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Favorite old T-shirts find new life as skirts

August 8, 2013

Remember that old REM concert T-shirt from 1989? Or the shirt from the 10K race where you set a personal best?

It’s a shame they’re living in the back of your closet, because they don’t have to.

Recycled into a skirt, our nostalgic Ts get to parade again in public.

Denise Chaudhari makes three styles of skirt out of rock-band T-shirts: a casual, asymmetrical skirt, a simple a-line and a more professional-looking skirt for flaunting at the office.

“Everybody has (old T-shirts) in their drawer, and they’re not flattering to wear,” says Chaudhari, of Lafayette, Colo.

“They won’t wear them, but they won’t get rid of them.”

Chaudhari’s answer is these flirty skirts, made from T’s and color-coordinating jersey fabric. She began a few years ago by pilfering from her husband’s storied collection, and then friends shared their old T’s. Today, Chaudhari trolls thrift stores — those near universities are the best — and buys in bulk from concert T-shirt wholesalers.

Bands from the ’80s, punk rock and the Beatles sell the best, she says.

“Punk is cool to wear, even if you don’t listen to it,” says Chaudhari, 43. “It’s cool to wear a Ramones (T-shirt skirt).”

Sally Lang, of Salem, Oregon, makes her own version of the T-shirt skirt, often incorporating rock-band images, although she says good rock T’s are hard to find at thrift stores. In her neck of the woods, tie dye rules. The dynamic colors and patterns translate into eye-catching skirts.

“In Oregon, we’re kind of obsessed with tie dye,” says Lang.

In Chaudhari’s experience selling her skirts at craft fairs, buyers who don’t have a favorite band gravitate to the T-shirt skirts that feature a guitar or other generic, musical image, or to super-hero graphics. She also recommends making recycled skirts from T-shirts from races, non-profits — even sarcastic T’s.

Often, she puts those into her children’s clothing line, which she sells at her online shop, Dandy Social Club.

“Something like ‘the Sarcasm Committee’ or ‘Sugar Daddy,’ with an image of the candy — those are even funnier on a kid’s shirt,” Chaudhari says.

Lang, 55, who sells her T-shirt skirts amid other recycled clothing at her online Etsy shop, Thankful Rose, buys T’s made from 100 percent cotton. Flimsier, lighter-weight T’s don’t hold up. Besides tie dye and rock T’s, she hunts for paisley patterns and solid colors for mixing in.

She admits to being obsessed with creating her “upcycled” clothing line. If she has the fabric picked out, she can make a T-shirt skirt in about two hours.

“It’s a process and I love every minute of it,” Lang says.

Besides enjoying the hunt for unusual T’s, both women say the shirts are the easiest, most cost-effective way to incorporate inventive and clever graphics into their skirts.

“You can’t just go to the fabric store and buy some of the cool prints that you see on T-shirts,” says Lang.

Before turning to T’s, Chaudhari looked into screen-printing her own images, but it was expensive and time-consuming.

T-shirt images provide “endless surprises,” Chaudhari says. “Now you’re upcycling and you’re incorporating a band people love, and it’s comfortable like a T-shirt, like an old friend.”

Chaudhari and Lang have different methods for sewing T-shirt skirts. See examples of their skirts at their websites, and view others at Pinterest.com. The online site Craft Stylish shares a free, illustrated tutorial for an a-line skirt made from two T-shirts of coordinated colors.

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