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Don’t just recycle — ‘upcycle’ your wardrobe!

Today Style editor Bobbie Thomas has new ways to rethink, reuse and repurpose everything from unworn clothing to old duvet covers.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Environmental concerns have inspired style-savvy individuals to be creative with old items and materials, resulting in fabulous fresh fashion ideas that also reduce waste. From making reusable bags out of old duvet covers to using cassette tapes to create neckties, and even turning your ex’s jeans into a brand-new tote, it’s time to look at your everyday items in a whole new light! These designers and brands are bound to inspire you to upcycle what’s old rather than discarding it.

Bobbie Thomas, TODAY Style editor and author of the Buzz column for In Touch Weekly, shows you how to update your wardrobe while helping to prevent waste.

Bag it forward
According to, more than 1 million plastic bags are consumed per minute globally. Supermarkets are still using plastic bags at a rapid rate, but in an effort to accelerate the reusable bag campaign, there is a growing community trying to help. Morsbag makers are citizens around the world who create bags out of old duvet covers, clothes and curtains, and then pass them out to others as an alternative to plastic bags. Each bag is estimated to replace hundreds of plastic bags in its lifetime. It takes no more than 20 minutes to make a bag, and pods of people in every community are designing their own do-good totes. Whether you hand them out to friends and family or offer them to shoppers at your local grocery store, this is a great way to get your friends together, get involved and give back this holiday season.

Fashion face-lift
Patricia Ordonez doesn’t want you to part with your favorite old fashions that no longer feel fabulous — she wants you to get inspired to turn them into fresh frocks with just a few minor updates. As owner of PattyO Designs, she prides herself on repurposing anything from a bland blouse to a stained skirt, and her latest project starts with a pair of jeans. Just send her some old denim, and a few weeks later it will be turned into a tote with the words “My Ex’s Jeans” proudly printed on the front. Now if only we could find a way to upcycle the men! But whether you’re inspired to go to your local tailor and tweak something on your own, or hand over your would-be hand-me-downs to someone like Patty, it’s time to take a second look at your garments.

Sound of style
Both music and environmental enthusiasts will be blown away by artist Alyce Santoro’s audible neckties. Woven from recorded audiocassette tape and polyester thread, Alyce refers to the Sonic Fabric as “wearable art,” and has used it to create everything from shaman-superhero dresses to classic men’s ties. And just for fun — the sounds contained in the weave can actually be heard by drawing a tape head over its surface. Now that’s music to my ears!

Collective closet exchange
You may be able to borrow from your best friend’s wardrobe, but now imagine you can shop in a stranger’s closet! ThredUp lets you do just that. Considered the Netflix of clothing (but eco-friendly too!), ThredUp helps you trade anonymously by matching your preferences with members’ descriptions of their items. All you have to do is purchase envelopes (3 for $25), insert your unwanted clothing item inside, and put it in the mail. Days later, a new-to-you item will arrive at your door. A convenient and fun way to refresh your closet for free!

Community crafts
And last but not least, one of the largest platforms for upcycled goods is, an online marketplace that connects shoppers with independent creators and designers of handmade goods. More than 3.3 million buyers and sellers are using to either find or sell handmade and reworked vintage items. And with amazing designs like Giant Dwarf’s headpieces made from recycled sweaters, Another Feather’s adornments made from discarded timepieces and more, SpoonerZ’s jewelry made from old silverware, Zippinning’s flower brooches made from vintage zippers and Sparrow Nest Knits made from recycled plastic bottles, it’s easy to understand why. These handmade items are haute!