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... Read More
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... Read More
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... Read More
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