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Re-style a man’s shirt into a woman’s

seafield | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I have some mens shirts that I want to convert to wear myself.
The shoulders are huge of course, so I thought of cutting off the sleeves, and making them and the armholes smaller to start with , and replacing them. Then adding darts to the body to make it fitted.
Have you any tips or suggestions?


  1. starzoe | | #1

    There are some things that are worth redesigning, but in my opinion cutting down men's shirts to fit women isn't one of them. You could sew a couple of simple tops in the time it would take to rework one man's shirt.

    There was a fad some years ago where men's white shirts were appliqued, painted, embellished and worn as is. Save those shirts you have for work around the yard; they also make great swimsuit cover-ups as is.

    Edited 6/17/2009 11:16 am ET by starzoe

  2. ljb2115 | | #2

    I agree with the prior post - get new fabric and make a shirt from scratch and you will be happier.  I have never been a fan of re-doing a garment.  My mother (great depresson years) was always ripping garments apart and re-making them.  If something is made from great fabric, say, cashmere, some silk or a good wool, then do so - otherwise, let well enough alone.

  3. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #3

    Men's shirts are great to rework, if you want to make them into something completely different. There are a lot of fun things you can make out of them, or work the details into a completely different garment. Reworking them to wear as shirts, you might just as well sew with new fabric. A lot of work, and the result might not have the fine finish you want. An oversized shirt can look great, and is wonderful over t-shirts and jeans.
    If you have a lot of similar shirts, why not use the fabric in them to construct a new shirt that fits? Cathy

  4. PASDENOM | | #4

    If the fabric is in good condition and you like how the neck fits it can be done by cutting it apart except for the shoulder seams. i.e. cut off the sleeves and cut apart the side seams. Lay pattern pieces for front and back so they correspond as closely as possible to the shoulder and neck. Set the sleeve pattern to match the finished cuff if you want to keep it, or above it if you want a different sleeve hem. I think it's worth doing to have the collar and buttonholes and front band ready made.

    I've been reworking old oversize, drop shoulder RTW shirts into closer fitting shirts with set in sleeves. It gets a little tricky where the armscye is cut too low to fit the new one, but usually I can fudge it well enough. Sometimes there is only enough if I carefully rip the seams rather than cut them away.

  5. jjgg | | #5

    I agree with Pasdenom, if the shirt fits in the neck/collar, you have to cut off the sleeves, and open the side seams. If you put in a bust dart, the front will be shorter than the back at the side seams, so it will need to be re-hemmed. It is difficult but not impossible to re-do the kind of seam that the sleeve was sewn on with (take a look at the seam, it's usually a fairly wide flat felled looking seam. David Coffins book on Shirtmaking has a great tutorial on it.

    Actually, you should probably get his book. It is the bible on shirtmaking.

    You will probably want to taper the side seams in at the waist to make them more fitted.

    Mens shirt sleeves have a very flat sleeve cap, and a low armhole, this allows the movement in raising the arm. Depending on how big the shirt is, how much you need to do at the side seams, and, how long the sleeves are (oh, did I mention you need to take out the underam seam?) you can re-shape the armhole for a more fitted look, narrow the sleeve and re-shape the cap so it's more like a waomans shirt.

    Yup, it's a lot of work but if its a good shirt, with fabulous fabric I just might do it too. (not to have to make the perfect little points on the collar? the collar stand and all those buttonholes? ABSOLUTELY)

    1. seafield | | #6

      Thankyou so much for your comments. Especially about the effect of the dart .
      I will recut the arm scye, and the top of the sleeves (once narrowed)to my favourite woman's shirt pattern. The material and the collar make it worth doing. (I also hate sewing shirt collars and stands.)

      Edited 6/21/2009 12:39 am ET by seafield

      1. jjgg | | #7

        Please let us know how it turns out, pictures would be great

  6. ellaluna | | #8

    There are some pretty interesting remakes of men's shirts on etsy. Check this out:

    Tunic dress thing:


    Skirt: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=12130167

    I especially love the little girls versions:





  7. Teaf5 | | #9

    I agree that restyling the shirt may be much more work than making a new one, but I adore the fabric of a well-worn men's dress shirt--so soft and comfortable!  I have a few that I wear around the house; they're Big & Tall, so I just roll the sleeves and wear them as knee-length dresses.

    If the shirt is not terribly oversized, you can make vertical darts without worrying about the side seams.  A conventional shirt would have two vertical back darts and two or four front darts; and interesting tuxedo effect--for a larger shirt--would have three or four darts on each side of the front and back.  The darts can be open-ended tucks that circle your waist; the completed shirt would look nice over dark leggings or a pencil skirt and maybe wrapped with a nice belt.

    If the shirt is very oversized, the collar is likely to be out of proportion to a smaller women's shirt; again, though, you can go dramatic and play that up, perhaps by layering two shirts.

    When you are restyling and recycling clothes, you can take chances that you would never do with new fabric, and the limitations of the original garment can become inspiration for new techniques and lines.  If it doesn't work out, you can always restyle it again into something else; if I can remember how to post a photo, I'll post a quilt I made from menswear.

    1. Teaf5 | | #10

      Here is a picnic quilt made from men's shirts and slacks.  It's entitled "Take This Job" and was made in 1999 to commemorate my husband's liberation from a job that required him to wear a tie every day.  The dark bands are from the Dockers that were allowed on "casual Fridays."

      Backed with fabric stashed since the early 1970s, it is simply tied.  We traditionally use it to watch fireworks on July 4th, as it represents another "independence day." 

      If your re-styling of men's shirts doesn't work out, you can make a comfy patchwork quilt!

      Hmm...cannot attach file as I've "exceeded personal space maximum"...can anyone explain how to delete other photos to leave room for a new one?

      1. MaryinColorado | | #17

        What a wonderful "heirloom" to share with your family on Independence Day!  I love it!  Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story.  Mary

        1. Teaf5 | | #18

          A reader's tip in a sewing magazine reminded me to sign, label and date each quilt, and I'm so glad that I did in this case.  When I pulled it out to photograph it, I could not believe that my husband's "independence day" was ten years ago! 

          We've enjoyed the quilt but even more importantly his peace of mind ever since, so time has really been flying.

          1. MaryinColorado | | #19

            Thanks for sharing this important tip!  I have been making the labels, but was just putting something related to the person it is for on the label.  (Like "Happy 11th birthday Greg" and a tiger pawprint, etc.).  Now I will be sure to sign and date them too!  The signifigance had escaped me before.  I'm happy to hear that you and your husband are so happy with your decision.  Quality of life and happiness are what really matter. 

          2. jjgg | | #20

            You should absolutly sign and date all quilt labels as well as put the city/town you live in when you made it. Quilt labels can help if a quilt gets stolen, but to prevent someone from just taking off the label you can put it on the quilt and THEN quilt the quilt so it gets quilted in. OR. You can piece the label into the quilt backing ( cut away the quilt back under the label), that way it can't be removed. The last alternative is to sign right onto the quilt backing. I usually make a label but I also inconspicuously sign and date directly on the quilt. One other way to identify your quilts is to always incorporate a small quilting motif somewhere that you put on every quilt.

          3. MaryinColorado | | #21

            Great recommendations!  I'll practice my name in freemotion, decide wether to use a tiny faery or dragonfly, quilt the label in instead of putting it on with a blanket stitch, and also be signing the quilts in permanent ink.  Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge! 

            I've been using inks more in my quilts lately and it has been a wonderful way to cover "mistakes" and to draw instead of applique parts of the designs and to add shadow and details.  It will be fun to find places to "hide" my signature in addition to the labels too!  It adds a bit of mystery and the grandkids will enjoy searching for it too. 

            The journey is so enhanced by all we share here!  Mary


          4. KharminJ | | #22

            Delightful! "Where's Waldo?" in fabric ~ I love it!<p>BB ~ REALLY going to bed now! (She says ...)<p>Kharmin

          5. MaryinColorado | | #23

            Teaf and Jigg really had some great tips!  Lots of food for thought and those personal touches always add to the joy.  Mary

    2. seafield | | #11

      Well after demolishing shirt 1 , shirt 2 worked out really well.I found out that the trick being to drop the shoulders considerably. Men's shirt shoulders go straight out from the neck , women's shirts go on an angle.1 Cut off sleeves at seam line
      2 Cut open sleeves on seam line
      3 Place woman's shirt/blouse pattern on top of body and align the center fronts together. This will give a triangle of material at the top of the shoulder which you cut off. Then cut the new arm scye.
      4 Put sleeve pattern on top of open sleeves and cut them .
      5 Sew pieces back together.
      Do check by pinning that the shirt can still fit.That's why it's important to drop the shoulders, so you still have that width at the chest/bust.
      6 Put shirt on inside out and pin side seams and darts front and back as required.Sew to fit.
      7 Viola - Fitted shirt. OK not as well finished as the original, but at last a tall person like me gets a shirt long enough to wear over leggings.I have also included a different quick and dirty way to alter the shirt in the first drawing.Edited 6/20/2009 1:26 am ET by seafieldEdited 6/20/2009 1:32 am ET by seafield

      Edited 6/21/2009 12:40 am ET by seafield

      1. Ralphetta | | #12

        It would be best for her to check to see how her shoulders are shaped before she starts cutting. My shoulders are more straight across than most men's!! I rarely can wear a man's Tshirt because they slope. Many expensive men's shirts have a definite diagonal slope to the shoulders. Probably because many men work out and develop muscles around the neck? I just mention it because it's something I'm always checking when looking for bargains..and I was surprised to discover that I had as much trouble in the men's department as i did in the women's.

      2. Teaf5 | | #13

        Interesting! What did you do with the cuffs/placket of the sleeves?  Cut them off and finish differently?

        1. seafield | | #14

          I had narrowed the whole of the sleeve down to the cuff. But I did not touch the cuffs or plackets as the sleeve ended up shorter , and therefore the right length, after I had cut the new arm scye.I then just moved the button on the cuff to make it a narrower fit around the wrist.In the past I have altered mens' shirts the hard way - by trying all sorts of darts and odd waist seams in the back. But this way is the one I'll continue with in future as the result was just so good.But I do stress that you have to be mindful of the width at the bust continuing to be sufficient. (Which I didn't on the first disastrous shirt.)So by lowering the shoulder ,- the widest part of woman's pattern remains at the widest point of the shirt ie. under the armhole.
          It also helped that the shirt was huge to start with.I'm looking forward to doing some more with some vintage cowboy shirts, or maybe a formal dinner shirt.

          Edited 6/21/2009 12:38 am ET by seafield

          1. Teaf5 | | #16

            "Vintage cowboy shirts,... formal dinner shirt"--now that sounds like fun! Be sure to post your results and photos, if possible!

    3. seafield | | #15

      I love your idea of the open ended tucks around the waist . Brilliant, can't wait to try that on shirts or t-shirts. Thankyou.

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