Learn How SIMPLE
Digital Patterns Really Are!

Sign Up to Receive
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sewing Patterns eBook + a FREE Skirt Pattern!


Are you a recessionista, an upcycler, a vintage seeker, a recycler or reclaimer of fashion? The current economic atmosphere has led many artists, crafters and designers to cut corners and get creative by using reusing existing resources. This trend has it’s merits of course, but do you think it will last?

The picture above features some silk from the body of gorgeous work by Resurrection Rags and the amazing work of young designer Rachael Cassar.

Everyone seems to be “going green” these days, from Barney’s to bath tissue companies to banks. Some believe it to be a fleeting trend, while others see it as a global, permanent shift in consciousness. “Going green” is an extremely broad topic, so since we, at BurdaStyle, are people who sew, I thought it would be interesting to glimpse at some recycled and reclaimed fashion pieces, as they don’t always look that way…

Maison Martin Margiela, one of my favorite design houses, has been fond of reclamation since the 80s. “We first adopted this approach for our inaugural collection for Spring/Summer 1989 and it has been an integral and important element of each and every one of our collections since.”

Their approach, to me, is certainly more avant-garde and conceptual than the others. “This quest to transform garments is born from a wish to treat the strictures of the structure of a particular garment as a design challenge”. MM

Rei Kawakubo, of Comme des Garcon, has also been working with reclaimed garments and dry goods for years. In her Fall 2009 collection tailcoats were superimposed on larger greatcoats. Sections of khaki fatigues, and military tents & jackets, were collaged in. Ethnic blanket prints became involved, too.

Denim Dress, made from 41 pairs of Levi 501’s by innovative eco-conscious designer Gary Harvey.

Rachael Cassar, in my opinion, is one of those designers working with reclaimed materials who really does it well. Her clothing speaks of couture and high-end embellishing— it doesn’t look dull in the monotone way eco-friendly or recycled clothing can, it looks fine and exciting. Read a nice interview with Rachael here.

Sid Vintage Jewelry. One glance at these reclaimed ‘tangled’ creations will clue you in as to why designer Nanci Bennett has really ‘caught the eye’ of eco-fashion connoisseurs and style mavens everywhere.


  • Missing

    Nov 11, 2013, 02.48 PMby andyloverock

    @ruthw, you are absolutely right they don’t need to be desperate for attention. I found much better fashionable things on Intercollection webiste.
  • Missing

    Nov 11, 2013, 02.47 PMby andyloverock

    @ruthw, you are absolutely right they don’t need to be desperate for attention. I found much better fashionable things on Intercollection webiste.
  • Tabyaby1_large

    Jan 3, 2011, 07.32 PMby tabyaby

    If you’re upcycling, I find it’s just somehow more a work of art which I like. Nothing will turn out equally except you have from two different pieces many… :) In my case so far I made different things out of others – check out my studio – but it wasn’t as special as the things you showed in your blog… inspiring, thank you

  • Missing

    Jan 3, 2011, 12.33 PMby floresca11

    anyone sick of carrying a bag can wear the jean dress. it doesn’t have a shortage of pockets. it looks lovely nonetheless. can’t imagine what those models in the lacy dresses are feeling. if they wore something underneath those dresses would look amazzing but i guess that would be the advertising gimmick. get people to share the image about the inappropriate stuff and at the same time get the dresses noticed.

  • Artfire_rrava-1_large

    Dec 28, 2010, 07.18 PMby ResurrectionRags

    Wonderful post! Thanks for the mention. The link to my upcycled fabric flower actually goes to another person’s profile on flickr and my favorites. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluebutterflyart is the link to my flickr photstream Thank you :)

  • Highschool2007_large

    Dec 24, 2010, 06.07 PMby lanni-lantto

    I’m an upcycling designer and I absolutely love it. Being able to breathe new life into items destined for the landfill- giving them the ability to get more compliments- is personally satisfying and tremendously helps our planet. I truly believe that reusing materials is going to be the way forward. Thanks for posting this topic!!!

  • Frozen_beauty_art_large

    Dec 23, 2010, 04.32 PMby marianne10

    I too think this trend will last. Its just too good to let go of. Just looking at Rachael Cassar’s wonderful creations and the dress by Gary Harvey is enough to be sure that these trends will definitely survive and continue giving new life to past creations.

  • Missing

    Dec 22, 2010, 07.52 PMby Jodi Bloom

    The link to Ressurection Rags in your article actually connects to a photo posted to flickr of a dress that I made. I’m Jodi Bloom of jewelry site So-Charmed, and also make clothing, including the linked “Broken Teacup” dress under the moniker Sew Charmed. Appreciate the link… just mentioning that it is incorrect. Great article and great to connect with other upcycling fanatics.

  • Aqua_large

    Dec 22, 2010, 05.44 PMby amandatucker

    The image that has all of the girls in white lace. The 2nd girl from the left….that was pretty nice…..otherwise there was just exposed nipples everywhere? The ring was clever also. I love upcycling, There has been some amazing stuff put out there! One of my favorite things to do that I have started doing this year was going to goodwill on the dollar days when I have a design block….I find a $1 dress or something, just to test myself. A ton of fun, and you can usually get a good laugh out of your finished look. =P

  • 20150117_152733_large

    Dec 22, 2010, 05.11 PMby mlssfshn

    Recylcing garments saved the sewing machine industry. The Seminole Indians recycled the clothing missionaries gave them to make their beautiful pactchwork, and are credited with saving the Singer home sewing industry. Recycling or upcycling garments is a part of history, be it Scarlet’s curtain dress or Andie’s prom dress, 2 movie moments that come to mind. I think recyling is here to stay, in some form or fashion.

  • Camillaakransmayatetter_large

    Dec 22, 2010, 04.35 PMby monstery

    unusual.that glove shirt. I thought I was recycing by cutting up old things,I never thought to keep them whole and just add to it like that.realy nice:]

  • Missing

    Dec 22, 2010, 06.25 AMby hlh

    Good Post. Up-cycling, recycling, what ever it’s called, it is a solid response to an overly advertised, commercialized, and expensive industry. I think it will last, there is really no need to produce more, when we have so much to work with.

  • Headshots_001_large

    Dec 22, 2010, 01.38 AMby estudio

    Love the recreations – feminine and textural. Great inspiration!

  • 100_1411_2__large

    Dec 22, 2010, 12.04 AMby pambox

    the only realy upcyclin i’ve done so far is my tie dress, but i have used sheets and the lining from a dress to line a skirt. it is something i’m keen to try, starting these holidays with a skirt to top transformation (hopefully!). i tend to like vintage and kitsch fabrics, and there’s little in the way of really fun modern kitsch fabrics but thrift shops have kitsch sheets and curtains in spades. and for really cheap too. i find lots of the upcycled and reimagined garments have such great personality too.

  • Img_6473_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 10.29 PMby AprilNicole05

    Nice article but am I the only one who wishes the girsl in the last pic were wearing a bra? The clothes are beautiful and feminine… she could get by on her design talent alone without having to show everyone some poor twenty somethings nipples!

  • Missing

    Dec 21, 2010, 09.58 PMby islandstyle

    That jean dress must weigh a TON!

  • 2b171225e53616c66742269aa47bb29a76bd142c_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 09.36 PMby branwen74

    I love that jeans dress. I’ve got some old jeans and that dress inspires me to not throw it away. Maybe I can make a nice skirt out of it.

  • Photoge01_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 08.53 PMby gedwoods

    I love the creativity present in the clothes you’ve shown us. Is this a trend? Yes, but that doesn’t mean it will pass in the short term. The world is changing around us – the economic downturn is a fluctuation, but the nature of the economy is shifting and public awareness of the need for sustainability is still growing. This “fashion” is a fluctuation, but on top of a much deeper, global, shift in our world that goes in the same direction. Being aware of the need for balance between new and recycled is not going to go away anytime soon.

  • Dana_senior_session-dana_senior_session-0112_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 08.31 PMby dannygirl101

    Meh, I’m not so keen on any of these so-called ‘up-cycled’ clothes. Seems more ‘down-cycled’ to me. Also, I’m not so keen on all the lace and sheer tops of Rachael Cassar. Can;t you put something on under them?!?!?!?!?!?!

  • 5196510037_0646d0f80e_o_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 07.42 PMby kelepso

    I love upcycling clothes. I find it to be so much fun, because it requires you to think outside of the box and to invent something very unique, using something that was once ordinary. Additionally, second hand clothes, sheets, etc at thrift stores are so affordable. I love garments and fabrics with character anyway, so upcycling is a great hobby for me.

  • Sdc11624_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 05.33 PMby missycas17

    That jean dress is wow!

  • Photo_1_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 04.59 PMby synthetase

    I’m always thinking this way. It’s why i can’t bring myself to get rid of clothing and spend 30 minutes taking a zipper out of jeans. That or I’m crazy. :p

  • Missing

    Dec 21, 2010, 04.43 PMby Minato Munna

    Hello, welcome to our new n unique fashion Silver Jewellery

    In our collection of handmade necklaces, you can find the right piece for every event and mood; from short and elegant to long and bohemian, from loxurious gemstone inlayed pieces to gentle goldfilled ones, and more.

  • 9ea300614a3421df473f4ee5d290dd398b9d967a_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 04.14 PMby bodicegoddess589

    I’ve only bought 2 or 3 new clothing items this year. I’m pretty proud of myself, actually. I went into 2010 trying not to buy anything new – only making new clothes from fabric, buying secondhand or a combination of the two. I actually ended up donating 2 loads of laundry to Goodwill this year, too. It’s kind of liberating.

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Dec 21, 2010, 08.30 PMby alisondahl

      Wow, that’s impressive. I also donated many clothes to Goodwill and a clothing swap this year, it felt so great to be rid of those pieces lurking in my closet that I have grown tired of— but someone new will come along and bring them back to life.

  • Amelia_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 03.28 PMby kimberleejean

    I think this has always been done, regardless of whether designers are doing it at the moment, and it is definitely a trend that people on the street, as opposed to designers, can take credit for.

    I lovingly remember my friends and I in the late 80s/early 90s making our own punk/goth outfits (these were the better days before pre-packaged punk stores). We’d scour Goodwill, antique stores, army/navy, and regular retail places then cut, sew, dye, write on, etc. I loved it!

    1 Reply
    • Cali_large

      Dec 23, 2010, 06.31 PMby threadsquare

      Totally agreed! It’s always been around, and is now just a bit more mainstream, and has worked its way to high-end.

  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Dec 21, 2010, 03.01 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I’m not sure today’s re-use is nearly as clever as what was done in war-torn France in the 1940s. They truly had little to work with and everything they did was very clever. While we’re in a recession, stateside we haven’t seen the effects of the war overseas and there is no rationing going on…yet.

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post


  • Editors' Pick
  • Pattern Collections
  • BurdaStyle Academy
  • Burda Challenge
  • Backstage Report
  • Fashion & Trends
  • DIY to Try
  • Tips & Techniques
  • Member Highlights
  • Sewing Projects
  • Outta Town
  • Contests & Competitions
  • Archive
  • Guest Columns
  • Videos
  • Meg's Magazine Mash Up
  • As Seen In
  • Podcast
  • Holiday