How to Upcycle a Men's Dress Shirt

Created By:

Jacquline Terry

Skill Level: Intermediate

Who loves a good panic sew? NOTHING like finishing your outfit right before it’s time to leave! There’s no other adrenaline rush like it… am I right?


Here’s my latest adrenaline rush sewing project…..the perfect summer BBQ top that I upcycled from a men’s button-down! The best part about this is you can really make it whatever you want! Sleeves no sleeves… V-neck, scoop neck, crop top, tube top… you name it you can do it with this project. This one is kind of more like an inspiration project!

Here’s how mine went…..

Fabric and Notions Required

What I used on my project

  • Shirt to upcycle
  • Tank top that I like the fit of
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Straight pins
  • Safety pins for fitting
  • Scissors,
  • French curve

Let’s start by finding a shirt to Upcycle. You can choose one shirt or even two very different prints to mix it up.

I have chosen this dress shirt!



First, lay out your shirt nice and flat and iron it flat if you need to (if it's super wrinkly). Start with shaping the neck…. Do you want a V-neck or a scooped neck? I have this tank top that I like the fit of the neckline so I’m going to use that as a guide. I’ve laid down my tank top for reference. Don’t forget to leave yourself Seam allowance when you cut!!

I am going to determine how wide I want the shoulders to be and where to cover the bra straps. 

Next, determine how deep you want your underarm opening to be. Again, I’m going to start with where the tank top lines up and line it up to the underarm of the actual shirt. From here you can re-shape the armhole area. Generally, the front will need more of a scooped shape and the back will be curved and then more straight up. You can use a French curve or armscye curve for this. Just leave yourself seam allowance!!

PRO TIP…. Use the width of your measuring tape to make sure you have enough seam allowance from the sew line.

Next, let’s look at some general fitting issues…

After I have sewn or pinned the shoulders and under arms it’s time to try it on and see where everything is. Differences between a men’s shirt and women’s usually is length of shoulder to bust area is going to be too long especially if you started with a shirt that was on the bigger side. The other main point here will be that you may or may not need to add a bust dart depending on your chest measurements. You can do this in fitting. Drape it on and see where the fabric lands.

One main change I decided to make in the fitting stage was to adjust the neckline. I originally thought I wanted a basic rounded neckline, but it looked like an apron, so I decided to change that a little.

After you have the fit you want. You need to figure out how you want to finish the garment off.


Facings vs Bindings

Because of the new shape I chose for the neckline, I need to make facings for the front neckline. If you have a regular scoop or rounded neckline you can do a facing to give a clean finish or you can do bias bindings!

Finally, the hem! Will this be a crop top or shirt length? Do you want to keep the original hem line with the curve or cut it straight off and turn it up? I chose to keep the original hem because it was quicker ANNDDD because I knew I would be tucking It in!


What I would do differently next time

Plan ahead and make or use a pattern and not wing it so much ;)

I wish I would have planned out the shape a little better and taken more time on some of the finishings but that can be a project for another day!


Happy Sewing :) <3 Jackie

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