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May 2006
Making a Fashion Statement
Book Review by Olivia Lane

Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt
by Megan Nicolay (New York: Workman, 2006). $14.95. 304 pages.

A couple of summers ago, I purchased a super cute altered “vintage” T-shirt at a department store. Every time I wore the shirt I enjoyed lots of compliments, but my mood would sour whenever anyone asked me if I had made it. After the 20th time someone asked me this question, I had to ask myself: Why didn’t I make this? Considering the billions of unwanted T-shirts piling in landfills and loitering in thrift shops, why had I made a $25 contribution to some sweatshop overlord when I could have created an equally cool (if not cooler) T-shirt myself? Sadly, the answer is: a) I love shopping and b) fashion creativity strikes me like lightning, and as we all know lightning doesn’t strike the same spot twice.

Well, that was true until I discovered the superb Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt by Brooklyn’s own Megan Nicolay. This chunky how-to book is full of fun and easy projects that empower the reader to dump high-priced “couture” tees and inspire her to transform old, oversized, or otherwise unwanted T-shirts into apparel that reflect her personal style. Most of the 108 projects instruct the reader in transforming a T-shirt into a more stylish shirt or skirt, but the book also shows how to make several different accessories and home accents.

The best thing about Generation T is its welcoming approach. Chapter 1 assumes the reader is new to altering T-shirts and explains everything from threading a needle to choosing a workspace. None of the projects require special skills or tools; at least a third of the projects are “no sew” and the only necessary tools are scissors, chalk, scrap cardboard, a ruler, a needle, and thread.

My only gripe with Generation T is that it seems to cater to thin people. All the models in the book are skinny. Also, the directions often refer to starting with a particular sized shirt, but it’s never made clear why. I imagine the same size T-shirt would fit many people in different ways, so why is one size chosen? I think it would have benefited the book to not revolve around a thin standard.

All things considered, Generation T would be a great addition to the library of anyone interested in fashion, crafting, the DIY movement and treading lightly on the planet and its inhabitants. Since buying the book two weeks ago, I’ve made a half dozen T-shirts and skirts that I can wear proudly with the knowledge that I’ve made something beautiful out of “trash” and spared some of the planet’s resources. I think this is a great feeling everyone should experience!

Visit Megan’s site at to sample her projects and find out more about this Brooklynite’s goings-ons.

If you are bit by the re-crafting bug after reading Generation T, I recommend checking out, where you can exchange tons of ideas for new projects with other crafty minded folks. I also recommend attending or organizing a local Swap-O-Rama-Rama. In exchange for a small donation, you can get tons of used clothes for crafting and you also pick up new skills.

Olivia Lane lives, plays, and re-crafts in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. You can read more of her meandering thoughts at Meet author Megan Nicolay at the Park Slope Barnes & Noble, 267 7th Avenue at 6th Street, Brooklyn, on May 15 at 7:30. She’ll be reading from and signing her book.

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