5 Ways To Upcycle Your Wardrobe

A rail of vintage denim jackets in a shop, all with unique graphics on the back.

Gen Z fashion trends have circulated around thrifting and refashioning old clothes all of last year, taking over TikTok with their vintage hauls and shopping trips, but since Vogue called upcycling ‘the biggest trend of spring/summer 2021’ it has continued taking the fashion world by storm - both on runways and in everyday people's wardrobes. Eco fashion seems to be the trend to jump on!

So let’s talk about how you can upcycle the clothes in your wardrobe and the number of ways you can repurpose some of your older pieces, but first … 

What Does Upcycling Mean?

It means giving your clothes new life; your old t-shirts, ripped jeans, worn out skirts - all of them can be transformed into something full of life. Refashioning clothing that may otherwise be damaged or simply not fit as well as you would like it to, is upcycling your wardrobe. 

With ‘thrifting’ increasing in popularity, repurposing used clothing is gradually becoming the go to Gen Z fashion trend.

A Gen Z girl in a bright green jumper and dungarees, smiling happily at the camera with a hanger in hand.

Is Recycling Clothes The Same As Upcycling Clothes?

In short, no, but recycling and upcycling clothes share the same ethos of creating more eco-friendly clothes which is the most important bit; they are equally as important in having a lower impact on the environment, but upcycling ultimately comes out on top in being more efficient.

To be more specific, recycling clothes means reducing a piece of clothing to its raw materials in order for it to be repurposed into new, useful products. This is called material-to-material recycling, and it can turn unwanted clothes into something else entirely - such as wool jumpers becoming carpets, or cashmere being recycled into suits. It’s an expensive process, but recycling your unwanted clothes is vastly more beneficial than throwing them away for them to simply become landfill. 

Alternatively, upcycling is simply adding to your old clothes to give them new life, rather than reducing them back to basic materials to become something else entirely. There is little downside to upcycling other than it taking some time, but dedicating yourself to the craft will result in a completely and utterly unique piece. It can also be used as a social event between you and your friends in the comfort of your own home, so it’s easy to hop onto this Gen Z fashion trend! With upcycling often being a case of ‘using what you already have’, eco fashion suddenly becomes a lot easier with some left over fabric paint or dye. 

What You Can Do To Upcycle:


A pink and white tie dyed Puma t-shirt on a hanger.

A bit of fabric dye, rubber bands, and a little bit of patience will have your old block colour t-shirt rocking a tie dye pattern all depending on how you’ve rolled or folded your top! Perfect for upcycling beginners, and there are so many tutorials online. 

Iron On Badges:

An array of different iron on patches strewn across a counter, alongside other vintage knick knacks and a Singer sewing machine

We found these iron on patches in Vintage Supply but you can find these everywhere! Try opting for shopping independently and looking on Etsy for really niche badges. 

Jewels And Diamantes: 

A bejewelled vintage blue logo Nike t-shirt with a centred red criss cross pattern.

A hot glue gun is every customisers best friend. You can bedazzle almost everything with some glue and a bag of jewels. Who doesn’t love a little bit of sparkle? 


Knee length shorts that have been upcycled so a number of patterns and fabrics have been used in a patchwork design.

Patchwork has been popular for years, so much so there is a whole history on the design choice! These Bermuda shorts were upcycled using an array of fabrics, so with some scissors, a needle, and a bit of thread you could mix-match patterns too. 

Fabric Paint:

An oversized pink t-shirt that has the hand drawn text ‘Take My Hand’ covering the back.

Possibly the easiest and most accessible way of customising your clothes; fabric paint and pens. Either free hand or tracing a pattern, the possibilities end at your fingertips.


A rail that first shows a denim jacket refashioned into a gilet, followed by a number of vintage mens polo shirts.

Tearing off the sleeves of your denim jacket, bleaching your old skirt, or simply distressing a pair of jeans, denim has been upcycled by many for many a year and it never gets old!

So, if something in your wardrobe isn’t getting the love it used to receive, try following the biggest trend of spring/summer 2021 and upcycling your clothes - don’t be shy and share your upcycled clothes with us by using #upcyclejunkie @gen.woo.sg. For our creative kids, send your pictures over to @gen.woo.kids we would love to share them! All featured designs will receive a mystery gift.

Do You Need Some More Examples?

We’ve got you covered! There are so many amazing designers and brands who upcycle clothes brilliantly, but here are a select few we love:

Rave Review

Yeah Right

Beyond Retro

Urban Outfitters (vintage department)

Its Rooper

FanFare Label

Levi Strauss

Not to mention, if you’re local to the UK, Christina Attrah’s Student Beans blog on the 7 Best Upcycled Clothing Brands In The Uk 2022 is a brilliant read on where you could shop for eco fashion first clothes.

Whether you’re Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X or Boomer, upcycling clothes is for everybody and not only saves you some money, but is also the right step towards lowering your carbon footprint.

Happy upcycling!


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