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Give Your T-shirt a Lacy Look

Replace its plain sleeves and shoulders with a more feminine fabric.

Most of us have T-shirts on regular rotation in our wardrobes because they’re comfortable, easy-care, and simple to pair with most separates. Here’s a way to make a plain T-shirt special: Replace the neckline, upper bodice, and sleeves with lace. The effect is dressy-casual, which is perfect with jeans, a pencil skirt, under a jacket, or whatever your style calls for.

To get started on this redux T-shirt project, choose a basic fitted top or dress pattern that has a sleeve you like. I used Simplicity 1693, which features a lace version. However, most basic fitted top patterns should work. Avoid patterns with princess seams or darts above the armhole.

Select a lace fabric for the bodice. The lace in this example is guipure, a densely patterned lace without a net backing. Many lace varieties are suitable for this project, as long as an appropriate seam-finishing method is used.

Choose a basic cotton knit T-shirt for the lower portion of the top, and be sure to have 1/4-inch-wide double-fold bias tape to bind the neckline.

Note that if your pattern’s neckline opening is small, consider adding a center-back zipper to help get the shirt on and off easily, as described in “How to Sew an Exposed Zipper.” Finally, refer to the pattern instructions to determine the recommended seam allowance for the pattern.


Lace pattern can be from an existing blouse pattern


Adjust the pattern

1. Determine the upper bodice length. It helps to hold the pattern up to your body to select an appropriate length for the lace section. Mark the pattern somewhere below the armhole seam and above the bust dart. Use this marking and a ruler as a guide to draw a seamline perpendicular to the center front. Add a cutting line, 5/8 inch below the seamline.

use bodice pattern from an existing sewing pattern Draw the seamline 2 1/4 inches below the underarm seam.

2. Transfer the line to the back bodice. To ensure that the front and back bodice lengths are the same, align the pattern pieces’ side seams and mark the front pattern piece’s cutting line level on the back side seam. Use a ruler as a guide to draw a line across the back pattern piece, perpendicular to the center-back seamline or foldline.

adjust the pattern pieces

3. Complete the patterns. Cut the patterns along the cutting lines.

complete the pattern adjustments

Assemble the upper bodice

1. Stitch the front and back. Use the shortened pattern pieces to cut the front and back bodice from lace. With right sides together, stitch the back bodice pieces along the center-back seam (see photo below). Then, with right sides together, stitch the front bodice to the back bodice along the shoulder seams and side seams. To neatly finish the seam allowances, consider serging the raw edges or using a double zigzag seam.

assemble the bodice

2. Bind the neck edge. Remove the seam allowance along the neckline edge before continuing. Open out one side of 1/4-inch-wide double-fold bias tape. With right sides together, pin the tape along the entire neckline edge. Stitch through the crease.

bind the neck edge with bias-tape

3. Fold the tape. Wrap the tape up and over the seam allowance to the garment’s wrong side to encase the garment’s raw edge. Pin the tape in place. Edgestitch along the inside edge.

fold the tape over and top stitch

Create the sleeves

1. Cut the sleeve pattern from lace fabric. Notice that I used the lace border as the sleeve hem. This creates a unique raw edge that doesn’t need to be finished. However, if you prefer to cut the sleeve as usual, bind the hem edge with bias tape (see steps 2 and 3  in “Assemble the upper bodice” above) after step 2 below. (Insiders can find additional methods for hemming lace in “Lace Edges.”)

sleeve cut from pattern using lace edge instead of hemming

2. Gather the sleeves. Refer to the pattern instructions to determine where to gather the sleeve cap. With right sides together, stitch the underarm seams and finish the seam allowances.

insert lace sleeved onto new bodice

3. Insert the sleeves. With right sides together, pin the sleeves to the lace bodice, being sure to match notches and dots. Baste then stitch in place.

4. Assess the length. Now that the entire lace portion is done, try on the top and adjust the length if necessary. Make sure to account for the 5/8-inch-wide seam allowance along the lower edge.

Prepare the T-shirt

1. Cut the shirt. With a ruler and a marking tool, draw a line across the shirt, approximately 5/8 inch above the armhole seam. Note: the line placement varies, depending on the size of the shirt and where you chose to cut the lace. Next, make sure the shirt’s front and back hems are even and that the shirt is flat and unwrinkled. Cut along the marked line.

prepare t-shirt by marking upper bust Although the T-shirt’s top portion won’t be used in this project, feel free to save it for another upcycling project.

2. Finish the top. With right sides together, pin the bottom of the lace bodice to the top of the cut T-shirt. Stitch with a 5/8-inch-wide seam allowance. Press the allowances down toward the T-shirt.

sew on lace upper bodice After sewing the lace top to the cut T-shirt, be sure to press the seam allowances toward the T-shirt.


Upcycle a t-shirt with lace

Now that you’ve finished this project, what are your thoughts about working with lace? Are you a fan of upcycling projects? Please leave your comments below.


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  1. mswatson | | #1

    How much lace do you buy the the bodice ?

  2. User avater
    dfinkle | | #2

    It all depends on your size and the sleeve pattern you use. I bought 1 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric to make this size 14 bodice, but had a decent amount of fabric left over.

  3. frenetes | | #3


  4. gretanes | | #4

    pięknie :)

  5. User avater
    sam416 | | #5

    This is a great idea to spice up your wardrobe! My tees have been looking drab lately, I will definitely be using this to make them look fresh again for spring! Thanks for the how-to Dana :)

  6. User avater
    MaryFLindsey | | #6

    Keep it up!! Thanks for sharing...

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