Upcycling Ornate Indian/Pakistani Clothing--The Gift That Will Keep Giving

Me, An Up-Cycler?

I did not go into a Costume Rental Business knowing that I was an Up-Cycler. That came much later.

When I started Costume Take-Out, it was more about being resourceful. I did not realize about 2 years into building my business that I was actually decreasing my carbon foot print!...that UpCycling was a 'Thing'.

George Washington, One of My First Costumes

One of the first costumes I ever made for one of my daughter's was George Washington She was assigned this role for a school learning day-- "Walk Through The American Revolution". Wish my childhood education included this amazing opportunity to act out the key historic events in costume!

Go back about 8 years when I begrudgingly made the costume. Begrudgingly? Me? No way?

I was not always the costume obsessed, enthusiast I am now. Back then, I looked at it as one big arduous chore--another thing to put on the to-do list with 2 young children, amongst all the other to-do's on my list.

Little did I know, that this project would launch my love for Upcycled Costuming from thrifted materials.

Can You Spot George Washington?

What I Did Not Want...

What I did not want to do was spend a lot of money on something my daughter would wear once.

I thought at the very least, I will beg the teacher to let my younger daughter take on this role too--and I did, unabashedly, and triumphed in securing the line of succession!

No, not just twice was the costume worn, but 4 more times! by other children before I realized parents would actually want to pay me to 'borrow' the costume. Hence the birth of Costume Take-Out.

Back To Creating George Washington...

In my root of roots, a thrifter has lived many years. This thrifter was cultivated from a good childhood...not one of excess, but that of an immigrant child's parents' humble means, which often lends itself to being innovative and creative and 'making do'.

I googled George Washington and perused through Pinterest, saw that the colors used were red, white, blue and gold. I had an old gold table-cloth to make the vest, my daughter's old white skinny jeans, and an old red velvet Christmas dress that both my daughters had worn. Just need to go to the local thrift store chain and buy a child's size blue polyester blazer for $3.99.

Upcycled George Washington Costume Close-up (sorry for the blur--I wasn't a blogger 8 years ago!)

Upcycling--The Gift That Keeps Giving

After finishing the George Washington costume--which by the way, having gone through some more beauty treatments, I still rent today!--I saw that I had a ton more leftover gold brocade and red velvet. Instead of tossing it out, much to my husband's chagrin, I saved it thinking that if these beautiful, high quality fabrics came in handy, maybe they would be useful again.

Fast Forward 8 Years

Fast forward 8 years, and here I am today constantly using bits and pieces of thrifted tablecloths, velvet drapery, bed skirts, linens and things like old prom dresses. The cost savings become exponential when these items are inexpensively purchased 2nd hand, and used not only for one project but multiple to the level when you have only a little fabric left, but it makes a button cover.

Upcycling for me then becomes a green eco-system of use and re-use...squeezing out the last bit of use.

Indian/Pakistani Celebratory Clothing

One of my most favorite items to upcycle is Indian or Pakistani special occasion clothing. Oh My! The beauty of these most likely handcrafted items are a like a fireworks display or a light show. The celebratory clothing which differ from the daily traditional clothing, have bright colors, amazing bead or sequin work, long attachments of metallic braided or flat trim all along the borders.

Surprisingly, I find copious amounts of these ethnic masterpieces inexpensively--I'm talking $2-$5 a piece. I used to buy all the pieces I could find--kind of got into a hoarding habit because each piece is so visually breath-taking. Overtime, in the nature of my costume work, I've had to widdle down my purchases to non-neon colors, which are the basic jewel toned reds, greens, golds, purple or blues. These colors just have more application in my Medieval, Renaissance, and my Ancient Rome, Greek and Egyptian costumes.

Here are some examples of the trim on these beauties!

Thrifted Green Sari Scarf with Gold Trim

A Close-Up of the Beautiful Gold Trim on The Scarf

Thrifted Purple Sari Dress with Ruby Gems

A Closer Look at the Beautiful Rhinestone Work

How I've Used The Applique, Trim, and Rhinestones

So now that I have amassed quite the range of thrifted Indian/Pakistani celebratory wear, I've been busy using it!

Upcycled Egyptian Collar...(the collar is not 100% finished here, but you get the idea)

Before Indian Top...

...After, Upcycled Egyptian Collar

Upcycled Green Rhinestone Applique Used For Renaissance Costume

Close-up of Upcycled Green Rhinestone Applique Used For Renaissance Costume

Great Gatsby Applique

One of my most favorite uses of the applique was for a Great Gatsby dress I found on a thrifted gold Pakistani dress. Maybe it was one of my favorites because this Great Gatsby dress was for me!

I don't need to go into the creation of my outfit here because I have an entire blog post dedicated to the creation of the dress, cloche hat and all the accoutrements. Click on picture below this paragraph to take you there!

Close-up of Upcycled Gold Applique Attached to Back Shoulders of My Great Gatsby Dress

Where Did This Applique Come From?

...the beauty below!

For some reason, it never gets easier to cut into these works of art. However, there is comfort in knowing that one beautifully ornate dress like this can provide a bounty of re-purposing in the future.

Original Gold Lace Applique On Thrifted Pakistani Dress

Close-up Original Gold Lace Applique On Thrifted Pakistani Dress

Challenges of Extracting Appliques, Trims, Bead Work, Gemstones

Although supremely gorgeous, the attachments on the Indian/Pakistani garments are frequently difficult to extract.

For example, typically each string of beads/sequins/gem stones are sewn onto another thin fabric, usually netting which is fragile. If you cut in the wrong area, you can loose a whole string of microscopic beads. And you try corralling feral cats...

Or trying to remove an embroidered motif applique...a challenge because it's sewn into to the lower levels of fabric. Better to just cut as close as you can around the border of the motif, but then you get some of the underlying fabric color, which is fine if the fabric you are working on it about the same color......this is why I developed quite the hoarding problem--wanted to make sure I had a wide range of hues to chose from.

Extracted Gold Lace Applique On Mesh Strips

I Was Lucky

Lucky for me, this applique was surprisingly easy to cut out! And I only needed a little bit of the detailing to elevate my Great Gatsby Dress from average to exquisite. The motifs added much richness that was exemplary of an era which was ornate

One Isolated Gold Lace Applique On Mesh

Upcycled Gold Lace Applique Sewn Onto Back Shoulders of Great Gatsby Dress

Upcycled Applique Sewn Onto Front Drop-Waist Sash of Great Gatsby Dress

Close-Up Upcycled Applique Sewn Onto Front Drop-Waist Sash of Great Gatsby Dress

Lucky for me, this applique was surprisingly easy to cut out. And I only needed a little bit of the detailing to elevate my Great Gatsby Dress from average to exquisite. The motifs added much richness that was exemplary of an era which was ornate.

COME CHECK OUT HOW I CREATED THE ENTIRE OUTFIT! Click on picture below to take you there!

Me, Having A Blast in My Great Gatsby Costume!


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Eva Winger




Tel: 916-320-7403

Folsom, CA

CTO servicing:

El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park, Folsom, Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento, Elk Grove, West Sacramento, Natomas, Citrus Heights, Antelope, Fair Oaks, Roseville, Rocklin, Penryn, Auburn, Loomis, Granite Bay, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Vacaville,

CTO prides itself in using 99.9%  thrifted materials for clothing & costume creation!