Somebody Else's Periwinkle Blue Skinny Jeans, Made Minecomments (5) January 20th, 2009
Lately, we’ve all been hearing tons about how to shop in your own closet and make the most out of what you already own. The idea is that you don’t need to buy new clothes when the old ones in the back of your closet have the potential to feel new again when looked upon with fresh eyes. This type of thinking not only saves you money but also helps to save the Earth by practicing the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
Adding your friends' closets to the mix can make this practice even more exciting and can exponentially increase your odds for creating cute new outfits for yourself. A group of my friends in Austin have a big clothes swap each January, and it is definitely the event we all wait for each year. We each clean out our closets and get together party-style with all of our unwanted items. Our favorite method for organizing the swap is to gather all the clothes in the middle of the living room by size—one pile each for small, medium, and large items, and then a separate pile for shoes and accessories. We draw numbers to organize ourselves into groups of three, then each group gets three minutes to rummage through the clothes and grab a maximum of five items. We have a stopwatch and everything; it is very official. We cycle through the groups a few times and then have a free-for-all where anyone can take anything she wants. Whatever is left over goes to a charity shop the next day. It is so super fun, and by the end of the night we always end up in a giggle-fest, dancing around in ridiculous outfits culled from the piles of clothes.
There are plenty of reasons why clothes move to the back of the closet. Some may just be stinkers, but more often than not, items are just the wrong size, the wrong color, or have a silhouette that doesn’t flatter your particular body or taste. Handing these clothes over to new, happy owners can immediately give them new life. Other back-of-the-closet clothing might suffer from minor flaws like a missing button, a broken zipper, or a split seam. If you have a crafty disposition and know how to sew, you have a distinct advantage when attending clothes swaps because anything can be a potential score for you. If it is the wrong size, you might be able to alter it. If it has a broken seam, you can repair it. If it is the wrong color, perhaps you can dye it or embellish it. If you like the fabric print but don’t like the style, you can cut it up and restyle it into something completely new.
At this year’s clothes swap, I scored big time. I practically got a whole new wardrobe for $0. The pile I took home included three jackets, a pair of jeans, two hoodies, a leotard, bike shorts, six skirts, five T-shirts/tank tops, six blouses, a sweater dress, a pair of boots, two pairs of shoes, a belt, and a purse. Wowzer! What makes it even more amazing is that most of the clothes are soooooooo cool and ready to be worn, like my new vintage, mod jacket or my new Betsey Johnson blouse. There are a few items, though, that need a little work. Several of the skirts I picked up simply because I knew I could make something out of them. I’ve been on the hunt for fabric to make myself a new pencil skirt and was very excited to find a superlong skirt made with quality black stretch fabric. Score!
My favorite find of the night was a pair of periwinkle blue Levi’s skinny jeans. I found them during the free-for-all, and my heart skipped a beat when I spotted them untouched at the bottom of the pile. I immediately began praying to the swap gods that the jeans would fit me. As is customary during our clothes swaps, I tried them on in the middle of the room and was delighted to hear many oohs, ahhs, and praises for how good my butt looked in them. Hooray, they fit! However, as you probably know, skinny jeans are not always the most comfortable jeans in the world, and I definitely felt the sausage-esque squeeze when I tried to move around.
When I got them home I realized the jeans were made with organic cotton (neat!) and 1% spandex, which means they will stretch a little bit after I wear them. Still though, I wondered if I could possibly make them a little bit bigger. I noticed that the side seams were made with a plain 1/2-inch unbound open seam, which meant that I could easily alter them to make them slightly bigger. Most jeans are made using flat-fell seams because they are superstrong and secure. When it comes to altering clothes with flat-fell seams though, it is a bit of a pain since you have to remove tons of topstitching and when you sew it all back together it is hard to get the same look. That is why I was happy to find that only the inseams of my jeans were flat fell.
Letting out open, unbound seams to give yourself a little more room in a garment is oh so easy:
1. Remove any topstitching that might be holding your seams in place. In my case, I had one short line of topstitching to remove on the outside of my jeans.
2. Turn the garment inside out, and pin the seam allowances together along the area you want to let out. I decided I just needed a little bit of room in the hip area.
3. Grab a piece of chalk or a fabric pencil, and draw a new stitching line within the seam allowance. You don’t want to get too close to the raw edge of the fabric though; otherwise you risk busting the seam open the next time you wear the garment. A good rule of thumb is not to get closer than 1/4 inch to the raw edge. It is also important to make sure that your new stitching line tapers gently to meet the original seamline at both ends so that you don’t have a weird blip on the outside of your garment.
4. Using a regular stitch length, follow your chalk marks, making sure to backstitch at the start and stop of the stitch line. If your garment is snug, like my jeans, you might consider stitching over this area twice, for security.
5. Remove the original stitching to free up the new space using a seam ripper.
6. Press open the new seam. Enjoy your space!
One other aspect of the jeans that was bothering me was that they were a little too long. I kind of liked the way they scrunched at the hem, but after trying them on with several pairs of my favorite shoes, I decided to make them shorter. Since my jeans don't taper or flare at the hem, I was able to easily shorten them in just a couple of minutes. If you have a pair of straight-leg jeans, you can hem them super-quick:
1. Try on your jeans and mark with chalk or pins the bottom edge of your desired hem. Take them off and measure the distance from the current hem to the desired hem.
2. If the distance isn’t too great (within a couple of inches), simply turn the jeans inside out, fold up and pin the hem to your desired length, and stitch it in place by slipping the jeans over the free-arm area of your sewing machine, keeping the original clean edge of the hem intact. This way, if you want to let out the hem in the future, it will be as easy as removing a few stitches.
3. If you need to take up a large amount of the hem, trim the jeans so that the hem is 1-1/2 inches longer than your desired length. Turn the jeans inside out, fold the raw edge up 1/2 inch, and press. Fold the hem up another 1 inch, pin, and stitch it in place along the first folded edge by slipping the jeans over the free-arm area of your sewing machine.
I'm thrilled to have a new pair of jeans that I love. I have a feeling I am going to be wearing these all the time, for a very long time.
Now it's your turn! Get all your best girlfriends together and swap till you drop!