Good as New

Can’t afford new clothes? Take matters into your own hands (literally) and get innovative with these customising tips.

| UPDATED creative ideas customising diy good as new London Tab Fashion sewing

It is that point of the academic year when you reach fashion rock-bottom. At post-reading week, you have hardly completed your first term yet you have already run into your overdraft. Your bank account is severely stretched and the mass of shopping bills never fail to remind you that your next Zara trip is a far-away reality. Moreover, despite your cluttered wardrobe you somehow still have nothing to wear! Some pieces still have the tags attached – you question your judgement at the time of their purchase. Space will not generously accommodate all this ill-fitting, uninspiring humdrum but you feel guilty disposing of brand new garments.

However, don’t let the stresses of a student budget get in the way of having an exciting wardrobe! Turn over a new, creative leaf and rejuvenate those old, unwanted pieces to update them with a fresh new look. Who knows, what lurks at the back of your closet could become the coolest campus craze. It is all about altering. What you will have is unique. And the best part is telling everyone that it was your creation. Remember, if you really aren’t the hands-on type, a rummage around in grandma’s wardrobe for a vintage find never does any harm, nor does a clothes swapping session with some of your girlfriends. Avoid the ‘chuck out’ and adopt a new mentality: reuse, recycle, refashion.

Here are some DIY ideas to get you started on the customising.



  • For a pair of studded daisy dukes: chop off the legs of those washed out boyfriend jeans leaving edges rough and ragged. Use a stitch unpicker to help you achieve this effect. Ensure that the jeans you have selected are not tight or clingy around the thigh area. Line the front pockets with 2 rows of studs – you may need the help of a dart awl to push the prongs of the studs through the thick denim fabric.
  • For a pair of zipper leggings, LnA style: snip along the outer side seam at the bottom of your black leggings to match the length of the zip you have just acquired. Open up your zip and insert it into the space. Sew in the zip then close it. Repeat on the other leg.
  • For a sporty take on a pair of skinny jeans: cut two long strips of masking tape to the same length of the trousers and stick them one inch apart on either side of a leg’s outer side seam. Using a thick paint brush and white fabric paint, fill in the area marked between the two strips of tape. Leave to dry. Peel away the masking tape to reveal a white stripe running down the jean leg. Repeat on the other side.
  • For a Versace-inspired maxi skirt: Cut a long thin triangular wedge up the side of your long, plain, floor-length skirt until about mid-thigh. Giant safety pin the two sides together leaving a clear split . More effective if the skirt is black and not too A-line.
  • For a Western-inspired pair of jeans: Cut out suede patches and hand-stitch onto the back pockets and knee area of the jeans. Match the edges of your patches exactly onto the seams.



  • Tie-dye that baggy, oversized pyjama t-shirt then casually wear half tucked in, half tucked out of your skinny jeans.
  • Spruce up your plain Peter-Pan collared top by sewing on a variety of colourful sequins onto the collar part.
  • Appliqué your initials onto a cabled cream cardigan or polo shirt for a retro back-to-school style.
  • Rip off Zadig & Voltaire’s ridiculously priced skull t-shirt and cut out your own version into the back of your black or white tee. Your tee should have the right amount of slouch and fit quality. Tailor chalk will come in handy here.
  • Upgrade your button-up shirt or cardigan by replacing all the buttons on the garment. Ensure that none of your new buttons are the same as each other.
  • If you have an old tee you don’t want any more, cut it into strips and fashion the strips into an accordion-like pleat. Arrange into a rosette and secure by passing through some thread. Spruce up a plain tank top by sewing the rosettes around the neckline.
  • Give a long, men’s t-shirt an new look by sloppily painting the bottom half of the top in a different colour. Then cut the coloured section into thin strips so that you have a tasselled cropped top. Chop part of the sleeves off to get a nice cap-sleeve and leave the edges raw.



  • Cut the sleeves off your parka (better if thin and unlined) to obtain a long gilet. Wear over your leather jacket for a tough military look.
  • Wear your cape with a skinny patent belt and cinch in the waist of your puffy winter coat with a wide, bucked, leather belt.
  • Sew or iron on elbow patches to your blazer. Substitute any buttons for vintage gold ones. Attach your old school ‘choir’ badges and costume brooches for a preppy finish.
  • Stud the collar of your denim jacket with the help of a dart awl. Apply your own felt appliqués with fabric glue or shop-bought iron-ons onto the back of the jacket for an exclusive, vintage feel, like this Topshop find.



  • Sharpie a Missoni-inspired pattern onto your plain, cream Converse hi-tops.
  • Pollock-up your Oxfords by hap-hazardly splattering various paint colours onto them like what Alexander McQueen did to these pair.
  • Dollop some PVC glue onto the tips of your leather pumps, spreading it in a neat semi circle. Empty out a pot of glitter onto these tips until the whole tip area is covered. Shake off any remains and leave to dry. Do this over some newspaper!
  • Stud up your Converse – whether it’s round studs all over your ox or square studs on the just the upper body of your hi-tops. Again, a dart awl would be very useful.
  • Spray-paint the tips of your black Doc Martens gold. Don’t spray too intensely and don’t be too neat about it either. Let the spray gradually disappear as you move from the tip up the boot body.
  • Swap the laces of your military boots/sneakers/brogues for a length of velvet ribbon.



  • Take inspiration from Alexander McQueen’s 1999 catwalk show with his spray-painted dress and let loose on your own, varying your mark-making and brushstrokes to create an abstract masterpiece.
  • Cut your dress into sections and use giant safety pins to attach the sections Versace-style, leaving flesh revealed. This works best with simple-cut dresses that are not entirely body-con, either plain or with a bold geometric print.



  • Cut off the fingers of some old leather gloves to create some fingerless biker gloves. Remember not to cut off the entire finger at its base, but to leave about 2.5 cm of finger.
  • If you are lucky enough to own a pair of long evening gloves, line some Baroque trimming around the opening of the gloves for an even more glamorous finish.
  • Got your granddad’s old watch? Discard the battered leather men’s strap and wear the face on a chain around your neck.
  • Superglue some fake flowers and leaves around the base of your grandma’s wide-brimmed sun hat.

  • The silk square that looks middle-aged when tied around your neck could be loosely worn in your hair or knotted into a turban for a younger, fresher approach. Alternatively twist the scarf along the handle of your handbag to make a statement.


Supplies, tools, trimmings, buttons, studs, brooches:

MacCulloch & Wallis, Kleins, Cloth House, Berwick Street area, VV Rouleaux, Button Queen, Morplan, John Lewis haberdashery, Liberty haberdashery, Portobello Market