Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer Top from Men's Dress Shirt

In the past couple of weeks I've been busy making southern style "pillowcase" dresses and tops for baby shower gifts.  The pattern is so simple and the end results are darling, I just had to try making one for myself.  I picked up a pattern while visiting my parents in early June and made a stunning dress for an upcoming family luau.   

I liked it so much I decided to alter the pattern to create a casual summer top to wear with shorts during these steamy hot summer Texas days.  And then I got to thinking.  "I wonder if I can make something similar with thrift store finds?"  

Turns out, You Can! 

Start by finding a men's dress, or casual button down, shirt.  Choose one that is big on you.  

Deconstruct the shirt.

Cut along the side seams all the way through the sleeve seam to separate the front of the shirt from the back.

Cut along the sleeve seams to remove the sleeves.


Cut along the back shoulder yoke to remove the front top of the shirt from the back top at shoulders.

Cut around the collar to remove it from both the front and back of shirt.  If you cut carefully below the seam, you can save the collar for another project.

It should look something like this.  The collar should be removed as well.

Set pieces aside while you create your pattern pieces.

Create a pattern using newsprint.  It's simple!  Really it is.  Leave one long side of the paper with its existing straight edge. This will be the front center.  On the other long side, cut from the bottom in a slightly tapered angle up towards the top stopping about 7 inches from the top.  Now turn a right angle and begin cutting the armhole.  Cut an inch or two towards the front center (existing straight side of newsprint).  Then curve straight up to the top of the newsprint.  To cut the neckline, simply cut a very slight curve to the front center. (See photo above.)


Lay your pattern on top of another sheet of newsprint.  Trace your pattern.  When you get to the armhole make a couple of slight modifications.  Make the back pattern from the armhole about 1 inch taller than the front pattern and about 1 inch more narrow.  Your front and back patterns will be almost identical except for the armholes.  Both armholes will start at the same position, but the back will be cut a little deeper and will extend about 1 inch taller.



Fold the front of your shirt in half matching the sides.  Lay your front pattern on top of the shirt lining up the front center of your pattern along the front center fold of your shirt front.  Pin in place.  I decided to use the existing hem of the shirt.  I recommend you do the same.  

Do not cut the bottom off along your pattern. Just cut along the side and top of your pattern.

If your shirt has a button placket down the front, be careful you don't through the button.  

Remove the button if necessary.

Remove the pattern.  This is what the front of your shirt should look like when you unfold it.

Repeat the process for the back of your shirt.  Begin by folding the back in half matching side seams.  Pin your back pattern making sure the center back of your pattern is along the center fold of your shirt back.
If you are using the existing shirt hem, remember to leave the same length of fabric on the back side.  Do not cut along the bottom of your pattern, just cut along the side and top.  

 Again, remove the pins and pattern piece.  Unfold your back piece.  

It should look like this.

With right sides together, pin shirt front to shirt back making sure the bottoms and armholes align.  Remember, the back is taller than the front so it's not supposed to match at the tops of the shoulders.

Sew side seams using 5/8 seam.

Press seams.

Create a narrow hem in the armholes.  To make a narrow hem, turn armhole edges in 1/4 inch.  Press in place.  

Turn edges in another 1/4 inch.  Press in place.  If you are using a steam iron, be careful!  Your fingers can easily get scorched by the steam if you are holding the rolled edge!

Sew the rolled armhole hems in place along the edge. Press flat.

It's time to create the casing through which your shoulder strap will feed.
Begin by folding top of the shirt front 1/4 inch.  Press.

Now fold over 1 inch.  Use a seam gauge or tape measure.  Press in place. 

Sew the casing in place by stitching very near the edge.  Repeat with the shirt back.

This is what your project should look like now.  You're almost done!

For this top I used double fold seam binding for my shoulder strap.  Simply sew the seam binding along its open edge.

Attach a large safety pin to the end of your seam binding.  This will help in feeding it through the casing.  

Work the safety pin and strap through the casing of both the shirt front and the shirt back. 

Pull the shoulder strap and adjust the gathers of both the shirt front and back.  Tie the two loose ends of the shoulder strap together.  

Slip it over your head and adjust.  

Consider wearing the removed collar with your strappy top to give it an extra sassy look!

An old, men's tie is a great option for creating quirky shoulder straps.

Or wear the tie with the removed collar for extra spunk and sass!  

All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.

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