I'm Erin. I love to sew pretty things for my children. I haven't bought an actual pattern in over ten years now. Read more...

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men's shirt to girl's shirt refashion


One of my absolute favorite things to use for refashioning is men's shirts.  You can find them in such nice fabric, and if you get a biggish one there's usually more than enough for a child's garment.  I needed a shirt to go with the blue dot yoke skirt, and a crisp white shirt seemed just the thing. 

Does this shirt look familiar?

It's the one from the CFW main page, which means it's probably high time we made one, but I think instead of binding the sleeves we'll give them an elastic ruffle for easier wearing.  So it'll end up looking like this, actually:

I found this nice, large, white shirt at my thrift store:

Cast off from its original purpose, this shirt was just begging to be made into something pretty for its next life.  (When you're walking through the thrift store and you hear something speaking to you, you MUST refrain from cupping your hand to your ear and leaning over to listen.  Do not say, "Yes, thing? What is it you want me to do for you?" People will stare.  Even in the thrift store.)

It's all cotton, with a wrinkle-free finish and a pretty stripe:

Let's grant its wish, shall we?

Pattern you'll need for this project: Bodice Sloper
Lesson you'll need for this project: Drafting A-line StylesDrafting Sleeve StylesDrafting Collars

Quick Specs:

Original pattern size:  6
Roll collar
Puffed sleeve with elastic ruffle
Shaped darts at waist
Front buttonstand closure 

Drafting the Pattern:

Follow the steps in "Drafting A-line Styles" and make the following changes:

1)  Add 1/2" ease to the bodice sloper side seam, front and back.  This will give us 2" total additional ease.  Add 1/2" ease to the sleeve underarm seam.

2)  Lengthen the bodice 7".  Add 3/4" at hem, and taper side seam in to waist level.  Make a mirror image of the dart, connected to the legs of the original dart, to make a double, or shaped dart, that looks like this:

3)  Don't alter the armhole, and draft a puffed sleeve as shown in Drafting Sleeve Styles.  Or use my handy-dandy puffed sleeves pattern.  I took about an inch and a half of width out of the center of those sleeves, to decrease the puffiness, and added an inch, in order to create a ruffle. 

4)  Widen the neckline 1" at center front, 3/4" at shoulder, 1/2" at center back.  Draft a roll collar without a stand as shown in Drafting Collar Patterns.  Overlap the bodice front and back at the shoulder 1/4".

5)  There will be a front buttonstand closure, which we'll cut from the existing shirt.

6)  No additional style lines.

7)  Add seam and hem allowances.


We'll need the following pieces:

2 Shirt Fronts
1 Shirt Back
2 Sleeves

also a neckline binding to help attach the collar.  It needs to be four seam allowances wide, and just longer than the neckline.  Cut this on the bias. 

Of course, cutting the pieces for a refashioned shirt isn't as straightforward as laying it out on a rectangle of fabric, but that's part of the fun, isn't it?  It's a puzzle.

So first we'll cut out one of the shirt fronts.  The idea here is to make sure the buttons go where you want them to.  In this case, we'll want a button just below the collar, with enough seam allowance to actually put the collar in.  

As we'll see later, I ended up without the button after all.  "We're learning", is what we say at my house instead of "I'm so stupid".  

Now we'll use that front to cut the other front, because the buttons have to line up with the buttonholes no matter what, you know. 

That done, we can go over to the sleeves and cut out a sleeve and a collar from each one. 

I did cut out a third collar piece, from a light muslin-weight fabric, but in the end it ended up with a bit too much body for my liking, so I'm not sure I would have used a third layer had I this shirt to make over again. 

There was no way that I was getting the neckline binding out of what shirt was left after I dismembered it, so I used a bit of yellow poplin that I had lying around, and loved the contrast effect.

All of which brings us to:


1) First, sew those shaped darts in the fronts and back:

2)  Sew shoulder seams, neck to armhole:

I finished these seams by pinking, then pressing toward the back and edgestitching along the seamline from the right side.  

3)  Create the collar.  As I mentioned earlier, I think I might just use the two layers of collar if I were to do this again, but I did use three in order to give the collar some weight.  Here the collar interfacing (just a piece of lightweight fabric cut from the collar pattern) is pinned to one of the collar pieces and will be basted to the wrong side of it:

Sew the collar pieces together, all the way around the outer edge, with right sides together. Here they are sewn, and the seam allowance pinked:

Turn that right side out, and edgestitch, if you like, all the way around the outer edge:

Pulling the under collar layer ever so slightly so that it ends up shorter than the upper collar layer, baste all the way around the neck edge of the collar like so:

That'll make the collar behave better when we've got it attached to the shirt neckline.

4)  Attach the collar.  First, staystitch the neckline of the shirt just a hair inside the seamline:

The collar neckline is exactly the same shape as the shirt neckline, right?  You will need to clip both the collar neckline to its basting, and the shirt neckline to its staystitching, in order to get the seam allowance to lie down like it's supposed to.  Whether you clip them individually, before you sew them together, or clip them together, after they're sewn, is up to you.  I clipped mine first:

Pin the collar to the neckline, matching center back and shoulder seams: (you did mark the shoulder location on the collar, didn't you?)

and sew that in place.  The best idea here is to begin at the center back and sew all the way around to the front, then go back and sew the other side, center back to center front.  Reason for this is, as you've probably found, pins or no pins, the top layer of whatever you're sewing crawls forward as you sew sometimes.  Sometimes not, of course, but it's kind of nasty to find out that this is the crawly kind of fabric when you've just put your pretty collar in and it's all a little twisted.  At least if there's any crawling going on, you've controlled it so that the collars end up at the same point at the center front.  Because you're smart like that.

Now we come to that yellow neckline binding I was telling you about.  Mine's 1" wide, because my collar seam allowances were 1/4" wide, and it needs to be four seam allowances wide.  

Pin that on top of your collar, right side to the collar, with the long raw edge matching the neckline raw edge, and the short raw edges sticking off the center front of the shirt, like so:

And sew it, right along your neckline seamline.

Sew a guideline right along the seamline on the remaining raw edge of the binding strip:

Fold the binding away from the neckline and press it.  I even pinned mine all down the seamline in order to keep it in place.  Then fold that seam allowance under and pin it to the inside of the shirt neckline, like this:

Also, see how my ends are trimmed and turned under all tidy?  Do that too. 

I'm sure you could figure out a way to machine-stitch this neckline binding down, but I just slipstitched it to the neckline edge by hand.  The collar will completely cover the stitches that will be visible from the right side.  

Even though the yellow binding is totally inside the shirt, you still see it a bit, and I like the effect quite a lot, don't you?

Shaping up nicely, yes?  

The only problem here is that in binding that neckline, I made the top front buttonhole useless:

See how that could happen?  The binding covers the buttonhole right up on the back.  So I have the choice now of cutting a hole through the binding, or cutting off the button and just leaving the neckline unbuttoned at this point.  If you look at the photo at top, you can see that leaving it unbuttoned worked out just fine.  Probably moving the pattern up a little when I cut it out, so that the button and buttonhole ended up a little lower, would have worked too.

5)  Make and attach the sleeves.  First, since the sleeve hem is curved, we'll put in a very narrow hem

Put gathering threads in the sleeve cap and then sew it in using the flat method.

The side seam and sleeve underarm seam are still open, you see.

To make the elastic ruffle, cut a piece of elastic that's the length of the child's upper arm circumference, plus maybe half an inch.  I did exactly my daughter's arm measurement, and she says the sleeves are a bit tight.  Since we aren't using this elastic to hold anything up, it doesn't really need to be tight.  Add some extra in there, for kindness. 

Mark an inch up from the sleeve hem, and pin the elastic to the sleeve at that point.  Pin it at both ends, and in the middle:

Stretching the elastic to fit the sleeve while you sew, zigzag along the elastic to create the puffed sleeve and ruffle at the same time:

Just like that.

6) Sew the side seams and sleeve underarm seams, all in one long seam, making sure that the sleeve seam matches up.

7)  Sew a double-fold hem to finish it off. 

Give it all a good pressing, and we're done:

And the men's shirt gets that new life it was after.  


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Reader Comments (5)

Amazing! I'd love to see more tutorials like this! Especially upcycled clothing projects!!
big fan!

May 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

ohhh my goodness, fabulous! i've just discovered your blog and it's all so beautifully made!! i want to be like you when i grow up.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertinny

veri goood
من از ایزان هستم

خیلی ممنون بابت این متنها
i am laleh
from for iran

February 1, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter1

Very interesting idea to nonuse clothes. We can redesign the unusual clothes into fashion able clothes.

April 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKids Wholesale clothing

Wow!!! What a transition! Very well explained as well. Though I am a newbie at sewing, I would love to try this. And of course, I would keep in my mind to add those kindness 'coz I understand it very well from my previous misadventures!

April 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnu

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