A Fresh Take on Hand-Me-Downs

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

While it’s wonderful to use hand-me-downs for younger children, sometimes those inheriting them aren’t as excited. Your older child gets to have the fun of clothing that is fresh and in style during the right season. The other children get the hand-me-downs that may or may not be all of those things. I really try to use everything I have for my kiddos, so I save money and avoid being wasteful. The clothes sometimes just need a little makeover, and they can look as good as new…or—dare I say— better than new?

Here are some quick tricks we tried and love best:

1. Make polka dots with fabric paint to disguise small stains on white onesies.

I have girls who like pink, so we painted with pink, but pick whatever color you your little ones like best, and go to town. The nicest part about the polka dot method is that it’s okay if they’re a little smeared or a bit imperfect. No one really notices the imperfections!

2. Use fabric paint to make old shoes as fancy as the day they were purchased. 

When shoes are dingy and scuffed, there’s no need to toss them! Just brush off the dust, grab some fabric paint and a paintbrush, and cover those dirt stains! My friend Natalie consulted her daughter on color and patterns, and now her shoes are her favorite pair in the closet! Visit Natalie’s post on Style Smaller for the complete how-to.

3. Don’t be afraid to put clothes from your boys’ closets on your little girls and vice versa. 

I used to feel that the boys section and girls sections didn’t mix at all, but when there’s not a budget to work with, sometimes you have to get creative. Any button-down can be paired with a basic skirt and tied at the waist to make it work for your little girls. Or if you have a standard girl’s tee with a princess in the middle, just stich a little patch over it in a shape your son would like. I like using my imagination and figuring out if I can make it work!

4. Use natural dyes to change the colors on basic shirts. 

If you don’t want your child to that same old faded pale pink shirt, or if their old white onesies are stained, get creative and make a natural dye to create a marble mustard color (perfect for fall). I like this method best for the shirts with the giant stains. The marble effect makes the stains seem as if they’re part of the look. Pair with some jeans or sweats and a cozy hoodie and it no longer looks second-hand.


Add 1T salt  and 2T Turmeric to approx. 4C water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn to the lowest setting and add the onesie to the pot to simmer for an hour. The longer you soak it in the mixture, the deeper the color. Remove, dry, and wash separately and you’ll have an entirely new look!

5. Take leggings or pants full of holes and patch them!

You can use the tutorial Honest posted last week, or for a more quick and temporary fix just cut shapes out of felt (we’re loving the hearts right now), and do an easy hand stitch with a needle and thread (or string) around the edges of the shape to cover the holes.

We’ve really just been learning new tricks as we go. It becomes a fun little challenge to see how we can make use out of old clothing to make it new again! What are some ideas you’ve tried? We’d love to try them too!

– Kate & Erin

Katie (Kate) Brightbill lives in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters. Out of her love for mini fashion and writing, she created a blog called Style Smaller with her cousin and good friend, Erin Taylor. Erin is also from the Bay Area and in addition to her role as a wife and mother, she owns an event design business, and a custom and vintage rental company. Follow them on Twitter @stylesmaller.


  1. Blossom808

    Besides patching up leggings or pants, we’ve turned them into shorts if the holes are just too huge! Great ideas! Love the one on shoes!

  2. Great idea, Blossom808! It reminds me of another way to update outgrown / worn out clothes. A toddler can wear last season’s dress as a tunic with leggings.

  3. Mindy Friedlander-Schaper

    Thanks for the ideas. I’ve been thinking of dying my white cloth diapers to keep the sizes apart now that I have two, and I like your tumeric idea. Any other natural dies? (I need three colors. :))

  4. Mindy Friedlander-Schaper

    Yes. My 18 month old wears a shirt that was originally a dress for 6 month olds. Evolution: long dress, short dress, tunic, shirt.

  5. Brittny A

    Love the idea’s ! Especially the natural dye !

  6. I made a patch vest from a series of my sons old pants for my daughter. I cut them up stitched them together then cut the pattern and it made for a very interesting and funky vest to go over a t-shirt. I also a purse from one of his pants….I still use it today….

  7. Thanks, Brittny! We’d love to see how you give old clothes new life if you try out any of these ideas.

  8. Wow, that’s super creative and a great idea. You must feel great every time you see her wear the vest or use your purse, knowing you made it! We’re totally impressed and would love to see pics if you want to share!

DISCLAIMER: Content on this site is not a substitute for professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis, treatment, dietary, or safety advice, and may not be used for such purposes. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified expert with any questions you may have regarding a medical question, condition, or safety concern. Reliance on information presented on this site is at your own risk. This site contains the opinions and views of others and does not represent the opinions and views of The Honest Company. Given the interactive nature of this site, we cannot endorse, guarantee, or be responsible for the accuracy or efficacy of any content generated by our users or bloggers.
Sign up for Honest Home emails
By entering your email you agree to our Terms of Service