Ultimate Expression: Do-it-yourself Retro

In my previous blogs I have given examples of how vintage clothes are more unique, stylish, and practical than modern styles being sold in stores today. But while I have explored the many facets and places you can find ginchy retro items, there is one avenue I have yet to go down: making your own items.

Nothing says stylistic expression quite like making your own bag from a pair of ripped jeans. While the bottom of your beloved jeans may have finally worn away, it doesn't mean you have to throw them out. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. There are two things you can do to those thread bare jeans. The first is take a pair of scissors to them and cut more holes. You don't need to be specific as to where. Then either taking another piece of old clothing, or buying fabric on sale at your local fabric store, and hand sewing (or machine if you're proficient) and making your own patch work pair of jeans.

Here's a step by step video on how to recycle your old denim and make a new bag out of it! 

The second and more ambitious idea is to make a bag out of them. In my last post, I highlighted Vera Bradley and their ingenuity to making all kinds of versatile bags out of cloth and funky patterns. You can do the same thing! When my jeans finally gave up the ghost, I was very upset, but my friend and fellow writer, Val, pointed out that there was still a use for them. She took the broken jeans as well as a shirt I had put into my "donate pile" and a few weeks later presented me with a unique bag. The undamaged pockets are sewn into the bag, the "lid" is made from the base of the flare, the cheery tree pattern is made from an old Chinese shirt I had, and just sewn over top of the jeans. The bag is almost entirely hand sewn and is stronger than any other bag I've owned despite its small size.

simple and practical - a great way to re-purpose old clothing!

What was truly wonderful about having a new bag like this is that all my mother's old brooches and pins that I kept for sentimental reasons but never really knew what to do with now had a purpose. They line the strap of the bag which was taken from a broken laptop side-bag that had given up the ghost recently as well. The front lip of the flare also is lined with small pins and even a single screw-back earring I had found on the ground while walking through town. It's a unique bag that would make even Vera Bradley jealous - flashy, expressive, practical, and retro - my four favourite things!

If you don't need another bag that's fine too. You can easily make art out of them by buying a canvas, cutting up random pieces of fabric from all your old, unused, or broken clothing and make a fabric canvas to decorate your house with.

Old shirts and sweaters that have their cuffs worn out can often be turned into short-sleeve counterparts. Short sleeve turtlenecks at a store set you back sometimes as much as $70, why not make your own for less than $10? You simply need thread and person with a sewing machine. You can even use other fabric to make the new short-sleeve cuff a bit more flashy or contrasting.

Quilting! If you have many items that you have accumulated or you just want a unique bedspreads and enjoy quilting, why not make an expressive piece of bedding? They are durable and easy to make, just time consuming. But the rewards far outweigh the time and effort needed to make them!

Warm and unique - quilts are a great way to upcycle old clothing!

Val, whom I mentioned earlier as my hero for creating my favourite bag, is making me another unique gift just in time for Christmas. I have an old kimono which unfortunately has contracted a severe stain that despite my best efforts will not come out. Following tutorials online, in the month of December she intends to make me a pair of flare pants that will have the awesome floral fabric have a new purpose. I intend to wear these new pants to my graduation next spring and make a splash!

The point of this longer than usual blog is to emphasize that clothing isn't just about business, club nights, or staying cozy at home. There are no limits of material, there is nothing more satisfying than being complimented on something you're wearing either. So if you have an idea, look on YouTube; there's likely a tutorial. I'm planning to make a hat this winter out of a few old sweaters I have laying around. With Christmas right around the corner why not make a gift that comes from the heart and can't be bought in stores? Give the gift of fashionable practicality with a stylic flare; give the gift of retro-cool!


Myles is a creative writer whose heart lies in another era. Although he has a degree in broadcast journalism, creative writing is more to his taste. If he had one wish, he would plunge the world back to the psychedelic age of the 1970’s. His eclectic clothing and music tastes influence his writing – taking readers to another place in time.

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