Before-and-after photos show how people transform thrift-store clothes

Caitlin Trantham is a self-taught seamstress who has been sharing her clothing transformations on TikTok.

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Caitlin Trantham started posting videos of her clothing transformations on TikTok.

Caitlin Trantham

Trantham taught herself how to sew about seven years ago. She started off making blankets, but now she shops at thrift stores for vintage fashion that she can easily change up.

She told Insider that she doesn’t like to spend more than $10 on each piece she buys and will sometimes spend money on thread, buttons, zippers, and closures if the materials are needed. 

“I really try to use everything that’s in the dress. For example, if it’s a maxi dress, I’m trying to use every piece of that specific clothing item,” she said. 

Since starting her TikTok in January, Trantham said she has transformed about 20 dresses, and she plans on donating them to other military spouses for the Marine Corps Ball. 

Trantham hopes her work encourages other people to shop in a more sustainable way.


Trantham has transformed over 20 dresses.

Caitlin Trantham

Her biggest piece of advice when embarking on your own DIY project is to be patient when dismantling a piece. 

“When taking apart your garments, seam rip first,” Trantham said. “Try not to go in with your scissors and cut everything up. Go into the seams and dismantle piece by piece. It might be frustrating and feel tedious, but once you cut you can rarely ever go back.”

Trantham told Insider it can take her anywhere from two hours to three weeks to complete a transformation, but on average, it takes her about two days. 

Sarah Tyau started transforming thrift-store finds soon after she got married as a way to save money.

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Tyau estimates she’s worked on around 400 pieces.

Sarah Tyau

Tyau is a part-time content creator who shares her clothing transformations on her blog, “Life is Beautiful.” Since starting in 2010, Tyau told Insider she’s probably worked on around 400 pieces. 

“We throw away so much, and with fast-fashion, it seems to be more and more as time goes by,” she said. “Not only will you be helping to save the environment, but you’ll save money and also hone in on your sewing skills and expand your creativity and a sense of accomplishment. A win-win-win-win for all!”

Tyau doesn’t just shop at thrift stores for herself. She also transforms secondhand clothing for her children.

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Tyau has been transforming clothes for 10 years.

Sarah Tyau

She told Insider it can take her anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours to finish working on a piece. Her main goal with the transformations is for people to see all the potential in clothes that are already out there. 

“I hope to spark inspiration and creativity in people and give them ideas on how they can refashion their outdated or ill-fitting clothes,” she told Insider. “To see the potential in something people might call ugly and instead look at the beauty and turn it into something you love!”

Ten years ago, Jillian Owens started “ReFashionista,” a blog dedicated to transforming thrift-store clothing into brand-new looks.


Owens taught herself how to sew by checking out a couple of books from the library.

Jillian Owens / ReFashionista

The South Carolina native started buying thrift-store clothes as a way to save money and to avoid buying from fast-fashion retailers. She taught herself how to sew from books she checked out of the library.

“On my blog, I try to promote how accessible sewing is,” she said. “I deliberately try to do beginner level refashions to help inspire people to go out and do this themselves.”

When Owens is shopping at a thrift store, she likes to look for the items that feel super dated and that people probably won’t buy. 

“I try to find the most challenging pieces I can,” she said. “I’m very fast when I shop now. I find something that catches my eye and grab it.”

Owens looks for cheap deals at thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops.


Jillian Owens has been transforming thrift-store clothes for 10 years.

Jillian Owens/ReFashionista

Owens told Insider that she loves to shop at her local Goodwill because of its $1 section. She also advised others to ask employees when the thrift stores are going to be having sales.

When she’s done transforming and wearing the pieces, Owens will donate them to different organizations. 

“It’s like a catch and release program,” she said of her clothing. “I catch it, fix it, and release it back to the wild.”

“My goal is not to find my creation in the $1 rack within a couple of weeks because otherwise, I feel like I’ve failed,” she added. 

Troy Cooke, who has a blog called “Thriftanista in the City,” has been working with thrift-store clothes for seven years.

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Cooke says she usually spends about 30 minutes on a project.

Troy Cooke

Cooke is a stay-at-home mom, blogger, and online fashion reseller. 

She told Insider she started thrifting with the purpose of not buying clothes that she would have to transform. But she eventually changed her mind and started enjoying the DIY projects. 

“You don’t have to be a crafty type to make most of the adjustments I do. Small, quick changes can make all the difference,” she said. 

Cooke has shared close to 200 DIY projects on her blog, and at least half of them are thrift-store transformations.

troy cooke before and after

Cooke started buying thrift-store clothes without the intention of altering them.

Troy Cooke

“I hate to see good quality things go to waste,” Cooke told Insider. “I’m all for finding new purpose in old things.”

Cleo Page started working with thrift-store clothes last year and has since repurposed over 50 pieces.

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Page likes to upcycle thrift-store clothing in her spare time.

Cleo Page

Page, who is currently a biomedical engineering student, likes to upcycle thrift-store finds in her spare time. 

“I see every thrift find as a unique challenge,” she said, adding that reconstructing clothes has taught her to be resourceful. “I love combining my engineering style of thinking with my creativity to produce something exactly as I envisioned it to be.” 

Page learned how to do everything from threading a sewing machine to making mannequins from watching YouTube videos.

cleo page before and after

Page said she wears clothes she’s transformed with even more confidence.

Cleo Page

Page said it feels like she’s honoring the past owner by giving an old clothing item an updated style and wearing it today. 

“By making my own clothes, it’s changed how I value clothing,” she said. “I am more confident wearing pieces that I poured hard work into and can be proud of.”

Page also said that she gets a lot of her ideas from fellow DIY designers on Instagram and loves seeing how people react to her creations and others in the comments. 

Jennifer Klotz is a freelance designer and seamstress who creates one-of-a-kind garments and costumes on commission.

Jennifer Klotz mens shirt before and after

Klotz started transforming thrift-store finds two years ago.

Jennifer Klotz

When Klotz isn’t working, she’s studying American history and literature. About two years ago, she was taking classes at a fashion-design school when she started shopping at thrift stores, as it allowed her to experiment with her style while being on a student budget. 

“I was beginning to understand how wasteful and environmentally harmful the fast-fashion industry is,” she told Insider. 

Klotz usually buys thrifted fabric to make garments from scratch, but when she finds a clothing item she loves, she knows almost instantly how she wants to transform it. 

“Fashion and trying out new looks are a passion of mine, but I want to contribute as little as possible to the tons of clothing that end up in landfills every year. I, therefore, love to find new purposes for items that are already produced,” she said. 

It can take Klotz anywhere from three hours to two days to finish a project.

Jennifer Klotz table cloth before and after

She also makes brand-new garments out of thrifted fabric.

Jennifer Klotz

Klotz has finished about 10 to 15 clothing transformations, and that doesn’t even include the handbags, backpacks, and decorative pillows she’s made using thrifted fabrics. 

“I love the creative challenge of using what I have at hand and what I can find locally — whether it’s from thrift stores, my grandma’s closet, or the flea market — and transforming it into something new, unique, tailored to my style,” she said. 

Klotz told Insider she is going to continue upcycling her thrift-store finds and using others who do the same as inspiration. Her goal is for her followers to see how fun it actually is to shop secondhand and create something rather than buying something new. 

“I wish to show the fun of hunting for something that, while it has been discarded by someone else, can really ignite your imagination and can be turned into something useful and beautiful again,” she said.