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Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay of Generation T

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay of Generation T

We need to start practicing sustainability a lot more in fashion, not just for the planet but for our pockets and sanity as well. Today we introduce you to someone who’s been leading the sustainable revolution in fashion for a good five years now, with her rally cry: Don’t Buy! D-I-Y!

Today we honor Generation-T‘s Megan Nicolay as a woman making history.

More on Megan via her official bio:

Megan Nicolay, an obsessive DIYer herself, created in 2005 to celebrate the ever-important concept of “project time” in our daily grind. It’s a time to drop everything, turn off the phone, turn off the TV, and make something—be it a picture frame or a poem, a handmade card or a batch of brownies. The T-shirt is Megan’s preferred medium—unparalleled in the world of fashion in terms of comfort, versatility, and longevity…and never in short supply. Everybody has a stash of old T-shirts won at sporting events, brought home from rock concerts, gathered at thrift stores, or saved as a random leftover of a relationship that didn’t quite work out (hey, he never came back to claim his Clash T-shirt?—it’s yours). Each T-shirt has a story, and it would be, sentimentally speaking, out of the question to get rid of it. So, in the spirit of environmentalism and anti-consumerism, Megan resuscitates, recycles, and refashions them.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay of Generation T

Megan's original Generation T book (2006) is stocked all over the US & the web!

By the spring of 2009 the website needed a little refashioning, too – so it was dragged from the back of the closet where it had been languishing, it was embellished and updated, and it was presented once again to its dear readers.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay of Generation T

In Generation T: Beyond Fashion, Megan's rally cry is Don't Buy! D-I-Y!

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Green Up pop-up will feature some of New York’s finest green design and fashion in an event to be held on April 8th, 2010. As a leader in the green revolution, Megan will be there, along with a group of vendors and fellow eco-friends. For more info on this New York event, visit
Below, we get to see Megan in action as shows us how to make three scarves out of t-shirts on Threadbanger. I’m excited to try the first one out!

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Read Megan's handwritten survey above and discover what an Ernie Burrito is...

Below, Megan gives us some insight on her life and DIY culture:

M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?

My two sisters! Also… Nina Simone, Frida Kahlo, Madeleine L’Engle, and Gwendolyn Brooks, to name just a few….all very cool ladies who know/knew how to tell stories.

M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start with t-shirts?

It started out of necessity, actually (or at least a strong sense of urgency). One summer, my parents were threatening to get rid of the T-shirts that my siblings and I had accumulated over the years from basketball tournaments, music shows, summer camps, and so on (to be fair, between four us, they did start to pile up). We argued dramatically and feverishly that they were our memories, that we couldn’t possibly just abandon them like that. Of course, we weren’t wearing them either because they were too big and boxy (and there are only so many T-shirt nightgowns a kid can have). And so the challenge was issued: The background is that our parents are both artists and teachers and every problem was due a creative solution. We set to figuring out how we could make those languishing T-shirts wearable. My sisters and I refashioned about 20 T-shirts that summer, mostly into sleeveless tank tops…and it was just the beginning of T-shirt slashing for me.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Make unique scarves and accessories from old Ts!

M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite re-worked t-shirt item that you’ve created?

It’s so hard to choose! With more than 220 different designs between my two books, I can’t narrow it down to just one. But my favorite skirt is “Flare thee Well,” a circle skirt that I developed for my first book, Generation T. My favorite halter top is T-bird from Generation T or Pinup Girl from Generation T: Beyond Fashion. My biggest challenge was the T-shirt wedding gown, but I really love how the bustled skirt turned out–and someone actually got hitched in it!

M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with?

I’m so lucky to be partnered with the people I work with now, that I have no specific people on the current wish list. I’m always inspired by music, so musicians are a subgroup with whom I like to surround myself. Otherwise, I just hope that every partnership is balanced, challenging, and shares a common vision.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Boys can get in on the act, too! Check out that extra-skinny tie and wrapping a party gift in a tee couldn't look any cooler!

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Have a girls night in and get crafty! That Lil' Kim tee's been sitting in your closet way too long! Give it a face-lift ;D

M.I.S.S.: What part of re-working t-shirts is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?

When I run out of T-shirt! Sometimes I imagine I have more fabric to work with than there is. But it’s just another puzzle to figure out how to gracefully extend a piece.

M.I.S.S.: DIY is very popular these days. Do you think it’s a passing trend or a return to old values? Is DIY here to stay?

I think that the do-it-yourself mindset will never entirely disappear. It’s been around too long to be a passing trend — its popularity ebbs and flows — sometimes it’s in backlash to over-manufactured consumerism, sometimes out of economic necessity (and sometimes a bit of both), but the fact is that we are naturally curious to discover how things are made or how they work and that need for manual work and play will always require nurturing.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Megan shows us how to turn our rags to RADS in her latest book...

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Spring has arrived! Do some Spring cleaning and revamp your look!

M.I.S.S.: Why do you think DIY is especially important today?

I think more than ever, DIY is a chance to slow down and make a connection with a process that is lost for many people today. In an age where immediacy is prized and process is often forgotten (or simply too fast to recognize), it sometimes makes our accomplishments a little less satisfying. Anything that takes a little focused time gives me a better sense of progress than simply hitting “download” or “send.”

M.I.S.S.: What are some new exciting things you see coming out of the DIY community?

The community itself, I think, is the most inspiring byproduct of the DIY movement. I say byproduct because usually, you think of that very tangible end-product as the goal of a DIY project–a home-recorded record, a hand-dyed fabric, a well-baked pie. (It is after all, do-it-yourself, not do it ourselves.) But the Internet has allowed the old-fashioned sewing circles, craft guilds, knitting groups, and so on, to exist and flourish across state lines and oceans, where like-minded DIYers can share tips, encouragement, and appreciation for what I call the “DIY high”. The downside (according to some) is that the immediacy of online networking has homogenized a lot of the design that’s being developed, but I think it’s also challenged DIYers to become more innovative.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

Handmade and sustainable is an extra thoughtful—and inexpensive—way to give.

Women Making History: Megan Nicolay

So he loves the shirt but it's got a stain on the back. Meet your Boo half way by reworking his tee into something you can both share.

M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career path in DIY?

Say “yes.” I often get caught up in the decision-making process of should I or shouldn’t I try something. I find it’s better—more satisfying, more rewarding—to spend my creative energies on the problem-solving that comes next. If you say “yes” to the next adventure, you immediately get to figuring out the best route to take.

Thanks so much, Megan!

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2 Responses to “Women Making History: Megan Nicolay”

  1. artiffact artiffact says:

    Hooray for reuse! The tshirt is my fave medium as well, but this woman goes the distance….dog beds and potholders too! Wonder if she wraps Elmo in those now?

  2. Lynn says:

    You rock Megan!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Lynn


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