Tread water. Start by treading water for a few moments until you calm down and can logically begin to get into action. A panicked person is not going to be able to make clothes into flotation devices but they may drown trying. Continue to tread water throughout the entire process.
Kick off your shoes. Your shoes are not going to help you float and will only serve to weigh you down. They will also hamper removing your pants, which is the first item you are going to fashion into a flotation device.
Squirm out of your pants and adapt them to float. Once your pants are off, get them in front of you while you continue to kick your legs to stay afloat. Quickly tie the end of each leg into a knot and close the waist and zipper. Still kicking, squeeze as much water as you can from the pants and then wave them over your head to fill them with air. Once air is inside, knot off the waist area the best you can to keep it trapped and floating.
Follow with your shirt, pulling it off one arm at a time and hooking it up into a flotation device. Using your pants as a buoy, tie off the arms and neckline of the shirt into a knot. Squeeze out excess water and wave it over your head to fill with air. Quickly tie the bottom of the shirt off to trap the air.
Gauge if any other clothes items can be made into flotation devices. If you happen to be wearing shorts, you’re pretty much out of luck. But even a tank top can be adapted to float, as can a sundress, a tote bag or other items that can offer a pillow of air with the ends tied off.
Rid yourself of any unnecessary objects. If you happen to be in freezing water, you may want to leave on your socks. Otherwise, remove and discard jewelry, hats, things in your pockets or other heavy items that may weigh you down. This is life or death, here. Don’t worry about losing your favorite necklace.