Learn How to Do 5 Epic T-shirt Upcycles

10 materials
1 Hour

I absolutely love refashioning clothes to make amazing, professional-looking pieces. I took 5 different T-shirts and transformed them into edgy, trendy, and incredible looks. The best part of this upcycle is that you can use old T-shirts you have sitting at home or just head on over to the thrift store to pick up a few Ts. If you want to learn how to recreate these unbelievable upcycles, this tutorial is definitely for you! Follow my easy, step-by-step guide and add these fashion-forward pieces to your wardrobe!

shirt upcycle, Tools and materials
Tools and materials

Tools and materials:

  • T-shirts
  • Shoulder pads
  • Tie/lace 
  • 3-5 yards of fringe
  • 3-4 yards of grommet tape
  • Pant legs
  • Fabric scissors
  • Fabric glue
  • Pins 
  • Sewing machine 
shirt upcycle, Cut the underarm seam
Cut the underarm seam
Make a padded shoulder T

The first shirt I’ll be refashioning is a super cute and trendy, padded shoulder T. I thrifted a fun X-men T-shirt and got started by cutting open the underarm seam.

shirt upcycle, Add shoulder pads
Add shoulder pads


I turned the T inside out and laid a little glue down for the shoulder pad. I made sure that the rounded edge would be lying out by my arm and that the straight edge would be on the inside by my neck. A great tip is to try and line up the curved side with the shoulder seam of the T-shirt.

shirt upcycle, Glue the extra fabric
Glue the extra fabric

Next, I turned the T right side out and put some glue on the shoulder pad. I then tucked the sleeve inside so that the fabric would stick to the shoulder pad. I used my hand to check that the material was lying nice and flat. If the sleeves are a little too long, you can always cut off the ends of them. 

shirt upcycle, Upcycle old T shirts
Upcycle old T-shirts

I am absolutely head over heels for this shoulder pad T! 

shirt upcycle, Find two T shirts
Find two T-shirts
Make a split T

For the next T-shirt trend, I decided to make a split T. I didn’t want to use a graphic T-shirt but I absolutely loved the idea of using tie-dye. 

shirt upcycle, Cut the shirts
Cut the shirts

First, I needed to decide which side of each top I would use. Once I had decided I placed down my ruler leaving a small amount of seam allowance and used a rotary cutter to cut the fabric. 

shirt upcycle, Pin the two sides
Pin the two sides

Next, I made sure the two sides were right sides together before I pinned the front pieces in place. I then turned the T-shirts over and pinned the backs together in the same way.  

shirt upcycle, Sew together
Sew together

The first stitch that I did was a wide, straight stitch just to make sure that the new T-shirt worked. 

shirt upcycle, Cut excess material
Cut excess material

I tried on the T and it was perfect! I then set my sewing machine to overlock and once that was finished, I cut off any excess material. 

shirt upcycle, Add a topstitch
Add a topstitch

The last thing I did was fold over the seam allowance and topstitch it down. This left me with a clean, crisp front, making this new T look really professional. 

shirt upcycle, How to upcycle a T shirt
How to upcycle a T-shirt

This split tie-dye T is totally amazing! It’s such a fun look! 

shirt upcycle, Pin where you will cut
Pin where you will cut
Make a peek-a-boo dress

For this new, peek-a-boo long sleeve dress, I first decided where exactly I wanted to crop this long sleeve T. 

shirt upcycle, Cut at your marking
Cut at your marking

Once I had pinned the top, I used my handy rotary cutter to cut it exactly where I wanted it.

shirt upcycle, Pin tape
Pin tape

In order to attach my gorgeous, red grommet tape, I placed it on the shirt, right sides together, and pinned it down. 

shirt upcycle, Sew on the tape
Sew on the tape

I then sewed right along the edge and once the tape was sewed on, I folded the tape down and pressed it so that the material would hold in the right position. 

shirt upcycle, Add lace
Add lace

I then got started on lacing the two pieces together. If you prefer to, you can always just wear this as an awesome two-piece or even just use the top half as a crop top. 

shirt upcycle, Put in darts
Put in darts

I tried on the dress and realized it was a bit too big for me. I knew it would be an easy fix. I made two darts in the skirt and on the top to take this piece in a little. I also decided to add one big dart in the back, by the neck, making this piece more fitted. 

shirt upcycle, Ways to upcycle a T shirt
Ways to upcycle a T-shirt

This long sleeve dress is so edgy and amazing! I just love how it turned out! 

shirt upcycle, Cut the T shirt sleeves off
Cut the T-shirt sleeves off
Create fun puff sleeves

For the fourth look, I used this red T-shirt and the legs of a pair of red sweatpants that I had already cropped into shorts. To get started, I cut off the sleeves of the T, making sure to cut off the seam allowance as well. 

shirt upcycle, Use the sleeves as a pattern
Use the sleeves as a pattern

Next, I had to make sure that the legs of the pants would fit into the armholes of the T. I placed the sleeves I had cut off onto the pants and used them as a pattern to cut the pants to size. 

shirt upcycle, Gather the fabric
Gather the fabric

I decided to create a bit of a puff sleeve by gathering some of the fabric before I sewed it. 

shirt upcycle, Line up the shoulder seams
Line up the shoulder seams

In order to attach this awesome sleeve to my new T, I turned the top inside out and put the sleeve in. I lined up the shoulder seam on my T-shirt and pinned it to the shoulder seam of my cute new sleeve. Once the two seams were lined up, I did the same with the underarm seams. I then added lots of pins all the way around. 

shirt upcycle, Sew on the new sleeves
Sew on the new sleeves

I hopped on over to my sewing machine to sew on the sleeves.

shirt upcycle, Cut the extra sleeve off
Cut the extra sleeve off

I tried on my new top and realized it just didn’t work with the drop shoulder. I seam ripped the sleeves, folded the T in half, and cut the original sleeves of the T-shirt. I repeated the process of attaching the new sleeves and made sure to press the fabric once the sleeves were on. 

shirt upcycle, How to upcycle old T shirts
How to upcycle old T-shirts

I am totally in love with these puff sleeves! 

shirt upcycle, Glue on the fringe
Glue on the fringe
Make a fringed dress

For this last look, I wanted to make an oversized T into a gorgeous fringed dress. I made a huge mistake when attaching the fringe because I glued it onto the outside of the T-shirt. If you plan on recreating this style, make sure to glue or sew it to the inside of the shirt. 

shirt upcycle, Add fringe to the sleeves
Add fringe to the sleeves

I then cut off the sleeves of the T and used my fabric glue to stick some fringe on the armhole. 

shirt upcycle, T shirt upcycle ideas
T-shirt upcycle ideas

I am so obsessed with this fringed T! Tell me which look you liked best in the comments below! 

Suggested materials:

  • T-shirts
  • Shoulder pads
  • Tie/lace
See all materials


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