Up-Cycled Men’s Shirt

In college, we had one sewing project that was really creative: $7 budget to create a child’s garment. I went to Goodwill and found a few old skirts to use for fabric and a pattern for well under budget. I made a cute little reversible jumper dress and hand-embroidered a butterfly and mushroom motif on one side. My miniature poodle loved it in college, now Biddi loves it!

The project was so inspiring at the time; now I see many projects in the same vein on Pinterest all the time. I have up-cycled an old sweaterdress into a poncho and leg warmers for Biddi. 

Men’s shirts transformed into children’s clothing has to be the most adorable iteration of this trend. I have made 2 dresses for Biddi so far that were shirts with torn sleeves.The one above was a cute dress when she first started walking, and now it is more of a tunic top. Keeping the hem, side seams, and center front buttons make it an easy project to knock out during a nap-time or two. Lucky for me, my husband recently lost about 30 lbs by switching to a plant-based diet so now I have a whole cache of button down shirts to up-cycle! They are a size large so there is a lot of fabric to work with and they are all really nice fabric from J. Crew, Jos A Bank, and Banana Republic. The shirt fabric is still in style and I think I am going to make a skirt for myself–anthropologie even has a mock-upcycled skirt–but that’s another Blog Post.

img_1898For the red and blue gingham dress, I used a bodice sloper type pattern piece and placed it at the center front and center back of one of my husband’s shirts. I cut off the collar in the front but left the collar stand. I could have seam-ripped this, but I decided to embrace the up-cycling of it all and left a tiny fray around the front. The back does not have the collar stand, it is from lower on the shirt, below the shoulder yoke. I finished the raw edge by turning 2 times and hand sewing with a slip stitch.


I used French Seams for the bodice side seams and made bias binding for the armhole seam edge. I attached it by stitching it on at 1/4″, trimming the seam allowance, understitching, then using a slipstitch to finish it.

img_1896The bodice waistline seam was about 20″ total. The entire hem of the men’s shirt was much wider, so I created 4 big box pleats to reduce the width of the fabric. Once I liked the size and placement of the pleats, I stitched them at about 1/2″ so the stitching would be within the sam allowance and then attached the skirt to the bodice using French Seams.

img_2564For the second dress, I used a solid blue fabric with the idea I could dip-dye it or tie-dye it in bleach. Once it was done, my husband thought it was too cute to chance ruining it with bleach so for the time being it is still solid blue. *The chalk markings on the picture above are from after the first fitting, I decided to drop the neckline about an inch, raised the waistline an inch, and briefly considered adding another button. However, I didn’t want to make anything strange happen in the center front of the dress, so I opted to leave it with just 2 buttons on the bodice.  The chalk marks will come out with steam.

img_2705.jpgFor the blue dress, I did not keep the collar stay as the front neckline; I used a bias binding to enclose the raw edges instead. For the back bodice, I used the existing yoke from the back of the shirt–I think it is pretty cute.

I used the same bodice pattern but the waistline is now 21″ and the hem is longer. Since this hem is also straighter than the gingham it doesn’t need shorts or leggings under it and it can be a true dress (not a tunic) even if she grown another few inches.

I finished the neckline using 1/4″ bias binding. After stitching it on to the raw edge, I turned it and stitched in the ditch to catch the underside of the bias tape.

img_2568I made simple sleeves using a half-moon shape pattern piece. I turned the sleeve hem two times, pressed the crap out of it, and used a machine topstitch. I gathered the curved edge using 2 long basting stitches at 1/4″ and 1/2″ * In the picture above, the dark thread was just for the fitting phase and I replacesd it with a lighter blue hem and smaller stitch once I saw the sleeves fit well.

After attaching the sleeves, I added homemade bias tape and used a double topstitch for a cute look.

img_2567For the skirt, I made an A-Line shape in lieu of keeping the original side seams and adding pleats. This shirt was a much boxier cut and the entire skirt would have been pleats. Plus, I thought with the sleeve detail, a simpler skirt would make more sense on Biddi’s little frame. I used a hip curve ruler to make the side seam and just eye-balled the shape that seemed correct, proportionally. img_2706.jpg

For seam finishing, I used a straight stitch and an machine overcast stitch for the raw edges. It isn’t as pretty as French seams, but I clipped a seam too close to the edge when I wasn’t paying attention, so I had no choice. So it goes. This finishing technique is more like a typical off the rack construction and should stand up to washing and the dryer just as well. I will trim the stray edges once it is washed and maybe do a second pass with the machine overcast stitch.

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