Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Classic Refashion: Oversized to Fitted Shirt

This is a pretty generic refashion, but I figured I'd post a quick tutorial just in case anyone wanted to skip past thinking about how to make a larger button-up shirt into something smaller. This way you can jump right in.

I found this XL Women's shirt in the 50-cent bin at my favorite thrift store, it's a quality brand, nice linen fabric, and in great shape with the exception of a bit of discoloration in the underarms. But that's no matter because that portion of the shirt will be cut away.

Tutorial note: Men's shirts would also work great as they often come is larger sizes, and are less likely to have existing tailoring or darts that you would need to work around.


First I looked through my pattern stash and found a button-up dress pattern that I've used before and knew was a good fit. (Butterick B4185 to be exact, it's from 2004, not sure if it's still available but you should be able to find something similar if you don't have a button-up pattern already in your stash) A shirt pattern would be a more obvious selection, but I was trying to use what I already had :)

Next I cut the sleeves away, and lined up and pinned the front portions of the shirt, hem to hem, seam to seam, button to button hole. I placed the pattern front so that the top shoulder seam didn't line up exactly with the edge of the pattern, as you want it to overlap 5/8" -- the amount that you would have normally use for a seam allowance. This is important, otherwise the sleeve may not fit correctly.
Then the same is done with the back pattern, again letting the pattern lay 5/8" over the pre-sewn shoulder seam. Be sure to line up the outermost corner of the sleeve with the cut already made to the front.

If your pattern has darts or other tailoring marks, follow the instructions to fit the shirt to your body shape. I shortened the front darts slightly so that they would not interfere with the details on the existing shirt front.

Next, sew the side seams (unless your pattern calls for sleeves to be sewn in prior to side seams, in which case you should just follow the pattern instructions.)

As for the new sleeve, I opted to cut from the lower portion of the old sleeve to keep some of the detailing near the cuff. (the bottom cuff is pleated, so it may look like I didn't cut out the sleeve wide enough, but I promise that I did)
I thought I might keep the entire cuff, but I eventually cut off the bottom portion since it fell at my elbow wouldn't button comfortably. If the shirt you are using is large enough, you might be able to make a short, 3/4 length, or even a long sleeve while maintaining the original cuff.

Sewing in the sleeve is the only challenging part of this refashion, but just remind yourself how much time and potential frustration you avoided by not having to sew a collar or button placket!

Lastly I hemmed the bottom of the shirt. It was far too long if I kept the original length, plus the front and back were different lengths after sewing darts.


Enjoy! For other refashioning ideas, be sure to check out all the wonderful bloggers that have taken the Wardrobe Refashion Pledge!


  1. *sigh* you make it sound so easy ;-)
    I'm a beginner at sewing, but I have loads of men's shirts lying around waiting to be used productively.
    I shall see if I can find a suitable pattern and have a go.
    Thanks for the great tutorial!

  2. That look's great!!! I am so proud of you for taking the pledge.

    xo Steph