Rule One of Thrift Store Shopping:
Don’t think you’re going to get exactly what you want. You might, but the selection is hit and miss, so most likely you’ll have to settle for something close.
The finished product: black ribbon around the collar and each side of the button placket. I bound the bottom of the sleeve with 1/2″ bias tape and added new buttons to give it a whole new look.
I sewed up the slit where the sleeve placket was but I kept the pleats. You could easily gather the sleeve into a new cuff or gather with elastic. Or, if they fit well, you can always leave the original cuffs in place.
Three months ago I had rotator cuff surgery. I’m improving everyday, but recovery is slow. That means that right now my wardrobe choices are limited. I can only wear shirts that button up the front. Boo hoo.
I finished crocheting a sweater that I started a month before surgery. I had made it to match a black and beige dress. But now I couldn’t wear the dress and I really, really wanted to wear the sweater. So I started searching thrift stores for a blouse that had colors and style that would go well with the sweater. It not only had to be the right color but I wanted a neckline that fit well with the sweater. I just didn’t think that a pointed collar complimented the bulky cardigan style. A scoop neck or mandarin collar would look better.
See my problem?
I got way, way too picky. So it’s no surprise that after searching every thrift store in town, I turned up empty.
Then I had a brainstorm! I bet I could find just the right colors in a men’s shirt. And bingo! I found not one, but two shirts that fit the bill in the very first store I went to.
Changing almost perfect to truly perfect
So now I began changing my almost perfect shirt into the perfect shirt.
- First, I removed the collar, cuffs and the button placket on the shirt sleeve. Then I also took apart the stitching on the back yoke to change the pleat in the back. I wanted to remove all the masculine styling of the shirt.
- I stitched 3/8″ black ribbon around the upper collar and down the button placket.
- I sewed up the slit left when I removed the button placket on the sleeve.
- Instead of a pleat at the back yoke, I gathered the fabric for a softer look.
- Then I sewed on bias tape around the bottom edge of the sleeve. Initially I was going to gather the bottom of the sleeve but then decided to leave in the pleats.
- Lastly, I changed the buttons. With the black ribbon trim, I thought that black buttons would make a nicer contrast.
So there you have it. My first shirt transformation.
So many possibilities…
Now that I’ve made my first transformation, I can see the possibilities are endless. If you want to alter a man’s shirt, try any of these modifications:
- Insert piping, lace or a flat bias tape at the top edge of the lower collar.
- Gather sleeves into a smaller cuff or insert elastic into a casing, with or without lace trim at the bottom edge.
- Cut the sleeve down and make them cap or flutter-style.
- Add ties or elastic on the side or the back to cinch it in a bit for a more fitted look.
- Change buttons to pearl buttons or a contrasting color. Or use the fabric from the discarded pockets or collar and make covered buttons.
- Remove both the upper and lower collar and bind the neck with bias tape; close with ties. Or sew on a lace collar or rounded collar made from contrasting fabric.
Oops! I wasn’t careful with the seam ripper when I removed the upper collar piece. So now I can’t insert trim. But I covered up this mistake when I sewed ribbon around the edge.
I removed the pockets, cuffs and upper collar. The top seam on the lower collar is now open, so I can insert lace, ric-rac or other trim if I like. This time, I sewed ribbon around the edge.Save the buttons for another project. This shirt yielded 16 buttons.
Using some of the sleeve placket, I created a 6″ casing on each side, inserted elastic and sewed it up on each end. That gives me a more defined fit.
The perfect blouse at the perfect price
At my two favorite thrift stores, men’s shirts are regularly priced $3-4.50. The $3 shirts go on sale about once a week for 1/2 off, making them $1.50. And the other store has a 25% off sale. And when the store has a Bag Sale–fill a grocery bag for $3–I can get men’s shirts for as little as 50¢. I never go to my fabric store unless I have a coupon (or two) to get the lowest price possible on buttons and other notions.
So depending on what you have in your sewing stash, your perfect blouse could cost as little as 50¢ and no more than $5. Pretty good deal, huh?