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How to tailor a shirt (Refashion a men's shirt to fit a woman)

Topman shirt

Men's clothes are usually bigger than women's.

So any reconstruction that involves converting a man's top to fit a woman would need to be made smaller.

Specifically, narrower in three areas:
  • shoulders
  • sleeves
  • trunk (the upper body)

The only exception is the boob area. Most men don't have boobs, so they're usually made with straight squares of materials which skim over their chest, without calling attention to anything in the bust area. Men's shirts are shapeless in the front. Women's shirts, on the other hand, tend to have a dart or pleat under the bust to create that curve. Anyway, we'll need darts here to accommodate for those curves if you are sewing for a female silhouette.  

It will be easier to put in darts before you narrow the trunk.

Here's how to reconstruct that man's shirt to fit a woman!

1) Narrow the shoulder-to-shoulder width
2) Put darts under the bust so that shirt will curve over boobs
3) Narrow the sleeves and trunk of the shirt

Please read all instructions first :)






1) NARROW THE SHOULDERS

STEP 1: Put on the shirt and mark the end of your shoulder.




















STEP 2: Take shirt off. Draw a curve from the shoulder mark to the armpit, under the original armhole seams. This will be your new armhole. Fold the shirt in half and cut your curve, cutting off both sleeves together.

STEP 3: Turn shirt and both sleeves inside out. Arrange so that the right sleeve is with the right side of the shirt, and the left sleeve with the left side of the shirt. The buttonholes on the cuff should be on the bottom.

STEP 4: Pin the sleeves back onto the shirt. Do this by matching the yoke seams together at the top of the shirt with the yoke seams on the sleeves. The right sides (the outside of the shirt) need to face each other.


You'll have a hole at the armpit because the hole of the sleeve is smaller than the armhole of the shirt. Just try to pin together the sleeve and the shirt as much as possible to keep this hole small. 


STEP 5: Sew the sleeves and the shirt together :) Go slowly since you're sewing a circle.



















2) CREATE DARTS

STEP 1: Put shirt on inside out. Draw an angled line from just underneath a boob towards the side of the shirt.  This will be the dart.

If you notice the dart extends onto a shirt pocket, either start the dart below the pocket, or remove the pocket first.
STEP 2: Take the shirt off. Use a ruler to extend the line to the edge of the shirt.












STEP 3: We need to copy the dart onto the other side of the shirt. If you used chalk, just fold the shirt in half and transfer the chalk line to the other side. If you want it accurate, take these three measurements

a) The horizontal width from the top of the dart to the side of the shirt. 
b) The length down the side of the shirt from the armhole to the horizontal line I drew with step A.
c) The length down the side of the shirt from the armhole to the end of the dart.

As you can see, I got a) 17cm b) 5cm c) 23cm

Use these measurements to draw an identical dart on the other side of your shirt.

 STEP 4: Pin the darts.












 STEP 5: Sew the darts just under the line you've ruled. How much under is up to you. As a general rule, if your boobs are smaller, sew closer to the line. If your boobs are bigger, sew further from the line. Curve out at the top of the dart to close it.







STEP 6: Turn the shirt right side out and try it on. If you're happy with your darts, turn the shirt inside out again and go ahead to cut off the excess material above the dart line. Iron open the dart seams.


















3) NARROW THE TRUNK AND THE SLEEVES

STEP 1: Put the shirt on inside out. Mark where your waist is and then mark where the underside of your arm is. Be a little generous as you can always keep narrowing the shirt if it's too big.


STEP 2: Take shirt off. Draw a straight, angled line on your sleeve from the armpit to the cuff. Then draw a curve from the armpit to the bottom of the shirt. The widest part of the curve is the mark your made of your waist. Cut.







STEP 3: Pin, matching the underarm seams and the cuffs of the sleeves. Pin the trunk from the armpit down. Because of the dart, there will a bit of the back shirt hanging longer than the front.


STEP 4: Sew. Try to keep the armhole seams and dart seams open.

STEP 5: Iron open all your seams, try it on!


















You can hem up the back shirt if you want the lengths of the shirt to match. I tuck in my shirts so I don't bother. You can also cut the sleeves and resew them if they're too long. Or make winter-y shirts into summer ones by making them short-sleeves. Do this before narrowing the sleeves. Go to the second-hand shop and buy lots of cheap men's shirts! Or even plus-size shirts. If you find a really, really big shirt (longer than mid-thigh length) you could re-make it into a shirt dress.You can double your work wardrobe in a weekend- once you do a shirt it's easy to just re-tailor several shirts in the same way.

Gazman shirt
Topman shirt

Rivers shirt
Geoffrey Beene shirt
















































Lastly, if you want to just make a man's shirt smaller, for a man, just follow the instructions for part 1 and part 3- narrowing the shoulders, trunk and sleeves.

**EDIT: When making the shirt for a guy, don't curve in the trunk unless you're after the fitted look, which is also fairly vogue these days.

Please credit JLTFK when re-posting this tutorial :)

What do you think?

Was the tutorial easy to understand?

Do you have another way of tailoring your shirts?

100 comments:

  1. this, my dear, is an AHMAZING post. so detailed but so clear!!! simply unbelievable!!!! i SO need to try this.

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  2. Thanks Clara! Do you have a sewing machine? I still owe you lessons :) Come over and use my mine yes?

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  3. I tried to reconstruct a men's shirt on my own without any instruction and it didn't turn out well.
    So great that I have this tutorial now!

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  4. Hope your next shirt turns out well! Feel free to email me (jiltfk@gmail.com) if you have questions at all! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a pile of mens shirts I got second hand and they have been laying there for a few years waiting for me to figure out how to re size them...this tutorial is EXACTLY what I was looking for, thanks so much!

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  6. Glad to help Eliyafa! Let me know (jiltfk@gmail.com) if the instructions aren't clear :) Hope your shirts turn out lovely.

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  7. hey i love this tutorial. it was really helpful and i was wondering if you could do one for refitting a jacket. I bought a blazer recently that is styled as a 'boyfriend blazer' (so its very loose) but i would like it to be more fitted. any ideas?

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  8. This post was a great overview of the resizing / restyling process. The photos with the chalk lines were really useful. There's one thing I'm still unsure about, though: What about the cuffs?

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  9. @Jericha- I'd love to show you how to re-size a blazer! You can either sew in darts, then narrow the trunk and sleeves as in this tutorial, or narrow the sleeves and then narrow the trunk, curving in at the waist in one stitch.

    This is a really great refashioning idea! :) I'll go to the op-shop after The Fashion Fund and find a blazer to work on. At the moment I'm not sure if narrowing the shoulders would work the same way as in this tutorial 'cos the material for the blazer is so much more thicker. Stay posted!

    ---------------------


    Hey Kepod! Thanks for your question.

    One way would be to cut off the cuffs, turn them inside out and narrow the area closest to the underside of the wrist (as in stitch a line, down the length of the cuff) to fit your wrist. Then sew the cuff back onto the sleeve.

    The easiest way though would be to just reposition the buttons on the cuff so that you can 'narrow' the cuff just by buttoning it :)

    Let me know if I made no sense :) I'm happy to do a follow-up tutorial!

    ReplyDelete
  10. EXACTLY what I needed!!!!! Question: I am petite and would need to cut/hem the bottom of the shirt. How do you keep that curve (at the bottom), that I like so much, that is found on many shirt styles?
    I would like to wear the shirt on the outside of my clothes, right at the top of my hips, not tucked in.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi - great tutorial! I am in the process of doing something similar with a men's shirt. I like your way of doing the darts better than what I did - luckily my shirt is still at a stage where I haven't cut anything yet. I'm glad I saw this before I took it further - now I'm more confident that my shirt will turn out if I re-do the darts.
    To answer HOLLYWOOD's question - if the shirt has a yoke, you can shorten the back by re-sewing the back piece to the yoke so that the side seems match. Then you don't have to re-hem the back part.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Hollywood!

    I love Anon's idea of detaching the back from the yoke- do this before narrowing the sides.

    Another option would be to just cut in a straight line, the back of the shirt to however long you want it (add 1.5cm for hemming). Then use the piece you just cut to trace the curve.. don't forget the 1.5cm hem allowance.. and hem up as usual! If the seams are puckering a little try cutting notches into the hem.

    --

    @Anonymous - thank you for your kind words! And for the idea about the yoke. I've never thought of that before so will definitely try it with my next shirt.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is great! I'm a fan of men's clothing in general but I have the mixed mentality to retain my curves mostly because I'm hefty so wearing men's clothing only makes me look heavier. I hope to find the time to try this, but I've never held a needle before, haha, so I'll need some practice. It's a great tutorial nevertheless! As someone without ANY first had attempt at this feat the lack of moving visuals will be a small challenge.

    Thank you for the guide!
    Cheers- J

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  14. Thank you so much! I am a novice and have been looking for a tutorial on this topic. I cannot wait to tailor down the awesome shirt I thrifted last week.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for the instructions. I've been wanting to do this for so long. I have a hard time finding shirts that are long enough. And since I love shopping in the men's department anyway....this will solve several problems in a jiffy.

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  16. Grazie grazie grazie! Paola from Italy

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  17. Thank you everyone! As always, please feel free to email me if you need any help!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello,
    I would like to see the back of a shirt if you wouldn't mind? I am going to attempt this on a vintage mens army green heavy shirt that I like to wear as a jacket. Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Wonderful tutorial! This would be a great way to get a ready made shirt for myself with arms longer and shirt length longer so I would not have to buy Talls and pay the extra. I am small boned and tall. If I get Talls they are too big all over.

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  20. This absolutely fabulous. How creative. I never would have thought that this could be done. You are the bomb.com that is you are great.

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  22. This tutorial makes it look so simple! Very clear instructions and illustrations.

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  23. I tried this yesterday and have successfully downsized my work "man shirt". It took quite a bit of time, but I am a bit of a perfectionist!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have been looking for a tutorial like this one for so long! Most of them tear down the whole shirt shape for a deconstruction. Thanks for the simplicity and the example of great tailoring!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Okay this may be a dumb question but what about the neck? I inherited some xlarge men's shirts from a friend who was moving and I'm about a size small in women's, its a bit of a difference :/

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks everyone! And An, I would love to see photos of your perfect shirt!

    Hi Bean sorry for the late reply- I've been pondering this and it's totally not a dumb question at all! I'm not sure about the neck as well- you could try removing the collar, cut it in half at the back and re-sew so that it's the right circumference. And then you would need to adjust the neckhole to match, which means that you would probably need to dart it in twice at the back. Does that make sense? Feel free to email me photos if I can help more! My email's jiltfk@gmail.com.

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  27. GOOD GOD I LOVE YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS.

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  28. Wow. I <3 U! My husband absolutely won't wear some of the shirts I buy him but if they had them in women's shirts, I so would. Thank you so, so much for the tutorial. I'm going to get started on my least favorite one right away! And if that goes well I may take back half the ones he will wear too!

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  33. Great job!!! Love the technique, can't wait to try it myself :)

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  34. Thanks! I was given a shirt as a gift that I love but it was just too big and I could not figure how to take it in-I did not think about the shoulders. Brilliant tutorial. Fits perfect now.

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  35. This is really great.I never seen such post before because you really covered each point of making a shirt.just visited inkfruit for buyingt shirts for men and i just amazed by seeing their largest collection for shirts.Thank you so much for sharing such a nice post with us

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  36. Awesome! Wish I can refashion a a men's shirt one day. Thanks for sharing the instructions! :)

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  39. I tried this yesterday and have successfully downsized my work "man shirt". It took quite a bit of time, but I am a bit of a perfectionist!






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  43. This is an amazing post. Am not a spammer. Because i want to praise for the effort that you have shown in this blog. I think anyone can do these things by reading your post clearly. Thanks a lot I have few shirts which i have to set up with my body type so surely will do it. thanks.

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  44. This is a wonderful tutorial! Very helpful! Just one question though: how long does this take? it seems relatively quick...

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    Replies
    1. Hi Victoria! It took me about an hour and a half, perhaps two as I was taking photos and ironing as I went along :) Good luck and let me know if you give it a try!

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  49. Thank you so much for this amazing tutorial. I am always finding men's shirts out of gorgeous materials that I rarely ever find in women's shirts..

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  53. I don't understand what you did with the darts. Please help!

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  54. Hi Kim, happy to help! The dart is just to take in any excess fabric underneath the boobs. If you want to skip the chalk marking step, the easiest way would just be to put on the shirt and pinch in the fabric underneath the bust so the shirt will contour to fit properly. Pin in place, remove shirt and you can hand stitch the dart.

    Have a look at some women's shirts if you are unsure- from the front, the dart looks like a diagonal line aiming up towards the nipple region :) From inside out, the dart will look like a triangle of fabric folded over. It's that little triangle which represents the excess fabric needed to be taken in so to create a boob shape.

    I hope that helps, have a good weekend sewing and if you have any questions please feel free to email me at jiltfk@gmail.com.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Girl, you are the business. How kind of how you explained to this reader (and me, LOL). I am so happy to have "run into" your blog. I can't wait to try this out. Wish I would have read this before moving away from an area with real inexpensive thrifted items. Maybe my girlfriend can hook me up with some men's shirt 'cause it is so on now.

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  55. Hi!
    I love this tutorial and can't wait to try it!
    My question is about collar size. I have several shirts (both mines and husband's) here the collar is too big.
    Any recommendations to take it in?

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristen! Thanks so much for reading and your question! I answered this question once before, so I hope it's ok to repeat here, though please note I haven't actually tried this method myself as the collars seemed to be ok for me-

      "you could try removing the collar, cut it in half at the back and re-sew so that it's the right circumference. And then you would need to adjust the neckhole to match, which means that you would probably need to dart it in twice at the back."

      Hope that helps Kristen, if you have any questions feel free to email me at jiltfk@gmail.com. Best of luck for your shirts!

      Joyce

      Delete
  56. Im trying to do the same thing with a mans vest. Any suggestions? I am in a wedding on the boys side and the vests have already been purchased. Can I put darts into it? Thanks for the advice. ~HFWL

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi there,

    I believe you can! Although seeing as it is an important event you may want to practice on newspaper or butcher's paper first. Trace the vest pattern onto the paper and you can then adjust the darts as needed.

    If you are confident, remove the lining before putting in the dart.

    The most simple and temporary solution, would be to hand-baste the dart and just iron it into place rather than cutting.

    Hope that helps!
    Joyce

    ReplyDelete
  58. Hi Joyce,

    I am trying to alter my husband's shirts. He is broad (XL) but not broad shouldered. I followed your directions but don't know how to proceed with the hole and extra material at the bottom of the new arm pit. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! You can omit the dart and just skip straight to step three to narrow the trunk. Hope that helps! If you need anything please feel free to send me a photo of your shirt at jiltfk@gmail.com, I can provide some notes :) Good luck!

      Joyce

      Delete
  59. I read this tutorial this morning and couldn't wait to get to the second hand store to pick up some men's shirts! Thank you for doing this, I can't wait to get started! Also, I think it's awesome that you're still responding to questions and willing to help people so long after you posted this! Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Thank you so much for your kind comment, I really love that people are still reading this and enjoying resizing their clothes! I hope your shirts go well and would love to hear how it went.

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  64. Thanks a bunch! Another version is to baste sew, than reinforce sew the trunk/arms before cutting (afraid of effing up I suppose, cutting is sew permanent, ha, see what I did there :\) It just allows easier adjusting if needed. You can always make something smaller but it's a bit more difficult to make things larger after you've cut the fabric off. Just my cents :) Thanks for the great details!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi there! Thanks so much for your input... I've actually never thought of it that way before! Great idea and I will try it with the shirts that are a bit nicer! xoxo

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  65. Awesome, awesome awesome. Thank you so much! Saved me some $$. I also cut last, after sewing the trunk and arms and trying it on again, just to make sure. Turned out great!

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  66. I actually bought a shirt today and I didn't notice that it was a men's shirt; I really love the color so I decided to tailor it. Thanks to your tutorial it turned out great :) Love my new fitted shirt.

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  75. Snow day today. Doing this with one of my deceased husband's shirts this afternoon!
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    1. Thanks Lori, what a wonderful and cheerful comment! You've really made my day. So glad you could use your husband's shirts in such an inventive way for your family. I'm sure they will remember him fondly with your creations. xx Joyce

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Hope you feel inspired and creative- thanks for taking the time to read and comment back.

xx

Joyce