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.
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 Ashlee Blouse Pattern, Paganoonoo patterns
The Double Collar pattern, Paganoonoo patterns
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).
Anyway, in case you still feel quite overwhelmed and it’s hard for you to make the colour design decisions, don’t worry, you are covered for that, too. Just download our eGuide “Create your own designer clothing from vintage & unloved garments” and check it out. The first part explains the fundamentals in colour combinations and options when approaching upcycling. It will help you out to choose your preferable colours and you’ll be able to begin.
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.
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.
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;) !