By Anna Bai

As COVID-19 began to limit our ability to shop for new summer outfits, I turned to my trusty sewing machine to create some summer looks with whatever materials I could find lying around at home. Sewing can seem like a daunting task, but it’s an underrated way to practice sustainability in fashion, especially if you don’t have the budget to invest in sustainable brands. 

Here are a few methods I used this spring to kickstart my summer wardrobe from home:

  1. Thrift flips – Simple thrift flips are an easy way to transform outdated, ill-fitting clothing into trendy custom pieces. In my first example, I removed about six inches from the bottom of this vintage seersucker skirt I thrifted last year, which took away the “1950s waitress” vibe and replaced it with a more modern aesthetic. To complete the look, I paired it with a wrap top that I created from an old t-shirt.
  2. Reusing old materials – Household textiles can easily be transformed into comfortable garments. Instead of buying new material to create this simple, cropped camisole, I used an old, clean bedsheet that would have otherwise been thrown away.
  3. Recreating trendy looks – I have been loving the square neckline trend, but unfortunately, I simply can’t always afford these brands. Luckily, cotton fabric is very affordable, so with the help of a simple sewing pattern, I was able to recreate this trend with this black top. Similarly, after falling in love with a silk slip skirt I saw at Aritzia, I made my own out of some navy remnant velvet that I had been hoarding for months. I also used some discount quilting cotton to recreate this mini wrap skirt that I have seen all over Instagram.
  1. Updating old clothes – Embellishments are a great way to update older clothes that have been laying in the back of your closet. Instead of getting rid of an old denim skirt I had, I embroidered flowers onto the back to bring it back into style.
  2. Making the best of the pandemic – While masks are no fun to wear, making your own masks is one way to add some extra flair to your outfits. Since they take up so little fabric, it’s not hard to make several masks to match your clothes.

I have always enjoyed DIY projects, so for me, introducing these pieces into my wardrobe is simply a practical way to enjoy an old hobby and save some money; however, these quarantine-induced outfits have also broadened my perspective on sustainable fashion.

Sustainability is a hot topic in fashion right now, and rising discussions about race, beauty standards, and consumerism are redefining what it means for a brand to be truly sustainable. While I may not be able to fully solve the issue, I believe that by purchasing fewer garments and instead, making them myself, I am making a small contribution to sustainability. By repurposing old materials or buying remnant fabrics, I can recover fabrics that might otherwise be sent to the landfill. By assembling clothing myself, I can ensure that my clothes are not a product of cheap labour.

Regardless of how impactful my sewing projects really are to society, they have given me a newfound respect for the work that goes into making the garments that we buy and wear. It’s extremely gratifying to be able to say that I made these pieces myself, and that gratification has been a great boost to my confidence.