by Daniel Penny

As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m in the middle of a closet embargo, only worsened by the pandemic. A few necessities have slipped through: socks, underwear, a single extravagant polo shirt. But for the most part, I’m trying to focus on learning to love the things I already own, rather than that bleary-eyed moment of clicking “purchase.” To that end, I’ve begun a series of little Do It Yourself projects to try to breath new life into old things. I invite readers to try this list for themselves, or make up their own.

1) Cut a band collar on an old shirt. This is an easy place to start; all you need are scissors and a shirt whose collar is either too large, too small, or stained beyond the power of Oxi-clean. The trick is to choose a shirt with a more casual fabric, like a chambray, oxford, or linen, and to just follow the seam that connects the collar to the body of the shirt. Loose threads are an inevitability. Embrace them as part of this easy and breezy DIY.

2) Hand wash and dry your clothes. Because I’m just dripping in sauce, both literal and metaphorical, I have found myself needing to hand-wash my clothes. Also, I don’t have laundry in my building and my local wash-and-fold closed permanently. So I don’t really have a choice. It’s a great opportunity to wash those things that you know you shouldn’t be putting in the machine, so instead you’ve stuffed them in a ball next to your hamper. Sitting on my toilet and crouched over my bathtub, as I wrung out my wet pants was a great way to learn that I really don’t need that many pairs of pants!

3) Re-color a pair of old brogues. This one was a little more out there. A year ago, I bought a pair of burgundy Allen Edmond wingtips on eBay and found that while I liked the idea of the color, they didn’t go with anything in my wardrobe. Then I had the brilliant idea of dying them black. All you need is acetone-based nail polish remover to take the old color and wax off, some leather dye and polish in a darker color, an old bit of fabric (your shirt collar perhaps?) and you’re set. Between the different coats and drying times, this one takes many hours, perfect for breaking up the monotony of the days in quarantine. As you polish up your almost new dress shoes, consider all the great occasions you’ll have to show them off at some indistinct but hopefully near point in the future.

4) Shibori your own mask. For the man who has everything by Blue Blue Japan and needs more, this is the DIY for you. I didn’t actually do this one, but at the beginning of the pandemic when I didn’t have a mask, I did cover my face with a bandana that I’d already Shibori-dyed. And I was the flyest looking bank robber on the block.

5) Make your own Black Lives Matter T-shirt and donate the money you would have spent buying one. Perhaps the most advanced artistically, this project took me many hours and didn’t result in a perfect product. Still, perfect is the enemy of good. To this end, I found a cool image of an old-fashioned cop holding bags of money surrounded by the phrase "Defund the Police" and decided to print it and cut out a stencil. I used a Bic pen and a box cutter to remove the negative space, but you’d be better off with an Xacto-knife. With the stencil completed, I went out and spray painted the image onto an old T-shirt and donated $50 to my local bail fund. No wait time and free shipping!