Is there a shirt you love that doesn’t fit anymore? With only a few basic sewing skills, turn that shirt into a stylish, fitting shirt instead of throwing it away. We have ranked seven different refashioning methods from easiest to hardest below. It can be turned into a tank top, a crop top with waist ties, a napkin top, a crop top with zippers, a t-shirt dress, or a napkin top. With the help of SewingWithEase, you can find out how to do it below.
Make it a tank top
It is best suited for tops that are too tight around the shoulders or arms.
- Clear elastic
Changing a shirt into a tank top is an easy way to refashion it if it is too tight around the arms or shoulders. If you already have a tank top you love, you can use it as a template to cut off the sleeves. Once you’ve cut one sleeve off, you can use that sleeve as a template for the other side. An asymmetrical tank top can be easily obtained this way.
Make sure to finish the tank top’s raw edges with clear elastic after you have cut off the sleeves. Stitch the clear elastic down with a zigzag stitch along the edge of the fabric, taking care not to stretch it. Zigzag stitches again through the elastic and the right side of the fabric on the wrong side of the tank top. Make sure you use thread that matches the color of the shirt when stitching on the right side of the shirt.
It is best suited for shirts that are too tight around the chest or waist.
- Clear elastic
Adding godets to a t-shirt that is too small around the chest and waist area is a simple way to refashion it. Goddess are triangular pieces of fabric inserted into the side seams of garments to add width. Most people are familiar with godets in flared jeans. They’re usually made of floral cotton fabric, which makes the jeans look hippie and boho.
With the same idea, you can make your shirt narrower and more minimalist by adding width to it. Godets made from shirt sleeves can be added instead of printed cotton fabric. By cutting along the underarm seam, you can open up the sleeves by cutting off the sleeves. Make a triangle out of the sleeve fabric by pressing it flat and cutting it. As a result, you will have two triangular godets.
The next step is to cut along the side seams of your t-shirt, then pin the godets in place, matching the angles of the triangles with the angles of the side seams. Using striped fabric, experiment with the placement and direction of the stripes (e.g., should the stripes of the godet match those on the shirt? Should they be offset? Do you want them in the opposite direction?). You can give your shirt a stepped hem by making the godet slightly shorter than the main t-shirt.
After you have placed the godets where you want them, use a stretch needle and stretch stitch to stitch them into the side seams. After that, topstitch through each side of the godet seam and the outer fabric. (Check out my post on sewing machine settings for stretchy fabrics to find out what stitch settings to use for your fabric.)
Following the insertion of the godets, the next step will be to finish the armholes, which currently have raw edges due to removing the sleeves. You can cut the new armholes using a tank top you already own. To cut the other armhole, use the template you created when cutting off the first armhole. So that your armholes are symmetrical, you should do this. With a zigzag stitch, stitch the clear elastic down at the edge of the armhole, making sure not to stretch the fabric. Zigzag stitches again through the elastic and the right side of the fabric on the wrong side of the tank top. Make sure you use thread that matches the color of your shirt for this stitching since it will be visible on the right side of the shirt.
Add zippers to the hem
It is best for Longer shirts that are too tight around the hips
- Two 6-inch zippers
- Strips of fusible knit interfacing
Put some zippers at the hem of your hip-length shirt if it has become too tight around the hip area. Using zippers in contrasting colors or zippers with heavy-duty metal teeth gives your shirt a bit of ease at the hemline, so it is no longer tight around the hips.
Slit your shirt 6 inches from the side seam by positioning the slit 3-4 inches from the edge. Your hip bones should be right where that slit hits. Then repeat the process on the other side.
The area around the slit should be reinforced with fusible knit interfacing if your shirt is very thin. Doing this ensures that the shirt will withstand the stresses caused by the fabric pulling around the slits. You won’t need to do this in the case of a thicker shirt.
Fold in 14 inches on both sides of the slit on the wrong side of the shirt, tapering in at the top. Apply pressure to the other slit and repeat.
Fold the edges of the zipper tape under the hem and pin a 6-inch zipper in the slit. Your stitches should be small to prevent them from showing on the right side of the shirt as you sew the zipper into the shirt. Repeat with the second zipper.
Add waist ties to the crop top
Best suited to shirts with buttons down the front.
Make a crop top with sexy waist ties out of a boring button-down shirt, just in time for summer. Use the cut line as a guide to cut the back of the shirt after you have cut one side of the front. Take the cut side and fold it over so that it can be used as a template for cutting the other side. Your shirt will be more symmetrical if you do this.
Two two-inch-wide strips should be cut from the shirt fabric you cut off. Your new cropped shirt’s bottom band and waist tie will be made from these strips.
About 1/4 inch from the shirt’s cut edge, stitch a line of stitching using the longest stitch length on your sewing machine. Using those threads, gather the shirt’s hem so it fits close to your body while you try it on. Be sure to evenly distribute the gathers around the shirt’s hem.
Fold one of the two-inch wide strips in half and press it once you have gathered the hem. Sew the folded strip 1/4 inch from the gathered edge. The seam allowance should be pressed down and trimmed to 1/8 inch. Just barely cover the seam by folding the strip in half and pinning. The shirt should be flipped over and stitched in the ditch. You should now have a neat band on the bottom of your cropped shirt.
Last but not least, the waist tie needs to be made. The remaining two-inch wide strip should be folded in half and stitched down the long edge. This loop turner is handy for turning tubes inside out. Hand stitch the waist tie to the shirt’s center front after giving it a nice press.
Make it backless
Best for turtleneck knit shirts with long sleeves.
- Clear elastic
Make your long-sleeved knit top sexy and on-trend for spring by turning it into a backless top. For me, this refashion works best when you are wearing a knit top with a turtleneck or mock neck since the neckline area is fully covered while the back is exposed.
From the back neckline of your top, measure 5 inches down. Use tailor’s chalk or a pin to mark that point. Once you have measured 2 12 inches from the side seam, mark it. Then repeat the process on the other side. Connect the points you marked with an upside-down “U” shape cut from the back of the top. The first half of the U shape should be cut out, and then the other half should be cut using the cut piece as a template. As a result, your shape will be symmetrical when you cut it out.
Using clear elastic, finish the cutout on the back. The clear elastic should be stitched to the edge in a zigzag pattern, then flipped to the inside and topstitched.
The next step is to cut a 2-inch wide strip from the U-shaped piece you removed from the back. A lightning stitch is used to stitch the strip in half by folding it in half and stitching with a 1/4 seam allowance. The tube should be turned inside out and pressed. If you press the strap, you will get a flatter finished strap as the seam allowance will be in the middle rather than near the edge. Attach the strap to your top. You should position the strap about 7 1/2 inches from the hem of the shirt so that it falls just below your shoulder blades at the center of your back. If you want the strap to pull taut when worn, pin it in place, ensuring that it has some tension. Make sure the strap is not loose and drooping down the back. Hand stitch the strap to the top, then trim off the excess.
Turn it into a napkin top
A good choice for linen or silk shirts.
- Free downloadable napkin top pattern
- 4 yards of satin cording for straps
You can transform a sexy, skin-baring cowl-neck shirt into a sexy, skin-baring cowl-neck top if your linen or silk shirt no longer fits. A cotton gauze shirt, linen shirt, silk crepe shirt, or silk charmeuse/satin shirt will work best for this refashion.
Construction and cutting. Your shirt should be sleeveless and collarless when you begin. After that, cut off the shoulder seams and the back yoke if it has one. Getting a flat piece of fabric is the goal. The shirt’s side seams should not be cut down – we want to leave them intact so we can work with as much fabric as possible. If the original shirt had pleats, remove them by pressing the entire shirt after cutting.
The pattern piece should be placed on the shirt’s grainline once it has been pressed flat. The pattern piece must be aligned with the grainline on the pattern piece by measuring the same distance up on both side seams. It is intentional for the pattern piece to appear on the diagonal since the fabric will be cut on the bias (i.e., diagonally). Cowl necks have a lovely drape because of their bias cuts.
Pin the pattern around the edge and cut it out once it has been appropriately placed. At the fold of the facing, cut a notch.
Finish the top edge of the facing using your preferred edge finishing technique (one option is to fold the fabric edges over twice, then topstitch them). As soon as the top edge of the facing has been finished, fold it over at the notch, matching the right side to the right side. Make a pin. With a seam allowance of 14 inches, stitch the side seams. Give the facing a good press after trimming the corners to reduce bulk. The top edges should be finished.
On the top, add the straps. Alternatively, you can use contrasting or matching satin cording for the straps. The remaining fabric in your shirt can also be used to make spaghetti straps. The remaining shirt fabric can be used to make six 1-inch wide straps. Each strip should be around 22 inches long. You will be able to tie the top straps with this length.
The strap should be folded over and stitched down with a seam allowance of about 14 inches. The strap’s short end should also be stitched closed. The seam allowance should be trimmed to 1/8 inch, then the strap should be turned inside out. It is a challenge to turn these long, narrow tubes by hand, so I use a nifty loop turner to help me.)
The strap should be folded flat and hand-stitched to the corner of the napkin top once the tube is turned right-side out. The remaining straps should be done in the same manner.
Make a t-shirt dress
This is best suited to two or more t-shirts.
- McCall’s 7688
- 2 1/2 yds twill tape (1/4 inch wide)
- Clear elastic
A graphic t-shirt dress can be made from two or more complementary t-shirts. Turning a free gray t-shirt inside-out so that I had plain fabric to work with, I used a free gray t-shirt I got at a Mets game. In my closet, I also have a plain white Hanes t-shirt.
In order to split the front pattern piece into two, I simply extended the line marking the ruching detail. My white t-shirt was cut out of one part and my gray t-shirt out of the other, adding a 5/8 inch seam allowance. To avoid having to hem the fabric, later on, I cut the pieces to take advantage of the existing necklines and hems on the shirts. There is a drop shoulder on this dress; however, I did not want it because I wanted a sleeveless dress without sleeves. As a result, the armhole on the pattern piece is a bit shorter than what is indicated.
With no alterations to the pattern, I cut the back piece as shown on the pattern.
I stitched down the seam allowance to create two channels for the twill tape that forms the ruching and then sewed the two parts of the front pattern piece together. I ruched the fabric at the skirt’s hem and tied a bow before stitching down the twill tape.
In the end, I finished the armholes with clear elastic after sewing the front to the back at the side seams and armholes.
Just in case you are not familiar with the many terms used in the post, you can go and read our material on the sewing glossary.