DIY Earth Day fashion from head to toe

Have you seen those T-shirts boasting an eco-message of "Live Green. Think Green," but not made from organic cotton? If you want to match your fashion with your message, try taking a green approach to your look with sustainable materials.

Designers such as Ada Zanditon, Kizzy Jai Knight and Leanne Marshall use sustainable fabrics, but their high-end looks probably soar above most college students' budgets. Using recycled materials in a handmade look not only gives you some creative control, but it saves some materials from the landfill. I put together a head-to-toe handcrafted look using as many recycled materials as possible.
I took on crafting a headband, necklace and dress. For footwear, I enlisted the help of DePauw University student and crafter, Stacie Grissom, who runs her own blog and Etsy store, Stars for Streetlights. I started by scouring some craft tutorial websites to find ideas for my green look. Grissom came up with a way to handcraft a pair of pricey designer wedges herself. Grissom and I have a similar approach to fashion.

"As a college kid, I don't have a large budget so I am always haunting thrift stores and scouring the internet for DIY ideas," she says. "For me, altering clothes makes looking through fashion magazines and street style sites so much more fun because if I can't afford something, then I try and think how to make it".

This tutorial is on the craft blog, Mary Janes and Galoshes, but it comes courtesy of fellow craft blogger, Blue Eyed Freckle. I modified the design slightly by eliminating the felt strips and just using ruffles and elastic.

My materials for this: the sleeve from a t-shirt that I bought from the thrift store for my dress and the elastic waistband on an old pair of leggings. Since I had already purchased the tee for this project and owned the leggings, the cost of this project was free!

I followed the instructions and sewed the sleeve of the t-shirt into a ruffle, which ended up looking like a flower. Then I sewed my ruffle flower to the elastic band, which I had cut from the leggings. I hand sewed everything and it took me about 30 minutes.

This spike necklace, inspired by Maripolitan, is made of coffee stirrers and came from P.S. I Made This, which presents craft tutorials in a sleek, high-fashion way. This represents a refreshing take on the often visually crowded crafting websites. The original crafter used coffee stirrers taken from Dunkin Donuts, but I already had a pack of neon-colored straws that would match my neon-themed look. Rounding out my materials: a black spool of ribbon costing $2.79.

Since the tutorial is pretty much all visual with no step-by-step written instructions, I semi-improvised by laying out the straws and cutting them individually, gradually making the straws shorter. Then I took a needle and thread and sewed the straws together. I attached the black ribbon to either end of the straws, also with black thread. It took an hour to complete this project, but I'll admit to watching "Glee" while doing this, so it probably could have been done quicker.

Anytime I craft, T-shirts are my most common material, probably because I have so many and wear them so infrequently. I chose what looked like a fairly easy concept from Threadbanger, a site that provides video projects. I thought this style of tutorial would make it easier to visualize the steps.

It called for two T-shirts as materials. I hit up the thrift store on a day where everything was half-price and scored one black tee for 30 cents and a neon-yellow tee for 75 cents. I cut off the sleeves of the first shirt and then trimmed the sides so it would fit more like a dress than an oversized T-shirt. I cut off the bottom of the neon yellow shirt and pinned it to the bottom on the black shirt. I sewed them together. Then pinned and sewed the sides.

It sounds easier than it was; I not only repeatedly stabbed myself with pins while trying to fit the tee to my body, but I also spent at least 30 minutes fixing my sewing machine. I spent about two and half hours making this dress, not counting time to fetch Band-Aids.

Grissom says re-fashioning shoes is one of her favorite hobbies, so when she saw Jeffrey Campbell's "Tick" footwear posted on OustaPop, noting the push-pin-like appearance, she knew she could recreate the look. She found a reasonably priced pair of wedges for $10 on sale at Urban Outfitters. She bought three boxes of push pins from Staples for $7.50, fabric paint for $1.50 and used glue she already owned. The total cost of her look was $19.

She posted a tutorial for the look on crafting community site, Cut Out + Keep. The shoes came in a cream color, so she used turquoise fabric paint to punch up the bland look. She covered the wedge in glue and individually added 600 push pins. The total time for her to complete the look was three hours, but she admits to watching a movie while doing it. (Do I sense a theme here?)

The cost of materials for our head-to-toe look was $22.84 and the total time to create it was seven hours. So this Earth Day instead of just recycling plastic bottles, try re-fashioning a handmade look from recycled materials. If we can wear our clothes again and again, why can't we re-purpose them in a similar eco-friendly way?

Clothes to Free, appearing Thursdays, is a weekly fashion-on-a-budget column by Money College blogger Alysse Dalessandro. Send Alysse column tips at
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