Starting point
Finished shirt

I’d like to take you on my journey of refashioning a thrifted menswear shirt and hope to inspire you to experiment more with thrifted clothing. My challenge here was to make it more wearable: the sleeves were too long, and though I like oversized clothing, I also wanted to experiment with the body. 

I always search for design elements, construction, and interesting details when I’m in clothing stores.  Thrift stores offer an inexpensive possibility of taking garments apart, whether to use as a pattern, learn construction, or both. 

I came across this shirt in a thrift shop near my mom’s house and was immediately drawn to its color and condition. It was brand new, and on sale for $3.50. 

I’m always interested in different ways of the sleeve and front placket construction in shirting, and in this shirt, the front placket was constructed in a more elaborate matter. You may also spot chain stitching used on a placket in a close-up. 

This of course was not enough to justify this purchase, it was more about the quality and color for me, and an opportunity to experiment with it. 

The idea of imitating a corseted waist was immediate. I just needed to decide on a number and placement of front and back pleats, and repeat this process on the other side. The mannequin really helps with this process, but it’s still a good idea to try it on yourself as well before you start sewing. 

I still needed to figure out what to do with those super long sleeves, and serendipitously I saw this detail on a shirt when I popped in at Saks. 


Here, you can see the back corseting detail on the waist, and how the sleeve looks from the back with a triple front pleat. 

I tried to keep back pleats about the same distance from each other, marking the end point of which until I was satisfied with the shape created. 

In order to imitate corseting, body pleats are finished in a box shape, as if boning was inserted. 

I added an extra pleat on a sleeve to make it slightly shorter, and finished these with just regular stitching. 

Close up of the back detail. 

This technique could also work on an oversized t-shirt when you feel like accentuating your waist, and making a simple t-shirt more “designer” like. You’ll just have to add a zipper on a side if you’ll make it very close to your waist. 

Tom Ford also had a similar detail on the Fall 2021 runway in white and black tank tops. 

My last-minute add-on was this detail around the collar. I was just too closed up without it and brought more attention to the size of the collar: it almost wanted to fall this way. To continue with waist box stitching, I repeated it here as well. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this shirt on myself. I took it on vacation with a friend, and she loved it so much that I had to give it to her. It looked amazing on her styled with short denim shorts and simple flats, and I’m glad it’s loved and lives in a good closet. 

I also think if it was longer, it would easily turn into a dress, so hint hint to any of you who love shirt dresses, but hate spending time putting one together: time to go thrifting:)

Happy refashioning!

Leave a Reply