Blog Home
Aug 1, 2019

How to Refashion a Men’s Button-Down Shirt

Lisa Hanson
Creator of The Clothing Project SLC

Who doesn’t love a good before-and-after? Giving new life to a worn-out or unused garment is one of my favorite things! And one of the most versatile items to refashion is a men’s button-down shirt. They come in so many patterns and colors, and the fabric is easy to work with, which opens the door for a lot of creative freedom. I’ve used them to create dresses, skirts, and rompers for my two daughters as well as to make many summer shirts for me. For inspiration, I’ve posted a few pictures of projects I’ve done, and then I’ll show you how to make a summer shirt of your own!

Ideas and Inspiration

My daughter loved this romper. I used some shorts and a T-shirt of hers as a pattern and added an elastic waist.
This little dress is easy to make. I cut the basic shape, sewed up the sides, and put some elastic in the neckline.
For this shirt, I shortened the sleeves, adjusted the fit, and added a tie from some extra fabric.
When refashioning, try to think outside the box. For this shirt, I removed the collar and adjusted the sleeves and neckline. Now I wear the shirt backwards, and the buttons down the back give it a delicate touch.
One great way to adjust a neckline is to add elastic.

How to Make Your Own Summer Shirt

There are so many different ways to customize a button-down shirt. Here is how I created this shirt.

Materials Needed:

  • Scissors 
  • 1 button-down shirt
  • Thread in a color that matches the shirt
  • A strip of 1/2-inch elastic (enough to go around the neck)
  • A shirt of your own to use as a pattern (Use a shirt that is oversize and is a woven fabric or a knit. If you use a tighter shirt, you may not be able to get the finished shirt over your head!)


1. Start with a button-down shirt that is several sizes too big for you. The bigger the shirt, the more you can do with it.

2. Cut off the sleeves, the yoke, and the collar. Unpick the pocket and any labels or extra buttons you don’t want on your finished shirt. Cut down the side seams to make separate front and back pieces.

3. Match up the armpits, and fold the shirt in half lengthwise.

4. Use one of your existing shirts as a pattern, and cut out your new shirt. Make sure to leave enough fabric for a seam allowance (5/8 inch) and a casing for your elastic (3/4 to 1 inch).

Tip: If possible, use the shirt hem from the original button-down to save yourself a hemming step later on!

5. Sew up the shoulder seams and side seams. Try the shirt on to make sure it’s the size you want, and make any adjustments as needed. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect; the elastic in the neck will help the shirt lie right and hide any imperfections.

6. Sew a casing around the neck, and leave about an inch open for the elastic. Thread the elastic through with a safety pin. Sew the ends of the elastic together with a zigzag stitch at the desired tightness, and then close the casing.

7. You will be using the sleeves you cut from the original shirt to make the ruffle sleeves for the new shirt. Cut off the cuffs, and use the longest part of the sleeve for the ruffle. You can make it as wide or as ruffled as you want. Sew the short ends together, and iron it in half. Use a gathering stitch, or baste it with a needle and thread. Gather until the ruffle is the same length as your sleeve opening. Pin it to the sleeve, and sew the ruffle to the sleeve.

8. You will also use the original shirt to make the tie for the bottom of the shirt. I used a pencil and drew the shape of the tie onto the fabric. It should be about 11 inches long from tip to tip. Cut out two pieces. Place the two pieces facing inward, and sew around the edge with a 1/2-inch seam allowance, leaving a 2-inch opening to turn it inside out. Push the points out with the tip of a pencil, iron the tie flat, and stitch the opening closed.

9. Tack down the opening of the shirt about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Knot the tie onto the shirt.

And there you have it: a simple summer shirt that can easily be dressed up or down. I paired it here with a pair of thrifted DIY crop jeans. It would also look great with a fun, flowy skirt or wide-leg trousers.

Lisa Hanson is the creator of the Clothing Project, an Instagram account dedicated to thrifting, refashions, and body positivity. Visit her on Instagram @the_clothingproject_slc. She’d love to meet you and see your thrifted and refashioned creations.