Fashion emergency: 'Rescue' old clothes from heading to landfills, becoming toxic waste

'Creative Living' host Jane Clauss coined term 'upcrafting'

Tracy Butler Image
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Sustainable fashion: Ideas on how to 'rescue' your old clothes
There's a fashion emergency happening in your closet!

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Sustainability starts in your closet.

"Creative Living" host and WLS radio personality Jane Clauss coined the term "upcrafting" and has been repurposing clothes and items since before it was cool.

But she's no "plain" Jane. Clauss has several ways to turn a fashionista into a climate change warrior.

SEE ALSO: Building A Better Chicago: Our Climate sustainable fashion tips

Most of our old clothes could be reused or recycled, but instead about 85% ends up in landfills. In fact, the average item of clothing is worn only 14 times.

Those statistics translate to waste. The clothing industry accounts for 10% of the world's carbon emissions and 20% of the world's wastewater. According to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt.

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It doesn't stop there. During the decomposition process, textiles generate greenhouse methane gas and leach toxic chemicals and dyes into the groundwater and our soil.

Clauss said to upcraft, you can reuse just about any clothing item.

The wasteful fashion industry doesn't have to cramp your style. "Creative Living" host Jane Clauss shows us ideas for how to upcycle our old clothes.

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"Second-hand items or a once-loved garment can be rescued by adding new design elements and customization from painting, embellishments and embroidery," Clauss said.

How to get started

-Raid your closet, yard sales, and thrift store for unique finds and unwanted treasures.

-Get inspired by books, magazines, street fashion and let your imagination run free.

-Remember there are no mistakes when you're being creative.

Refashioning tips to remember

-Anyone can do it! If you can sew on a machine, hand stitch, glue, pin, fusible fabric.

-Don't be afraid to cut into the garment.

-Use the shape: if you already have a basic shape, use it; if there's a waistband, use that and build around it.

-Save your scraps!

For more information about Jane Clauss and "upcrafting," go to or find her on Instagram and Facebook @JaneMonzuresClauss, Pinterest @DIYbyJane, and Threads @JaneClauss. You can also listen to her podcast "Creative Living" with Jane Clauss.