Recycling Old Items; or, When Were These Ever in Fashion?

I’m in the middle of a major steampunk costuming project which incorporates black, olive green and gold.  Today I decided I was going to construct some jewelry to go along with it.

My steampunk jewelry tends to be large and ostentatious.  Actually, most of my steampunk wardrobe is based on that principle.  I like to say an outfit is finished when I’ve added one too many items.  Alternatively, double whatever I’ve done at the point my husband warns I’ve gone overboard.  And the overall outfit will be bold, so accessories also need a solid presence.

Goodwill Hunting

Ugly Earring
I wish I had taken a pic of this earning before I dismantled it. I was epically horrible.

I frequently go to Goodwill with little or no expectation of what I might find.  This week I was looking for garments for a GenCon LARP this summer, but I tend to give at least a quick glance at the jewelry carousel.

And I found this gem.

Let me explain the nightmare of this thing.  It’s two inches in diameter and originally had multiple strings of similarly colored disks dangling another two inches below it.  And it’s an earring, so there’s two of them.

I’d say the 80s called wanting their fashion back, but I wouldn’t have worn this even in my mid-80s, 13-year-old, stupidly-big-earring phase.

All for the low price of $1.99.

What particularly attracted me to this piece (beyond the challenge it offered) was the fabric rose which

  • Makes it even more hideous, as who uses fabric on a metal earring?
  • Is the same olive green I’m working with.

It’s like it was calling my name…with a vuvuzela.

I also found another pair of earrings with a rose motif in a dull, dark grey metal, which were also $1.99, and which I also incorporated.


It'd still be a stupidly ugly earring.
It’d still be a stupidly ugly earring.

Really, all I did here was a paint job.  At some point I might make it even more insane and glue beads or rhinestones or something to it, but I’m plenty happy with it.

The outer ring was upgraded to a more brilliant gold, with depressions done in black.  The central piece just under the rose was also painted black, and the middle part was made green to further incorporate it into the outfit’s color scheme.

All four earrings, once painted, were hot glued to pleather backings so they stood out against a dark background.  I then created little pleather hinges to hold the pieces together.

As an aside: I’ve just discovered a lovely little craft glue gun, which I love, and I’ve been using pleather on accessories for a couple years because it doesn’t fray, it’s cheap, you can easily get a needle through it, and it will hold significant weight.

Final Bits

There’s some knotwork motifs in the main costume project, so I got a string of knotwork beads and used two of them here, one on either end.  The chain is a random chain from some long forgotten necklace I’ve inherited.  You can also sometimes find them at Goodwill.  Fabric and hobby stores also offer a wide variety of decorative chains.

Rough idea what the finished piece looks like. Colors are not photographing properly.  Still, not bad for $9 of materials, counting in entire string of knotwork beads.

Recycling Rejected Clothing

This certainly isn’t the first time I have recycled something that should never have existed to begin with.  One of my very first pieces was a super easy leather-ish shrug tRed steampunk outfithat often earns complements.

That bolero used to be a shirt, and that shirt was made out of “polyester with polyethylene coating.”  This thing has never come within a mile of a natural fiber.  It can’t fray, because it’s forgotten it’s technically a woven material. As a small garment – essentially just a collar and sleeves –  it works great.

As a shirt….consider that someone had to design this and then some port of approval process agreed that this was a good idea..  Then, a minimum of one buyer agreed with this conclusion, although I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to which decade this would have occurred.  There is no reason for any sane person to have worn that shirt…ever.

I’d like to think of my costume collection as a closet for wayward and abused articles of clothing.  They’re given a good home and find new purpose in existence.

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