Reincarnate your rags

Oct. 4, 2002, midnight | By Beth Gula | 21 years, 8 months ago

Junior Keturah Busey sits in a bright basement with a couple of school friends, brainstorming outfit ideas for their dance group. But instead of playing it safe by picking out matching tees from the mall, the girls grab old denim jackets and snatch up scissors, needles and thread to fashion coordinated yet individualized looks.

Busey and her friends are part of a recent do-it-yourself trend of teens ripping and stitching old clothes to create rejuvenated and unique styles that are reverberating in popular culture. They are not alone at Blair; according to an informal Silver Chips poll of 100 girls, 54 percent say that they have experimented with clothing make-overs.

Snip and clip

For many Blazers, vintage is less about finding decades-old dresses and more about digging up old camp shirts or outgrown jeans. Senior Mercedes Eldridge, also a member of Busey's dance group, called U*Neek, laughs, "I'll find clothes from when I was 13 and stretch them out."

When Blazers want to put an individual spin on their clothes, almost anything goes. Cutting and trimming techniques are useful and relatively simple, like snipping big t-shirts up the side seams and tying fringes together to make a fitted, wearable top, according to Busey.

Many lady Blazers echo the sentiment that imagination can create endless style possibilities. Eldridge has made, among other products, belts out of candy wrappers, a handbag from denim jeans and a cutoff jean miniskirt for a friend.

Freshman Amina Hassen once made a skirt from an old pillowcase. However, the item isn't particularly practical for her. "I don't wear it because it's a little poofy," she explains, adding, "[The skirt's] for someone who's bigger."

Clothing contrast

This sort of innovation is prevalent as teens seek to formulate new styles for various reasons. While only 11 percent of Blazers said saving money was one of the main motivations for renewing clothes, 37 percent reported that they recycle their clothes to put a new spin on outworn threads. Another 33 percent responded that were attracted to the unique style of their homemade attire.

Appearances can reflect an individual's personality, says freshman Emma Hutchinson. Waving her arms frenetically while describing her technique of scribbling on shirts with thick fabric markers, she says, "I like to do crazy stuff because I'm crazy like that."

Setting oneself apart from the thousands of teens wearing ubiquitous brand-name clothing in Blair's hallways is appealing as well. Busey sits at a crowded SAC table during lunch. Gesturing her hand across the bustling scene, she declares, "I don't want to dress like all these people here."

Unvaried individuality

But finding similar styles in mall retailers is becoming less of a challenge as mainstream culture is beginning to embrace retro and homespun style. Abercrombie advertises "vintage wash" tees, American Eagle sells pre-cut shirts and XOXO's Hippie Chic collection includes a $59 patchwork denim skirt. Junior Diane Le recalls commenting on a friend's shirt that had cutoff strip sleeves. "I asked her if she made it. She was like, ‘No, I bought it!'" she recounts, laughing.

Even used clothes are being bought at high prices. The Urban Outfitters in Georgetown, a trendy chain store with upscale prices, features an Urban Renewal line. The Urban Renewal clothing supply acquires thrift store items from around the country to design distinct and diverse products–including skirts from tablecloths and belts from ties–that are becoming increasingly well received. "We're more popular now than ever," Leann Greto, a Renewal assistant buyer emphasizes. "People are getting more and more used to wearing vintage."

Urban Outfitters' Renewal items, such as a $39 neighborhood softball jersey with sleeves spliced from a separate basketball tee, are similar to those Blazers are making themselves. Some, like Eldridge, would prefer to imitate store designs at home if possible before opening their wallets.

For some trendy teens, saving money is only the beginning. Seventeen magazine recently featured, along with DIY projects like "Go with the Faux" fake fur-trimming tips, the work of two New York girls who began altering and decorating vintage shirts for fun and now sell their designs on the Internet for up to $165 each.

Although turning a renewal project into the latest get-rich-quick scheme might not be the most foolproof plan, more and more Blazers are catching on to the notion that thinking twice before throwing away those dusty rec soccer jerseys at the back of the closet might just be an en vogue investment.

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Beth Gula. Beth Gula is junior in the Communication Arts Program, and she enjoys playing Blair soccer and lacrosse (yeah lax!). Reading, listening to music, and hanging out with friends are all ways she spends rare free time. Random favorites include Weezer, cheesecake, the Baltimore Aquarium, and … More »

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