. With the brush, paint on the stamp. 3. Lay the shirt on a flat surface and stamp wherever desired. Stamp once more if you’d like the design to be more prominent. 4. Let it dry 4 hours before stamping the other side. 5. Wait at least 3 days before putting it in the wash. Estimated time: 1 1/2 hours Budget: under $10(if using a shirt you already have) Skill level: beginner
The floral design is this top I made using this weird cowl neck/saggy boobs top + an old silk tank into a ruffle floral top.
mindy gledhill contacted me a week ago and asked me if I could help alter her dress for her newest music video, winter moon. she found out about my blog through her little sister Lindsey, who is my HS friend and thanks to lindsey, I met another awesome girl with an amazing talent. I fell completely in love with her with the very first song I heard. She has a beautiful, angelic voice and her music uplifts and makes me so happy!
I alter about 60% of my clothes to make it more flattering to my body shape and it’s usually done 30 minutes before I am about to wear that certain piece of clothing, so these are probably not what a seamstress would do if you were to take it to a tailoring shop but it’s more of a shortcut, and it works and looks great. A simple tailoring can make a huge difference and make the clothing look way more flattering but also way more expensive! What you’ll need: -An oversized dress -matching thread -needle or sewing machine -scissors Directions: 1. Put on the dress to see how many inches you need to take in on both sides. 2. Turn the dress inside out. 3. Starting at the seam right at the top of the side of the dress, take in however many inches you need, stopping at the waist. 4. Fold the sleeves once. Estimated time: 5 minutes Budget: FREE Skill level: Very beginner
One of the many dresses I tailored to make it more figure flattering.
$3 vintage mid-calf skirt to a peplum skirt with gold anchor buttons. I cut off 8 inches off the bottom of the skirt to make the peplum accents. Do you think the buttons were a good idea?
Made the dress more fitted + added sleeves using the lining underneath the dress
Bought the closest matching fabric to the dress and added puffy pleated sleeves. Are you a fan of the sleeves or no?
My favorite color right now is royal blue, and you know how much I love pleats, so I had to get this royal blue pleated dress(buy it here)! It came a couple inches below my knee however and it was not flattering, so I altered it to a shorter length. What you’ll need: -Dress -Matching thread -Sewing machine or thread & needle -Scissors Directions: 1. Cut the dress at the seams where the shirt and the skirt meet. 2. Cut 3.5″ off the bottom of the shirt. 3. With the right sides together, sew the skirt back onto the shirt. Estimated Time: 15 minutes Skill Level: a confident beginner Price: $0.00
Took in the sides of this dress to make it more slim fitting, used the ruffle sleeves of an old top to add to the sleeveless dress. Also, don't mind my hairy arm pits, I've joined this new movement called #freethearmpithairs. It's a real thing guys, so real if you click on the #freethearmpithairs you'll see PLETHORA of people supporting the movement.
I had a peplum top and a skirt that were a little loose fitting. A little tailoring makes a big difference and makes it so much more flattering! Estimated time: 5 mins. each Budget: none Skill level: Beginner
What you’ll need: -2 pieces of knit jersey fabric(21″ x 5″) -matching thread -needle or sewing machine -scissors Directions: 1. Measure your head circumference. If your head is 21″, then cut two pieces of 21″ X 5″ fabric. 2. Fold the rectangle fabric in half, hot dog style and zigzag stitch the length(the zigzag stitch helps the fabric to stretch more than if it was a straight stitch). 3. Flip it inside out. 4. Lay the strips in a cross style. 5. Fold over one strip over the other strip. Repeat with the other strip. 6. Pull the strips on both sides 7. Gather all 4 edges together, and sew it all together, straight stitch. Estimated time: 1st time: 30 mins. after that, as little as 10 mins. Budget: very low to almost nothing(mine was $0). Skill level: a very beginner.
Who else still owns their mint jeans? Throwback to a DIY I did in 2012, when I dyed my white jeans into the perfect mint jeans. The first one was a fail so I used a second pair of white jeans to get the color I wanted. That’s why it looks like it’s a different pair of pants because it is.
What you’ll need: A short dress A strip of fabric(mine is 1/8 of a yard) Thread Scissors *Fray check(optional) Estimated time: 20 minutes Budget: $30 Skill level: A beginner