Men’s Button Down Shirt Refashion

The DIY Designer
by The DIY Designer
6 Materials
2 Hours

In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to upcycle a men's button-down shirt into a flirty dress. This is the ultimate men's shirt upcycle!

You can find a shirt at the thrift store or take a shirt that the men in your life are no longer wearing and transform it into this frilly, feminine, fabulous, flowy little frock that you are going to fall in love with.

This dress was inspired by gores. Gores are basically triangles of fabric that can get sewn into the skirt of a dress or a skirt themselves to create a lot more volume. Gores can be hard to sew if you're not an expert sewer, I'm a pretty good sewer, and even for me, they're intimidating. So I have a really cool hack for how you guys can create all the gore volume but not in the exact proper technique.

I'm going to be using horsehair trim for the bottom to clean finish the bottom of my dress and give me a few more inches of length and create all of this curly volume. It's like an accordion, it's really fun, and it feels amazing on.

Tools and materials:

  • 2 men’s shirts
  • 6 yards of horse hair trim (about 2 inches wide)
  • White fabric
  • Fabric scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
Refashion a button down shirt

Cut the length

I've used two shirts for this dress - I was lucky enough to find two identical shirts at the thrift store. With the first shirt, you'll need to put it and pin where you want the waist to be. Then cut it about an inch longer than that so that you'll have seam allowance. You'll want to cut as much length as possible with the second shirt, so basically cut right underneath the underarm. Now you'll have your shirt and your skirt part of the dress. 


You can always fold the shirt in half to cut evenly when you're doing something like this.

How to refashion a button down shirt

Cut the strips

Before you connect the two parts of the shirt, you're first going to add the gore into the skirt. You need to measure how far apart you want your gores. For me, two inches apart was about right as that allowed me to have ten pieces on the front and ten on the back. For the center back piece, you can just cut in the center, but for the rest of them, you can cut together the front and back at the same time. To create a bit of dimension, you can alternate higher and lower heights.

Simple button down shirt refashion

Fold the edges

Take your fabric and fold over the edges about a quarter-inch and press them with an iron so that when you sew them, they're going to be nice, clean finished, and crisp.

DIY button down shirt refashion

Open up the strips and sew

Take your skirt and open up your very first piece however wide you want it to be. I made all of mine about 15 inches wide. Lay it on top of your white fabric, with the folds you made by pressing it folded down. Do this for each of the strips and pin them to the fabric underneath. Once you've pinned it onto the fabric, cut it right then and there. It can be a rough cut as you'll tidy it up later. You're going to topstitch this instead of the traditional way that you sew in a gore. Topstitching will make it so much easier. When you get up to the very corner, make sure that you rotate your fabric all the way around so that it's a crisp angle. 

Men’s shirt upcycle

Attach to the shirt

Once all of the gords are sewn in, it's time to attach the skirt to the shirt. Pin the skirt to the shirt, good sides facing each other. Make sure to line the seams of both pieces up with one another. When you sew the pieces together, give yourself about an inch of seam allowance.

Button down shirt refashion

Tidy it up

Now you want to tidy up the gores by cutting the bottoms neatly. Start by ironing everything. I decided that I wanted my skirt's length to be 14 inches (from the waistline). Place pins where you want the skirt to extend to and then cut by following along the pins. Once done, clean finish the edge of your skirt by zigzagging it.

Easy button down shirt refashion

Add the trim

I'm using horsehair trim for the bottom to clean finish the bottom of my dress and give me a few more inches of length and create all of this curly volume. It's like an accordion, it's really fun, and it feels amazing on. Line the trim up with the edge of your skirt. Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, attach the trim to your dress. When sewn, you will want to fold the trim down with the seam hidden on the inside of the skirt. Proceed to iron down using a protective cloth to ensure that the trim doesn't get damaged.

Upcycle button down shirt

Check out what we’ve created! This voluminous dress looks absolutely stunning. Pair it with a belt and heels, and you can wear it for any fancy occasion. We’ve come so far from the original men’s shirts that we began with, and I’m just in love with the end result.

Suggested materials:
  • @ men's shirts
  • Horse hair trim
  • White fabric
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 32 comments
  • Sue Lamberson Sue Lamberson on Feb 17, 2022

    very cute and flattering! I am thinking that could be made longer for the gals whose legs are not so pretty anymore.

  • Theresa Theresa on Feb 21, 2022

    I love this look and would love to try it. However, I am new to sewing and got lost at your "open up your stripes and sew" and found it difficult to follow along from there.

    Wish there was a video to follow.

    All in all, you did a great job with the upcycle. Thanks👍🏾