How to Upcycle a Men's Shirt Into a Feminine Top

Sachi’s Studio
by Sachi’s Studio
10 Materials
4 Hours

A quality thrifted men’s or young men’s shirt can be resized and revamped to make a pretty top. While it seems like major shirt surgery, I hope my tutorial on how to upcycle a man’s shirt will inspire you to try this project.

I changed the silhouette from straight, boring, and boxy to a feminine top with a round collar, slimmer bodice, puff sleeves, and a small ruffle on the sleeve. Let me show you how to thrift flip from boring to beautiful!

Tools and materials:

  • Men’s shirt
  • Own well-fitting shirt
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Seam ripper
  • Sewing machine
  • ¼-inch elastic
  • Safety pin
  • Iron


  • Check the shirt at the thrift store for damage.
  • Plan how you’re going to revamp it.
  • Wash the shirt before working on it.
Men's shirt before the DIY

1. Make the pattern

Put the shirt on to gauge the measurements.

Marking the shoulders

Mark the shoulders.

Marking the new pocket placements

Mark the new pocket placement (if present).

Marking the sleeve lengths

Mark the new sleeve length, bodice width, and hem..

Marking a rounded collar shape

To make this shirt more feminine, mark a rounded collar shape.

Changing the shirt collar

2. Change the collar

If you’re planning on reattaching the collar, don’t cut it off.

Using a seam ripper to detach the collar

Use a seam ripper to carefully detach it.

Picking apart the topstitching

Pick apart the topstitching along the collar.

Removing the collar stays

If there are collar stays, remove them.

Changing the pockets

3. Change the pockets

Carefully detach the pockets using the seam ripper and reposition them to your desired measurement.

Cutting off the sleeves

4. Change the sleeves

Cut off the sleeves, leaving the shoulder seam intact.

Changing the shape of the sleeve

To make a rounder and puffy sleeve, you’ll need to redraw the top of the sleeve. Add 1 ½ inch hem allowance at the bottom. Redraw the top with a graceful swoop. Cut out the pattern.

Using the first sleeve as a template for the second

Use it as a template for the second sleeve. If you’re using a patterned fabric, it may be impossible to match it exactly. Match it as best you can even if one sleeve is a bit smaller than the other. It’s better to have matching patterns.

Tracing the armhole

Use a well-fitting shirt as a template for the armhole length. Measure the vertical drop from the shoulder to the armhole.

Turning a men's shirt into a feminine top

Mark the new-to-you shirt with these measurements. Mark the armhole with ½ inch outside of your original shoulder mark. 

Drawing the curves

Draw the curve.

Adjusting the bodice

5. Change the bodice

Draw the bodice measurement down on one side to the hem. Add 1½ to 2 inches seam allowance.

Finishing the hem

Finish at the hem.

Marking the other side of the shirt

Mark the other side of the shirt by measuring the first side and mirroring the measurements.

Cutting out the new shirt shape

Cut the shirt out.

Sewing the collar

6. Sew the collar

Sew along the rounded line on the wrong side. Trim off the corners.

Topstitching the collar

Make tiny notches in the seam allowance along the curve.. Turn the collar right side out. Topstitch the collar ¼ inch away from the edge.

Pinning the collar

Place the collar back in the collar stand and secure it with pins.

Reattaching the collar

Check that the collar lays nicely. Topstitch the collar into position through all the layers of fabric.

Sewing the pockets

7. Sew the pockets

If your shirt has pockets, pin and topstitch them into their new position.

Sewing the bodice

8. Sew the bodice

A French seam gives a professional look. First, sew the side seams with the wrong sides together with ⅛ inch seam allowance.

DIY men's shirt refashion

Then flip it so the fabric is right sides together. Sew a ¼ inch away from the first stitching.

String seam

The result is a nice strong seam and an encased raw edge.

Adding small vents at the bottom

If there isn’t enough wiggle room, add small vents at the bottom.

Hemming the shirt

9. Sew the hem

Double fold the bottom hem. Sew into position with a topstitch.

Sewing the sleeves

10. Sew the sleeve

Fold the sleeve in ¼ inch upward. Then fold up an additional 1 ¼ inch. Press to flatten both folds.

How to sew a shirt into a women's top

Sew close to the edge of the fold, leaving a ½-inch opening unsewn. Do a second parallel stitch about ⅜ inch from the first stitch.

Sewing gathering stitches

At the top of the sleeve do two rows of gathering stitches. Pull on the threads to gather the fabric. Distribute the gathers evenly.

Trying on the DIY top to gauge the fit

Try on the shirt and see how the sleeve looks. The sleeve attachment affects the overall silhouette of the garment so make sure they are balanced. 

Inserting the sleeves into the armholes

Insert the sleeve into the bodice right sides together. Pin in place and sew into position. Serge or zigzag stitch over the seam allowance to finish and secure the seams. 

Inserting elastic into the sleeves

Insert the ¼ inch elastic using a safety pin into the space in the sleeve. Tunnel it through to the other end. Stitch the elastic to secure, tuck back in, and close the space. Repeat for the other sleeve.

How to upcycle a men's shirt

How to upcycle a men's shirt

I hope my tutorial on how to upcycle a man’s shirt helped you transform a boxy shirt into a feminine top.

Please let me know in the comments if you did this DIY.

Suggested materials:
  • Men’s shirt
  • Own well-fitting shirt
  • Tailor’s chalk
See all materials

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