How to Upcycle Your Thrift Haul, According to TikTok

Rack of clothing at Awoke Vintage Brooklyn

Awoke Vintage Brooklyn

Slow fashion is evolving. We’ve all seen those TikTok girlies who magically turn a pair of vintage jeans they found at Goodwill into a chic NYC street style moment, or turn a simple graphic tee into a tasteful crop top like it’s no big deal. The idea of making affordable, sustainable style look high-fashion for almost no money is like a dream come true. Luckily for us, it’s easier than it looks—with the flick of a sewing needle, a paintbrush, and some outfit inspo, you can upcycle your thrifted clothes and turn an amazing haul into a killer wardrobe.

We narrowed down some closet staples you’d typically find in your thrift haul and imagined different ways that you can upcycle, style, and love your thrifted clothes—even more than the day you got them. Upcycling your thrift haul can not only change your thrifting game, but also your wardrobe. It’s good for the environment, and good for having pieces that are totally unique to your closet.

Below, check out a few ways to upcycle your vintage dresses, T-shirts, sweaters, and more.

How to Upcycle Jeans

Denim jeans are one of the most popular garments to thrift flip. Whether your jeans are a bit big (been there), they are a little meh, or just too dang high-waisted, there are so many ways to style thrifted jeans on a budget. If you’re into it, cut the top of your waistband for a low-waist moment (think Y2K Paris Hilton energy), or you can dunk your jeans in some bleach and paint on some flowers or stars. We’ve also seen TikTokers cut up different types of denim and sew them together for a quilted, patchwork moment. If you don’t have a sewing machine, fabric glue is (almost) just as good.

How to Upcycle a Graphic Tee

There are only so many ways to style a graphic tee on its own, but upcycling can create a whole new vibe to that lucky Harley Davidson find you just scored. If you found an oversized tee that’s just a little too oversized, take it to your sewing machine (or fabric glue!) and make a stunning bodycon T-shirt dress that is both sexy and comfy. Take the easier route and cut the neckline to put an extra edgy tone to an already edgy tee. Finally, another idea is making a 2000s-inspired silhouette that you could achieve from just scissors and some fabric chalk.

How to Upcycle a Vintage Dress

Vintage dresses can be, to put it lightly, pretty wild. The puffy sleeves and dramatic silhouettes can be put to better use and made even better in 2022. The good thing about an already dramatic dress is that you only have to give it a little zhuzh. You can crop and hem the dress to be a Kourtney Kardashian-inspired courthouse wedding dress, or you could take in the drama from the sleeves to give it a modern touch. Another way to upcycle a dress is to add a sexy little slit and add a lace trim, which luckily can be done with or without a sewing machine (thanks to fabric glue!). 

How to Upcycle a Sweater

The key here is to find a sweater that is oversized. With a larger sweater, you can turn the garment  into a two-piece set. Try a cropped Bella Hadid-inspired, baggy long sleeve sweater and some leisure shorts, or you can make the bottom half of the sweater a chunky tube top plus a unique crop top out of the top half. This look would be best achieved with a sewing machine, but it’s an easy, very do-able (and Youtube-able) situation. We also love the idea of taking two patterns and textures and combining them to be a funky and trippy cozy knit that is unique to only you.

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