One thing that can be tricky when it comes to refashioning is how you find the items of clothing to refashion. I’m going to share all my thoughts on my process today.

Before shopping for refashions in your closet or at a thrift store, you need to define your style, fit (not size), and colors. It’s too overwhelming and hard to shop if you have no direction. It’s okay to be a little open to things outside your style (because that’s how you’ll find a new style you love that you might not have been interested in), but sticking to your style, fit (not size), and colors will make the process enjoyable and easier. It will become more of a treasure hunt instead of a stressful dread. (I have written about my thoughtfully sewn wardrobe if you’re interested.)

When you are looking to refashion, the first place you should look is your own closet. I know everyone has an item (or more!) that you never wear. These are the questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What items do I not wear?
  • Why don’t I wear them?
    • Is it the wrong color?
    • Is it stained?
    • Is it the wrong size?  Is it too tight or too loose?
    • Is it the wrong length?
    • Is it worn out?
    • Is the neckline or sleeves wrong?
    • Does it twist?
    • Is it your style?
Now that you have some items that you don’t wear and you know why you don’t wear them then ask yourself:
  • Can the color be changed? You can bleach or dye an item if you love everything else about the item.
  • If you’ve tried to remove the stain and it won’t come out, you can try bleaching or dyeing the item. You can also try covering up the stain with fabric, iron-on, vinyl, fabric paint, etc.
  • If the item doesn’t fit right is it because it’s too big or too small? If something is too big you can alter it to take the sides and sleeves in. If it’s too small you can let out the seams, or you can add fabric to the sides.
  • If the item is too long then you can hem it. If the item is too short then you can add another layer of fabric to the hem for length.
  • If it’s worn out then cut it up for scraps or rags. Or cut it up and make your own pattern from it.
  • If the neckline is wrong can it be changed? Can it be cut lower or the shape changed? Can it be raised or added to? If the sleeves are wrong can they be shortened, lengthened, taken in, or the style changed? If it’s long sleeves, cut them short for summer.
  • If the fabric always twist when you wear it, that means the fabric was cut off grain originally and there’s nothing you can do to fix that.
  • If it’s not your style, is it possible to make it your style? Can you cut something off or add something? If you don’t like rhinestones, don’t wear them. If you don’t like stripes, don’t wear them. If you don’t like ruffles, cut them off.
  • If you cut any fabric off, where can you put it back on for extra details? You can add wide ruffles, thin ruffles, bows, layers, flares, create bias binding, slits, facings, etc. You can also add contrasting fabric, trim, lace, pompoms, tassels, etc.
If none of these can change the item to make you wear the item, then you can always make something for a child out of it. I’ll just say I love upcycling for my kids, and a lot of the items came from my closet!
How to Shop for Refashions

You can apply this same thought process while shopping at a thrift store. It’s all about thinking it through before purchasing. My favorite place to thrift is Savers. I feel like they prices are good while still having good quality items.
The way I thrift shop is to walk along a row without touching anything. I walk along and only pull out my colors. This eliminates the possibility of me falling in love with something that isn’t my colors and that I won’t wear. I look in my general size but often look in the size up and the size below. If I want to really alter something then I look in all sizes and menswear. Be willing to look in multiple sections. I looked in the pajama section and found 100% rayon woven joggers in a beautiful blue and white print. They don’t go too my ankle because they aren’t long enough, but they hit my leg just below the calf which is a flattering length. They are so breezy, and I love them. I really glad I found them.

How to Shop for Refashions

Once I pull out something in my color scheme, I look at the style, quality of fabric, and how worn out it is. If it passes those I’m willing to try it on.
With this method I rarely have more than 10 items to try on. Then I eliminate even further while trying them on. I try them on to see if they fit, sometimes an item will fit without any alterations. Sometimes I find a zipper isn’t working or a button is missing. If it works as-is, I buy it. If I love it enough to figure out how to refashion it, then I’ll buy it. At least half of my wardrobe is thrifted if not more and the majority of those thrifted items are altered or refashioned to fit me and my style.

I have found six items made out of Tencel in the last six months. I purchased four of them and refashioned three of them.

How to Shop for Refashions

One of my favorite things about Savers is that there are toys for my kids to play with. The kids’ clothes and women’s clothes are close to the toy aisle so I can keep my eye on them while I shop. They definitely take all of the toys off of the shelf, but I make them clean them up before we leave. And only the child of a seamstress would find the lone sewing machine toy and put it out with the dinosaur, action figure, and robot.

How to Shop for Refashions

For all you seamstresses out there, one of the best sections is the housewares section. There’s a section of fabric. There’s often polyester and quilting cotton, but I’ve sometimes found great apparel fabric. There’s also oodles of fabric in the curtains, duvets, and sheets which maybe aren’t great for apparel, but they work great for muslins. It’s a cheap way to get muslin fabric to practice all your new patterns. Here are some other great tips for sewing and saving money.

How to Shop for Refashions
How to Shop for Refashions

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Author: Heather Handmade

I'm a seamstress and mother. I sew, blog, thrift, upcycle, design fabric, and teach sewing classes. I'm also a self-proclaimed fabric fondler.

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One thought on “How to Shop for Refashions

  1. So helpful. I often forget about fit (not size). I do know that I usually look for specific shapes that I know I like. Your tips for shopping your closet have me thinking about all the clothes I just pulled out to get rid of. There is one shirt that I love, but it is way too tight. I'm now thinking I might be able to fix it to fit me better.
    Thanks for sharing these tips. Now to memorize them so I'll be better at thrift shopping!

    Posted on June 30, 2017 at 8:55 pm