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Cast-Off Couture

Updated on August 9, 2013

Welcome to Cast-Off Couture

This light-hearted lens is devoted to cast-off couture.

What's that you ask? Well, it's a funky fashion trend that's based on making garb from garbage.

In this era of fast-food, fast-service, and fast-fashion, it's all about redesigning, reconstructing, and repurposing all your recyclable rags.

Welcome to the world of secondhand chic and wicked wearables made from waste!


Image Credit: bookcover illustration, "Secondhand Chic" by Christa Weil



And now a word or two from Raggedy Ann

A ripsnorting recylcer if ever there was one!

Surprising new life awaits your cast-off clothing.

Instead of storing clothes than rarely see the light of day in your closet or a trunk in your attic, give them to charity.

Who knows, your once trendy bell-bottoms, tie-dyed toga, cashmere sweater or flannelette nightgown may enjoy a bit of reincarnation as a factory floor mop, a pair of wooly winter mittens, ground up to make carpets, paper and car upholstery, or else on it's way to Africa or Asia to find a new life.

The recycled rag business has been steadily increasing over the last decade fueled by higher demand from used clothing dealers and exporters, rag wipers and polishers, and fiber recyclers.

According to the U.S. Council of Clothing Recyclers, charities process about 500 million pounds of recycled clothing annually (enough to fill 12,500 40-foot freight containers).

While charities provide tax receipts for donated clothing, textile recyclers pay millions of dollars to churches and charitable organizations for the left-overs they can't sell (like sweaters in July or bathing suits in December).

Rest assured that whatever sassy seamstresses and clothing collectors can't recycle and re-use, there will always be a humongous hand-me-down market as long as consumers keep buying all manner of cutting-edge clothing.


Image Credit: Raggedy Ann clipart -


How long does it take for a cotton rag to degrade in a landfill?

See results


Or, what you can do with all those old baubles to bedazzle anew your funky friends and family too!

Simply Beautiful Beaded Jewelry
Simply Beautiful Beaded Jewelry

50 things you can do with old beads!

The Impatient Beader Gets Inspired!: A Crafty Chick's Guide to Instant Inspiration
The Impatient Beader Gets Inspired!: A Crafty Chick's Guide to Instant Inspiration

It's never to late to learn what to do with odds and ends (no experience necessary).

Hip to Bead (Hip to . . . Series)
Hip to Bead (Hip to . . . Series)

Whimsical wear -- or how to may something fun & funky!



Are you bored with brand-name baubles?

Then it's time to treat yourself to some trashy trinkets. (Note: These thingamybobs are for chic cheapskates only!)

Yard-sale enthusiasts with attitude usually grasp the fundamentals of having fun with frippery.

So cast your eyes about and pick up all manner of odds and ends to make "Vintage Button Bracelets" (found in your Granny's sewing box), "Naughty Necklaces" (made from pop can tab tops), or "Egads Earings" (fashioned from the Gods of Junk).


What to do with those boring brogues or pathetic looking pumps?

Give them a new life that's what!

Hetty Rose has managed to make some pretty pumps from some previously-enjoyed kimonos!

Green thumb types have even turned some of their favorite boots or broques into flower planters!


How long does it take for a leather shoe to degrade in the landfill?

See results


Quit whining about somebody raining on your parade.

Get out and start your own parade...replete with gaudy gumboots that will amaze your fear-minded friends and flummox your family (who may think you've lost your marbles).

If you have trouble connecting the dots or painting by numbers, you'll have no trouble with this craft project.

Hit the flea-market, a garage sale, or rustle around in your attic to retrieve a pair of gumboots or galoshes. Then pick-up some acrylic paints at a craft store and decorate them with doodles.

Exercise your creative flair - think big, think colorful, think fun and you're half way there.

If doodles don't do it...then grab a glue gun and stick all sorts of bits and pieces to your rubber boots. Because if you don't want to wear them for fear of criticism from your spouse, neighbor or your least you can use them as an alternative to buying flower pots this year!




Forget about forking out the mega moolah for maven-ware.

Why not let your inner child out to play with some scissors, thread, needles, and oodles of old clothing that has seen better days.

Today is your "Creative Clothing Day" -- time to whip up your customized clothing. Who says fashion can't be funky and fun? Tap into your genial genes and have a flair affair!

When you've zapped and zipped your zingy little number together, why not hold a "Trashion Show", and donate the proceeds to your favorite charity.

If you need a few hints on how to do it, pick up a book by Virginia Avery entitled, "Wonderful Wearables".


Believe it or not consignment and cast-off clothing is big business.

"I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch."

-- Gilda Radner --



Image Credit: J. Wagner, Maxine cartoon - Hallmark Greetings


Finding new uses for discarded dregs and dross is what makes Contexture Design in Vancouver, one of a kind!

The company names says it all -- they creatively alter the context of the materials they use to evoke new textures.

The owners, Nathan Lee and Trevor Coghill, both studied landscape architecture at the University of British, are definitely into recycling not only on an ecological level but also on a cultural level.

Ardent thrift-shoppers, they also rely on friends who bring in odds and ends that they hate to see thrown out such as high-end cabinetry veneer with a gorgeous grain.

"Cuff Love" was born from just such a serendipitous second-hand inspiriation. Handmade jewellry reclaimed from exotic wood veneers such as the popular "Bentwood Cuff Cuffs" retail now for $68. These bling bracelets also serve as disposable java jackets used to protect caffeine swiggers' fingers from hot cups.

These artful alchemists know how to turn old skates into a pair of posh boots, laces and all, while well-worn bowling shoes become wicked wallets, and scrap wood is reworked into fashion rings, belt buckles, money clips and that ultimate identity piece, dog tags.

As if that wasn't enough, they've also managed to figure out how to combine groovy entertainment formats that evoke memories of the past with the latest, hippest music technology refashioning old vinyl records and cassette tapes into iPod Nano protectors.

Life Lesson #11: Never discard dross...because behind it there's definitely design gold!

Calories are the little bastards that get into your wardrobe at night and sew your clothes tighter.



For those who can't sew worth a darn or who are bored out of their environmentally-friendly tree, here's some tantalizing trivia about tossed out textiles.

Did you know that the average Canuck, (those weird winterland wunderkins who live north of the 49th parallel), accounts for 7 kilograms per person of textile waste (from bedding to clothes and curtains) which ends up in landfills every year?

As if that's not enough, did you know that 85 per cent of recyclable clothing is thrown away annually, when more than 80 per cent still have 75 per cent of their wearability left?

Think of it, if every conservation-minded, clothing-conscious consumer in this country full of environmentally-friendly beavers, blackflies and big brown bears bought just one reclaimed woolen garment each year -- it would save an average of 300 gallons of water not to mention and 400 tonnes of chemical dyes.

Lest one feel a tad overwhelmed by these not-so-friendly numbers, rest assured those Crazy Canucks who spend a good deal of time whacking hockey pucks around most of the year, do do their part to save the planet by recycling their remnants. Each year more than 75,000 tonnes of textile waste is recycled into raw materials for the automotive, furniture, mattress, course yarn, home furnishings, paper and an assortment of other industries...including the creative artistic and fashion community.

So forget about buying new togs for holidays or birthdays. Recycle those old togas and tie-dyed t-shirts. Give them a new life as a restyled garment for a positive-planet-thinker!

The Goddess of Green Guff would like to remind you that, "Reduce, Reuse & Recycle doesn't work with burritos!"

The Goddess of Green Guff would like to remind you that, "Reduce, Reuse & Recycle doesn't work with burritos!"
The Goddess of Green Guff would like to remind you that, "Reduce, Reuse & Recycle doesn't work with burritos!"

Crazy Cast-Off Critters!

Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves
Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves

Why not have some fun with your cast-off fabric and fuddy-duddy clothes?

Stupid Sock Creatures: Making Quirky, Lovable Figures from Cast-off Socks
Stupid Sock Creatures: Making Quirky, Lovable Figures from Cast-off Socks

These crazy critters can be created in all shapes and sizes.

Stray Sock Sewing: Making One of a Kind Creatures from Socks
Stray Sock Sewing: Making One of a Kind Creatures from Socks

Stray Sock Day never was so much fun -- especially when you can create your very own silly sox!

Happy Gloves: Charming Softy Friends Made from Colorful Gloves
Happy Gloves: Charming Softy Friends Made from Colorful Gloves

Your mismatched menagerie wouldn't be complete without all manner or gorgeous glove galloots.



"Where recycling moves from your curbside to your inside." --

Okay, so she doesn't stitch and sew but Rosie Reindeer knows recycle old Christmas tunes. - Besides, who needs more clothes when you live in the North Pole?


Image Credit: - 2008 card


So, what can you do with some darned-if-I-know-what-to-do-with-those-old-denim-pants and a few funky buttons?

Well, foxyfindings, probably has the answer -- turn them into a Silly Stocking for Santa to fill of course!


Clothes (Recycling and Re-using Materials)
Clothes (Recycling and Re-using Materials)

How to recycle rags for fun and flair.

Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads into Street Couture
Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads into Street Couture

Remant-Bin-Divers and Yard-Sale Enthusiasts will adore this one!

Fashion DIY: 30 Ways to Craft Your Own Style
Fashion DIY: 30 Ways to Craft Your Own Style

Recommended by the Duchess of Deconstructing Duds.


BEWARE OF BIN BANDITS! - From rags to riches ...

Never let anyone tell you that the rag trade isn't profitable. Millions of dollars are to be found in them thar piles of previously-enjoyed posh pieces of past fashion.

So, keep your eyes peeled for rag recycling bandits who are only too willing to waltz off with the contents of a competitor's recyle bin. After all, one man's trash is another's booming bin business be it copper wire or cast-off clothing.

And, if you want to do a good turn and pass along your previously-enjoyed pants, pop-top, or plaid jumper -- make sure you deliver them yourself to your favorite charity or chic consignment store.


Image Credit:

FASHIONABLE FEEDBACK - Feel free to leave your ripsnorting recycled and reclaimed comments here.

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    • jenniferteacher1 profile image


      6 years ago

      I love the sock monkey dress!

    • perfumereviews lm profile image

      perfumereviews lm 

      9 years ago

      this is pretty interesting. it's getting me thinking! previously only thought about vintage restoration. but the way you put it, the limits are endless! would love to see more of this kind of clothing just for the sake of keeping the fashion world fresh, unique and diverse. but i suppose that just continues the cycle of fast re-vamps that you lament. ah the conundrum. ;) great work!

    • sunnysumersmile profile image


      9 years ago

      Hey this lens is great! I loved reading it, and I love remaking my clothing! Check out my lens where I've put up some of my stuff at

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Your lens would be a great addition to the 'Fashion - Fashion Models' Group

      ( )

      Feel free to add it anytime!

    • greenerme profile image


      10 years ago

      Great ideas, welcome to the Million Ways to Go Green group!

    • EmmaCooper LM profile image

      EmmaCooper LM 

      10 years ago

      Great lens!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Love this lens :-)

    • dahlia369 profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a fun and useful lens - great job! It's a pleasure to have a lens like this one the first to join my new Healthy Living group. Thank you! :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Love those gum boots! :D


    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 

      10 years ago from Croatia

      Great lens with lots of cool ideas!

      Glad to have you in Reuse it all!> group!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I would love to have you in my Fashion Diva Group!

      Fashion Diva's on Squidoo


      Hollywood Glam on a Budget

    • Lewister profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      So how would I actually go about recycling my clothing? Should I just continue to give it to Goodwill and then let them sell it to a recycler? Want to know that it's getting there rather than a landfill. Great lens as always!!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What a neat lens. Here's 5-Stars for you! Please feel free to stop by my Unique Handmade Jewelry Lens.



      Handmade Beaded Jewelry Gallery


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