Kate Soar is sharing her story on how she found the perfect denim shorts for zero cost (and with zero impact). A story about easy upcycling.

When the weather changes and the blossom appears and new fashions all around us are ushering in the new looks of the season – those long floaty floral dresses, the cropped cardigan, the platform sandals – we get it. The itch.  The niggling feeling of not having enough. The magnet pull to our favourite online shop, to every shop we pass. 

This year was the same as all the others. Except that the global pandemic had me without most of my usual income and clothes did not make it onto the list of essential items. I went through my wardrobe and carefully considered what I needed to get through and the two things that came up trumps were a pair of shorts and a new pair of sandals.

I had in my mind the perfect pair of shorts – mom style, mid-thigh length, classy. I began looking at all the ethical brands online that I knew of and all the shorts were either extremely short or black and boring. I broadened my search to (don’t judge me) slightly less ethical but still organic cotton – still no joy. I had given up hope and was wearing a pair of navy shorts bought 6 years ago in a TK Maxx practically every day until one day my partner Dan asked me to make him some shorts.

I do this every year. I don’t even know why I do it for him – he could definitely do it himself. But I take his old jeans and I cut them off with my sharp sewing scissors. It’s something my Mum used to do for my brothers growing up.

That’s when I had the brain wave – why couldn’t I do this too? I dug out an old pair of Zara mom jeans which had stretched beyond being flattering. I gave them a hot wash and a tumble dry to shrink them a little and then I cut them off at the perfect mid-thigh classy length. I’d made my dream pair of shorts at zero cost!

I think there is so much in our own wardrobes that we don’t even realise is there. It really helps me at the start of each new season, when I’m getting the itch, to just get everything out and look through it. You find old favourites that way and pieces you’re ready to part ways with and occasionally things that you can chop up with scissors and give a new lease of life to.

There’s more joy to be found in filling the hole in your wardrobe with a creative solution than the limited joy you feel if you just throw money at the problem. Clothes we buy have a certain amount of joy. But clothes we make or clothes we recreate or clothes we discover somehow have a sense of pride about them that you don’t get with scrolling and clicking.

How do we recover a sense of pride in our clothes? Well ideally every piece has a story that’s not just “Hey I love that dress” “Thanks, I got it from Zara”. That’s the end of the conversation, there’s not much else to say. But the conversation that goes “Hey I love that dress” “Thanks I made it from some fabric I found in a flea market when I was travelling in Portugal…” That’s a story. That sparks something. 

And that’s not to say we don’t buy anything. I did buy some sandals in the end from a shop around the corner which I discovered only recently. I was looking for a specific pair online in my size, came across the shop, emailed them, the owner phoned me and an hour later I walked out of the shop wearing them! Shopping locally and independently, particularly during a time like this when so many businesses are struggling is a good story too. One filled with connectedness and a sense of pride.

Ideally, the story would stretch all the way back to the person who made the clothes or the farm where the cotton was grown. The sense of pride should begin there – with organic farming methods and fair wages.

So that’s how I plugged my wardrobe gaps this Spring. I won’t tell you about the jumper I bought on a whim online and then sent back because it didn’t fit because, well, it’s not a good story and I’m not proud of it! But I’ll go on and on about the shorts I made. Do you have any stories of clothes transformed or bought in special circumstances that you’re proud of?

Three dares

  1. I dare you to upcycle or recreate an item of clothing in your wardrobe. Fun things I’ve tried recently are turning leggings into cycling shorts and a dress into a sweater.
  2. I dare you, when you see a hole in your wardrobe, ask yourself – is there a creative solution to this that I’m missing? 
  3. I dare you, when the season changes and you get the itch – wait, pull out everything you own, and fill the gaps with beautiful, colourful stories.
Kate has worked in travel and hospitality all her life and now does freelance communications and marketing for charities and start-ups. She’s an avid cook, writer and dabbler in all sorts of creative projects from fabric printing to making her own cosmetics. Since moving to Bristol, UK five years ago, Kate has been inspired to make creative changes to reduce waste, eat more consciously and live more sustainably. She loves the simple things in life, championing sustainable brands and discovering small ways to join in with the movement to better love and care for our planet. You can find her on Instagram @katesoar

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