Fall may be all about leaves, pumpkins, caramel apples and football, but I also see it as a heyday for reuse clothing– it’s the second busiest clean-out-the-closet season and prime time for garage sales thanks to (usually) nice weather. Before you donate or sell your unwanted clothes, here are some reasons you might want to hang on to a few items–or hit those garage or thrift store sales in search of the perfect piece:
Who needs to buy something new, expensive and elaborate (or, if it’s a big box costume store, expensive and oh-so-cheaply made) to have a costume you may only wear one time? As I’ve been thinking back on the best/most liked costumes I’ve ever worn (and the best worn by friends and family members), they’ve all had one thing in common– all of them were created mainly with stuff we/they already had on hand. True, you can usually do that primarily when you’re dressing up as a famous human being and not as easily when you want to be Spiderman or a Star Wars storm trooper, but…(and apologies to my nerd friends out there), science fiction and comic character costumes are a dime a dozen. No matter how hard you work at getting it just right and how much money you pour into it, chances are you won’t be the only one at the party going as that character…it’s much more fun, at least to me, to see someone dressed as Amy Winehouse or Johnny Rose or, in the case of my brother and his wife, a walking, talking, basket of dirty laundry and a washing machine. (Yes, he took a plastic laundry basket, cut holes in the bottom for his legs, filled it with old clothes and put a pair of his old underwear over his head, with eyes cut out for the eyes; she got a large box and cut it/decorated it to look like a washing machine, with her head sticking out of the top and legs out the bottom. They looked hilarious!) There are links online such as here and here for last-minute DIY ideas (some of the ideas are actually reaallly bad but if you sift through, you might find something that will work); to come up with an idea on your own, start with a.) Who do you resemble, past or present, or who is someone you could pull off pretty well with just a wig, some makeup and your own clothing or a few thrift store pieces? Think broadly– musicians, sports figures, politicians, movie/TV characters, advertising icons, YouTubers/other social media stars, comedians, etc.; or try b.) What types of clothing do you have on hand that might be a launch pad for creating a character? A lot of blue jeans? Sports jerseys? A little black dress? A tux? If you’re completely stuck, you can always go in-person or online to a costume store for inspiration and then think about which of your favorites would be the easiest to re-create on your own.
But, if you end up buying a brand new costume (and, let’s face it, sometimes that’s just the easiest), at least save it to use parts or all of it again someday, or donate it to charity, or sell it on Nextdoor or another online selling site. In case you missed my earlier post about it, textile recycling is a thing, and yes that black felt witch hat or those striped witch socks can benefit certain charities like Goodwill even if they don’t re-sell them in a thrift store– they can sell them to a textile recycler. Leftover costumes can also be used in a kids’ dress-up box or trunk, or used to make a scarecrow (see below).
While the “farmer look” seems to be the going dress code for scarecrows, why limit yourself to just blue jeans/overalls, a long sleeved shirt and old boots when it comes to reusing clothes in order to make one? Really, the sky’s the limit these days– you could make a “Scary Aunt Judy” version with an old bathrobe, curlers in her hair and a hand raised holding an old frying pan, or how about something like “Greg the Drummer,” as seen in the Samuel Greg Garden in England. (For more inspiration, check out photos from one of the many scarecrow festivals held all over the world that you can find online, such as the annual Cambria Scarecrow Festival in Cambria, CA.) And, perched on a stake in a garden isn’t the only place to put a scarecrow– my oldest daughter’s Girl Scout troop once made and sold “porch scarecrows” as a fundraiser, scarecrows that can sit in a chair, and while I thought, “Who would buy these??” they sold out! (We still have ours, and as corny as “he” is, I love sitting him outside every year.) Click here for directions to make a similar one, from Jenna Marceau at the Wichita MomSM blog (I especially like her option of foregoing straw stuffing for alternatives like plastic grocery bags, as straw can diminish over time and attract rodents…I will probably re-stuff ours that way someday).
Usually if any of my sweaters end up getting a nonremovable stain on them, they end up in my clothing donation bag (because again, some nonprofits sell lightly stained clothing to textile recyclers), but now I’m going to start cutting up those sweaters and saving the unstained parts, because I recently discovered a really easy way to reuse them–sweater pumpkins! There all different types of directions and video tutorials on the internet on how to make sweater pumpkins; some instructions such as here at Mama Dares to DIY on YouTube involve no sewing at all while the YouTube video here from Confessions of a Serial DIYer has one step that involves minimal, simple hand sewing using a large needle and embroidery thread. You basically cut sections of a sweater’s sleeve or main body and either stretch them around an existing “dollar store” pumpkin, or turn the sweater piece inside out, tie off the bottom,” turn it back right side out to create a “pouch” (with the bottom tie-off now hidden inside), fill the pouch with stuffing, gather the top edges all together, tie it off and wrap with twine to create the stem, and use the needle and thread to create the pumpkin “ripples”.
Both types involve the use of a glue gun (a great tool to have on hand, btw, even if you don’t consider yourself very crafty). Both types of pumpkins can also be made using an old flannel shirt or T-shirt, with the same directions, although I think the shirt pieces work best using the directions that involve stuffing and sewing. And, you can still donate the leftovers from the project to charities that benefit from textile recycling. Another fun fact: If the sweater or shirt is 100% wool or cotton, its remnants can even be cut up and put into a compost bin or pile.
I’d love to hear about your best DIY costumes and/or scarecrows that either you’ve made or seen. And if you like Untrash, please subscribe (see signup on side bar or below) and help spread the word by sharing on social media!