The Button Up Refashion Swap

I’m so jazzed (hands and all) to tell you about this rad project I’m a part of! The Refashion Swap is a very cool collaboration of sewing, refashioning, men’s dress shirts, and talented sewing bloggers. There is some serious talent in this group, and I was thrilled to be asked to join in the fun.  The swap works like this: myself and 9 other bloggers have all paired up with a partner–each one of us sewing for another in the group.  We all began with the same blank canvas that is your very basic yet versatile men’s dress shirt. We then worked our individual refashion-sauce on it,  and then sent it on over to our partner. Today we’re all posting the shirts we sewed, along with a tutorial so you can make your own version of our dress shirt refashion, and then next week we’re doing a blog hop wherein a couple of us will post each day a picture of ourselves modeling the shirt that was sewn for us (see below for schedule).  This is just some classic F-U-N fun, and I’m just as excited as you to see what everyone came up with. Here’s a list of the bloggers participating; make sure to check out each of their blogs today to see their refashions!

Jennifer of Grainline Studio
Krista of Lazy Saturdays
Liz of Cotton & Curls
Megan of Megan Nielsen Designs
Melissa of I Still Love You
Miranda of One Little Minute
Kate of See Kate Sew
Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch
Suzannah of Adventures in Dressmaking

The Swap Hop schedule (where we model what was sewn for us!)will go as follows next week: (Liz sewed for me, and I love it!)

Monday, May 21st: Lizzie of Cotton & Curls, Krista of Lazy Saturdays
Tuesday, May 22nd: Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, Kate of See Kate Sew
Wednesday, May 23rd: Suzannah of Adventures in Dressmaking, Miranda of  One Little Minute
Thursday, May 24th: Me, Melissa of  I Still Love You
Friday, May 25th: Megan of Megan Nielsen Design, Jennifer of Grainline Studio

I got to sew for the lovely and so talented Megan Nielsen, who many of you know from one of her rad blogs Design Diary and  DIY Maternity,  or maybe for her amazing clothing collections and patterns. Megan is beautiful and talented, and such a peach to work with. You may remember I did  the Turn About The Room maternity dress tutorial for her last year when I was with (child).  And here, folks, is what I came up with for her! Along with her measurements, I knew that Megan likes pretty and feminine (and that she has an itty bitty waist!) I wanted to play up all those lovely features, so I decided to work a peplum into the design.    The pleated sleeve detail you may recall from this shirt, which has incidentally appeared several times in my sewing projects, due to its very flattering fit.  The pleat detail down the front was just me not being able to resist a bit of subtle embellishment.  I did not use a specific pattern, but based it on something I had so that you can do the same should you feel so inclined to attempt your own version.  I really really love the way this turned out, and can’t wait to see Megan model it.


The Coquette Peplum Blouse

Rangle up:

-a men’s white dress shirt–the larger the better I always say. I thrifted this XL one for 3 bucks.

-your sewing gear i.e. sewing machine, thread, seam ripper, seam guage, measuring tape, etc. Do I still need to list this stuff? I’m assuming you guys know by now.

-fabric dye and matching  buttons should you choose to change the color.

-a basic bodice pattern. This could be any shirt (preferably not knit) or dress that fits,but is not fitted.  In desperation you could use a t shirt, just make sure it’s not super fitted, and give yourself a generous seam allowance as your dress shirt will not have stretch. To give you an idea, I used the bodice from this dress. You of course could use any pattern that you have that fits the bill too. However you jive, honey.

*I think it’s always a good idea to make things a little bigger than you think you’ll need, because you can always take in.

Cut it all up: remove the collar, sleeves down the seamline, and cut along  the sides. Press out any pleats.

Measure from the nape of your neck down to your waistline, or where you want your peplum to begin, + a seam allowance.  Mine was 14  and a 1/4″. Measure down from top of buttoned piece to this measurement, mark, and cut a straight line across.

Working again with  just with the buttoned piece, carefully arrange your pattern (or shirt/dress whatever) over it as close to the top as possible, and following the seam lines of your pattern, cut your shoulder, armhole and side. BE SURE TO ADD A SEAM ALLOWANCE! I serged mine, so I added a quarter inch or so.

Fold all the way down the center and cut other side using your first side as a guide.

To your satisfaction, cut your back neckline.

Now place your buttoned bodice piece (now the back) to the front and copy your pattern, cutting all the way around it.

Find top edge center piece of front (no buttons), and mark. Measure out 2 1/4″ to the right and left and mark. Repeat on bottom edge. Using a quilting ruler, remove this middle section.

Using this panel as your pattern, place it on the top edge of the bottom half of the front (no buttons–you just cut the bodice from it), and cut a strip the same width, but the length of the entire shirt’s width (no pic).   This will now be your center panel. The remaining bottom piece of front is your peplum. Arrange the front peplum to the back remaining bottom half and cut to the same size.

Before cutting the sleeves, measure around the fullest part of your upper arm. You want your sleeve to measure 1.5 inches + seam allowance more than that. With that measurement  in mind, use your pattern to cut a sleeve pattern, following the seam line, and again, don’t forget a generous seam allowance (you can always cut more off later! Cut to be fairly rectangular with only the slightest taper. Cute the length however long you want your sleeve to be–mine was about 13″.

Measuring down 2″ from the top of your center panel, and mark. Now alternate marking first 1/2″ down, then 1 1/2″ down, repeating all the entire panel (sorry you can barely see the marks).

Now create the pleats by pressing first back on the first line, and then forward on the second, repeating all the way down.

Topstitch on top edge of each pleat to secure, and then baste down both sides.If you’re not in the mood for pleats, you can embellish or fold this center panel any way you want.

Sew shoulder seams of bodice front to bodice back, RST, and then pin the pleated center panel, RST, to bodice front right and left side. At this point try it on yourself or your dress form inside out, and adjust the fit but taking in and pinning the side seams or front bodice sides to get a fit your happy with.  Sew, and then trim any excess of bottom.  Cut your front neckline deeper to your satisfaction.  Topstitch along panel sides, catching the seam allowance and sewing towards the sides.

Try on once more inside out, and pinch mid sleeve opening to create a dart (if needed for a nice fit).  This isn’t a very scientific way of creating a dart (don’t judge me!) but it worked fine. I measured down from the shoulder on the first side, and then matched that to the other side, taking care to mimic the angle down. Pin and sew. The key to a nice dart is to take the angle in gently (not sharply) into the side.  Instead of back stitching, tie of your threads by hand.  Press dart seam allowance down.  *Note: this is a super ghetto way of putting in a dart, and I’m kind of embarrassed about it. The dart isn’t necessary, but if you, like me, try it on and find that it could use one to improve the fit, then don’t be afraid to throw one in. It isn’t hard, and it did a lot to ensure a nice fit.

Finish and hem ends of sleeves.

From the center point of your open sleeve, measure one inch from bottom edge, draw a three inch line, and then move up 3/4″ and draw another parallel 3″ line. Repeat once more.

RST, fold along each line, and with a  scant 1/4″ seam allowance, sew the length of your marked fold (3″).  Repeat with each marked line.

Repeat on other side.

Sew two rows of basting near the top curve of the sleeve, making sure one row of basting is exactly on your planned seamline.

Sew underarm seam.

Set your sleeve in your armhole, matching your underarm seam allowance, and the center sleeve point to the shoulder seam.  Adjust gathers to add ease, but not puckers.

Finish neckline by pinning 1″ bias tape along neck edge, sewing in the 1/4″ crease, folding over and pinning again, and then sewing again very close to folded edge. Fold the ends under so you get nice folded, finished edges on the button opening.

Sew peplum back to front at sides, and then double baste the top edge, again making sure that one row of basting is exactly in your planned seam allowance.

Pin bodice to peplum, RST, matching side seams and back opening.  Pull basting threads to fit, make sure you get a nicely distributed gather.  I always pull threads the amount needed, and then secure threads at side seams with a figure  eight around pin, so that I can evenly distribute the gathers with out pulling them out any.

Sew and then topstitch near seam, securing the seam allowance up.

add a button hole at bottom edge (or anywhere else) if needed.

You’re done, and isn’t it pretty?

Now, if you want, which you probably do, dye according to manufacturer’s instructions. I used Dharma fiber reative dye in Seafoam green.  Supposedly (and in my experience so far), this dye doesn’t fade at all, and is completely permanent.

The finished result and color was perfectly minty.

I added matching buttons down the back,

as well as a hidden snap to secure the very top.

If you followed along with me, then great! Hope it turned out! Let me know, like always, if you have any questions! If not, then may the world of white men’s dress shirts be your canvas!

Don’t miss the Refashion Swap Hop schedule (when we each get to model what was sewn for us! See the top of the post for the schedule!)


Michael Ann

this is incredible!! i can’t believe that was from an old men’s shirt, i just love all the little details to it! i am so excited to follow all your fabulous sewing goodness now :]


This is really so sweet! I love the color of the shirt – what an awesome minty shade! Amazing dye job! I adore those sweet little pin tucks down the middle and the pleating at the sleeves. Marvelous job!
xoxo, Sunni


Yeah, I met a girl a couple years ago who had dyed her cloth diapers, and I was amazed at the vibrant colors, I hadn’t seen anything like that with all my adventures with RIT. She told me about it, I think, and I ordered a bunch have been thrilled with the results.


I definitely never would have guessed this started out as a regular button down if I didn’t know better. So cute on it’s own but then you had to go dye it and make it beyond cute! Megan is going to look adorable in this!!


This one is easily my favorite of the lot! What an amazingly creative refashion!! It was all I could do to stop myself from running to the thirft store when I saw this earlier today!


Love love love it Mim! It looks just like Megan, but has your signatures all over it. I keep meaning to copy your awesome sleeves, and haven’t yet. Don’t worry, I’ll flatter you with an imitation sometime soon:) Your details are darling, darling!


Oh goodness this top is adorable! Amazing work Miriam! I can’t wait to see it on. And I love the color!


Coolest refashion top ever….blew mine out of the water!! AMAZING! Makes me wish I had a waist.


I’m here from Meg’s blog where she posed with her new blouse – this is absolutely the cutest top I have ever seen from a man’s shirt — I have bookmarked your website and will do more exploring later (when I’m not at work 🙂 )….

Alexandra S.

OMG!!! This is so so great! I love it :X and the color is delicious ! You are amaizing! I wanna try this refashion idea 🙂 Kisses from Romania:*


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