A thrifty young woman has saved hundreds of pounds buying charity shop clothes and transforming them into her own custom-made garments.
She’s gone as far as to turn a skirt into a top and tracksuit bottoms into a bucket hat.
Emily Harrison, a 22-year-old shop assistant from Leicestershire, has spent no more than £15.50 on a single charity shop item over the last five years, but normally averages out to £6 or less.
She will hunt through charity shops, such as Cancer Research UK, RSPCA and Dogs Trust, to find a bargain.
Then she will use her sewing skills to change the item to make it more suitable for her, which has saved her hundred of pounds.
After learning to sew by watching her grandmother Betty at work, Emily has transformed a £1 woollen skirt into a strappy top with a crossover back detail, and a £1.50 nightdress into a cut-out summer midi dress.
‘I’ve never really been one to be wanting designer things,’ Emily said.
‘I wouldn’t personally go out and buy something for £100 because I feel like I’m always thinking about the value of money.
‘So, if you buy a top for £100, think how much you could get for that in a charity shop, or online on Vinted, or something like that.
‘If I was to buy a top for £100, I’d be thinking, well, I could have got so much more for this one thing that you can only wear a couple of times.’
Emily believes second-hand fashion is ‘so important’ – for the sustainability, money-saving potential and for fostering creativity.
She gets inspiration for her designs from browsing in shops and platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.
‘I’ve always had it in my mind that, if I see something in a shop, I’ll think, I’ll have a go at making that – I always find the cheaper option of doing things,’ Emily said.
‘There’s so much out there that’s second-hand that’s in perfect condition, brand new, for a fraction of the price you would have paid brand new for it.
‘I think it’s just really about raising awareness about second-hand fashion because it’s just so important, especially given the cost-of-living crisis – it will really help.’
She’s always loved fashioning her own garments, and got her first sewing machine when she was 12 years old.
At school she studied textiles, but she only properly started making her own clothes in the last two years.
After learning basic sewing techniques at school, and she developed her knowledge and skills by watching videos on YouTube.
‘It’s been hit and miss with my own clothes, but I’ll have an image in my mind, and I’ll think, no matter what or how long it takes me to get there, I will get there.’ Emily said.
Her creations ‘aren’t all perfect’, but she loves making one-of-a-kind garments, and she will use only the materials from her charity shop finds or clothing she already owns.
On one occasion, she bought second-hand tablecloth material for £1.99 and made a turquoise shoulder bag, and she also modified some old, worn Puma tracksuit bottoms for £1 into a bucket hat.
She even bought an oversized men’s shirt for £3.50 and transformed it into a halter-neck dress.
Emily said she’s trying to find ‘the most extreme flip’ to show others that ‘you can make anything out of anything’.
Emily also enjoys teaching others how to sew.
This led to her starting her own TikTok account in February 2022, and loves seeing positive reactions from people.
‘It’s always nice to see hard work (paying off) because it does take a while (to make my TikToks),’ Emily said.
‘Those clips will be for 10 seconds, but actually, it’s taken about a week to do because it’s so hit and miss, and there are so many mistakes that you can make.
‘To see people, saying, “this looks good”, or to see your views go up and people commenting nice things, it gives you a push to keep going and to make more.’
She also says you’re giving ‘to a good cause’ by shopping in charity shops.
For those who may be hesitant, or who are not sure where to start, Emily added: ‘I would say that literally anyone can do it.
‘If you wanted to start, then start off really basic, you know, for example, like a basic T-shirt, just change something about that slightly.
‘There’s a lot of content on the internet now – YouTube, TikTok. There are so many tutorials on how to change things, how to make it your own, but I’d say definitely give it a go.
‘It’s not going to be perfect, mine aren’t all perfect, but at the end of the day, you’ve done something that’s really cool – you’ve changed something, turned into something completely different, and you’ve done that all yourself.’
You can follow Emily and find out about her second-hand fashion finds on TikTok at @harriem_
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