Men’s Button Down Shirt Refashion: Ladies Make it Your Own! – Eco Fashion Sewing

Men’s Button Down Shirt Refashion: Ladies Make it Your Own!

By Mariana Kirova

Do you love men dress shirts, but want feminine design? Well, this article introduces simple yet innovative way to transform men shirts into woman’s garment with the help of a Paganoonoo pattern.

If you have basic sewing skills, but never done any clothes upcycling, this is probably the best way to start making your own (No pattern making skills or previous work with patterns needed!)


If you ever faced reworking and combining old clothes into new, you already know how challenging that could be. Usually every garment is from difficult to mix and match material, because of the specific colour, print and pattern pieces that is made from. Figuring out a new design is always a challenge, even if you have some experience in all this, let alone if you are just starting out.

Therefore I’m excited to find that some professionals are working on clarifying the upcycling process while keeping the great quality standards in clothing construction in focus.

Upcycle With Paganoonoo Pattern

One of these professionals is Michelle Paganini, who I was pleased to meet online recently. Michelle began her business in 2015 after the publication on upcycling in Threads Magazine issue #177: Shirt Cuts, Create Innovative Garments from Ordinary Shirts.

Today, along with her unique upcycled fashion, Michelle creates patterns which help you to transform pre-existing clothing by applying interesting upcycling cuts turned into wonderful women designs. With her Paganoonoo patterns any sewer with no professional clothing background and with confident basic sewing skills (advanced beginner) could create beautiful upcycled garments.

Check Michelle’s patterns on her Paganoonoo website. But don’t miss out her blog too as she has lots of upcycling articles and as-you-go ideas there as well.

The Ashley Blouse And The Double Collar Pattern

I was drawn to The Ashley Blouse pattern that Michelle named after her sister Ashley, the muse ignited this particular design. I loved The Double Collar pattern too. As other Paganoonoo patterns, the pattern package has every information you need on what, how, when and why wonderings. Unlike to other commercial drafted pattern though, you will not find those big sheets with pattern pieces (usually requiring experience to work with and time to figuring out what to do).

Instead of headache, the Paganoonoo instruction booklet provides clear, simple to follow step-by-step instructions with corresponding diagrams and drawings. You only need to read and follow it. But also, here you'll find lots of complimentary and useful information, from what to look for when choosing materials to useful tips, sewing guidelines and alternative suggestions on how you can make your project.

The extensive instructions leave you complete the freedom to create. You can make your own personalized upcycling project. Choose what colours, prints and dress shirt materials to combine. I must admit, I truly enjoyed the balance of the process: the solid base of step-by-step instructions and the joy of selecting preferable raw materials. This is, I think, one great structured way to dive into real upcycling (with beautiful product at the end).

Choosing The Colours

For the Ashley blouse I wanted a calm, more classic look, semi-formal style that I can wear at creative business meetings, but also to suit casual occasions when a more sophisticated “shirt look” is wanted. My stash offered me few pink men shirts to choose from. Nonetheless, I needed to avoid the cold pink around my face, as this colour makes me look ill and doesn’t suit me at all (but I love it;). So, I chose pale blue for the top part with a little pink addition as the second/under collar.

Add An Accent Colour

To make the colour choice alive, though, I needed an accent colour to emphasise the design. Therefore I modified the pattern a bit and picked a man’s tie to add the necessary accent (I'm naughty when I have to follow instructions, it's the same when I cook;).

I tried several looks with men ties in different colours, until finally got the desired appearance - the red tie belt.


Drape #1: Dark blue tie


Drape #2: Red tie (my choice)


Drape #3: Dark brown tie

TIP: Personalize the accent

You may often find that you like few options for accent colour. To pick your best match, think of what usually you would choose to wear. If you prefer comfortable classic or beige colours, then choose accent that will blend and won't stand out. If you don’t mind some attention and bit of boldness though, then brighter (the red) or contrasting colour accent (the dark blue or brown tie) might suit you better.

To integrate the red accent and make the right flow, I added red buttons, which gave completeness of the final look. A red second collar would had been also a good choice for my project, but I didn’t have anything suitable in the stash so worked it out with what I already had.


Collar detail


Sleeve detail


Back loop detail

Make It Special


Family heirloom touch for my upcycle: a Bavarian boy accessory from my step-dad

As a personal touch, I added a very dear treasure of mine - my step-dad’s accessory from when he was a little boy, a Bavarian boy necktie/necklace.

It was the perfect pair for the red tie, also my step-dad's, which he doesn’t wear anymore.

If you keep some sort of similar treasury, then take it out of the box and make use of it.

Finalizing The Upcycling Idea

If I don’t have the visual idea, usually I feel unsure and don't want to cut. So, only after I was completely happy with the design, I was able to begin.

For the occasions when the shirt is worn without the belt, I incorporated an elastic into the empire horizontal seam at the back for a semi-fitted look.

View the draped upcycling idea on the picutre, which I made before the cutting.


Marking The Empire Line

For this project you need to find the line across so to cut the main shirt. The horizontal line under the bust is called Empire Line. Usually is placed at some distance under the bust and a bit more at the back. This is done to allow enough room for the arms and the body to move unconstrained.

The additional room added to the garment is called ease. Ease is usually added both ways, horizontally and vertically when a pattern is drafted. The ease is very important part in making clothes correctly.

The Empire line may differ depending on the bust, chest, body shape and design preferences. When sewing for yourself and no one is around to help, marking with the shirt on is good way to go.

Tie an elastic, belt or else under your bust and mark with Air Erasable Pen in front of a mirror. Restrict your movements as much as possible when marking.

Check out the pictures how I did it.


Allow few centimeters/inches for seam allowance

Considering The Material


The raw materials used in this upcycling project

Another important consideration was about the textile materials as such.

Despite being thought similar alike, men dress shirt textiles can vary a lot. Very often you'll find them made from natural fibre 100% cotton (which I recommend you for your project; check the inside care label or the dress shirts, if unsure).

However, for this blouse other qualities of the fabric were with huge importance - weight (light if thin and heavy if thicker), stretch, stiffness, drape or other significant properties.

TIP: Keep in mind the stiffness

When looking through different shirts consider their material. Think if the combination will drape nicely (fall well) or it will form more volume in some kind of unwanted shape. If the bottom shirt material is softer, floaty and drapes well, then the final blouse will be more flattering than if stiffer and hard material is chosen.

In my case, the top shirt was very soft, light in weight (thin) but with almost no drape (which I didn’t need anyway at the top). The front pink extension was a bit heavy, thicker as a material, however, with beautiful soft drape - great choice for the front. The back material was light, but significantly stiffer when handled with no drape whatsoever. Placing it at the back, I thought, it won’t make big difference. Afterwords though, I realised, it would have been way better if the material was softer (noted for the next time).

The End Result

This is what came up from my upcycling at the end.


Front view


Front details


Back view

And how it looks on me.


Hopefully this project on transforming men shirts into woman’s blouse sparks the inspiration and shows you how simple yet with a wonderful outcome upcycling could be, avoiding any complications and lack of confidence;)

Following the Paganoonoo pattern and considering only the material and colour combination resulted in truly pleasurable upcycling process. I am making another of Michelle’s patterns as soon as my other activities let me to, that’s for sure. You can choose any of Paganoonoo designs and try it yourself (fyi, no affiliate links in this article; just passionate sharing of good ideas and valuable findings).

​No more excuses on not having idea how to start anymore;) !

Have fun,


Mariana Kirova

Mariana is passionate about garment upcycling and helping others making their own upcycled clothing. Graduated with Award in garment construction from WAIFT, Perth WA, Mariana is not a main stream eco fashion designer. She makes unique eco-friendly garments from unwanted clothes and materials and believes that small fashion professionals and DIY sewers can embrace sustainability in garment creation, thus changing the fashion world for good.

  • Joy says:

    Love this! I read the same article in Threads and enjoyed it very much. I think the color choices you made and the ccents are perfect. :)

  • The double collar is very effective, Mariana.

  • T says:

    Love the look! Love the ability to create the length I want. Bravo.

    I upcycle for my tall young granddaughter, hadn’t considered it for me. TY for the inspiration.

  • Eli cat says:

    Wow! Amazing! It looks great on you. You are so talented, thank you for nice idea and inspration.

  • Mariana, what a clever, creative and generous young woman you are. Congratulations!

  • Tringa says:

    Mariana, I really like your upcycling ideas. Great work and thank you for sharing.

  • loving your creations Mariana. We are very inspired by them down here in Tassie. We are also loving Jane Milburn’s Slow Clothing Project x Kate

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