Consider this a very brief primer on upcycling /recycling dispelling a common misconception..
Recycled items should cost less.
This is probably one of the most common. You can go the DIY route then and yes it will be smaller cash outlay.Upcycling ,however, is a labor intensive process and as we’ve all heard ‘time is money’.
If you are working with textiles the amount of ‘woman hours’ that go into finding what you need is staggering .I go to my local thrift stores sometimes several times a week because good stuff gets purchased right away.(okay I like going too!) Usually I have a mental list of what I am looking for but keeping an open mind if I see something worthwhile. For me this tends to be any silk garment with an interesting color and sometimes pattern, though I usually go for the solids. For someone else it might be lace, or broken jewelry but you get the idea.
Once purchased and after cleaning you sit down with the most important tools in your arsenal-the very high tech seam ripper. And a good pair of scissors. If you have ever had to take out stitching then you know how tedious it can be. It is a time suck to be sure but there is no way around it. Again-time is money.
It is easier to buy yard goods and cut your pieces from a nice flat consistent width fabric but they just don’t make fabrics like they used to or if they do they are prohibitively expensive, possibly milled in sweatshop conditions and spewing chemicals in to our environment.(Moment of gently preaching here)
So you see how much time and care goes in to preparation for an upcycled garment. I haven’t even gotten into the design process and the making process so you see that this is a large amount of labor. A labor of love.