Easy T-shirt Upcycle Idea: DIY 90's Grunge

5 Materials
1 Hour

In this project, I’m taking a lightly refashioned shirt I made about 12 years ago and have never worn, and pairing it with a toning t-shirt that I found in my stash.

If you’re a beginner at refashioning, start with an upcycle t-shirt project, because t-shirt fabric is easy to work with and doesn’t fray.

I love upcycling clothes in general, but upcycling a shirt is one of my favorite types of refashion.

There are so many parts that can be reused in multiple ways. And button-up shirts tend to be very well made and of reasonably good quality material.

All good reasons for grabbing them when you see them in a thrift shop.

Now let’s see what I can do with this one!

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Tools and materials:

  • Collared shirt
  • T-shirt
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
Shirt to upcycle

1. Plan the refashion

The first thing I do is decide how much of each garment is usable. 

For this t-shirt, the sleeves were badly marked but I loved the graphic on the front.

The shirt wasn’t my style at all and I didn’t like the collar I’d attached to it at my first attempt.

Planning upcycle

2. Cut the fabrics

Fast fashion t-shirts tend to twist and go out of shape very easily, so folding them in half lengthways and trying to match the shoulder and side seams is usually a waste of time.

I laid it out flat and cut out the center back and front panels by eye. If you’re not so confident, you can measure and mark before cutting.

Planning upcycle

I placed the shirt flat and lined it up at the sides and shoulders.

I cut the collar and collar stand off the shirt.

I laid the t-shirt panel over the front of the shirt to see how the two might fit together.

I decided I wanted to keep as much of the pocket as possible and also make the shirt slightly larger overall.

Cutting fabric

I folded the shirt in half lengthways at the center front.

I used the lines of the pattern as my guide and cut away the center front and back sections. 

I put the button and buttonhole plackets in my stash to use in a future project.

Joining fabrics

3. Join the fabrics

My plan is a simple one. I’m going to insert the t-shirt panels into the center front and back of the shirt.

Joining fabrics

Before doing that, I made a narrow double hem along both sides of the cut edges of the shirt, as they were starting to fray.

Also, I prefer when possible not to have raw edges on the inside of my clothes.

Joining fabrics

I turned the shirt and the center t-shirt panel inside out and placed them together with the t-shirt graphic facing down.

I lined up the shoulder seams. 

Joining fabrics

I pinned and sewed the cut edges of the t-shirt to the hemmed edges of the shirt, with the right sides facing.

Joining fabrics

When I turned the shirt right side out, I was shocked that it seemed to have worked so well.

Trying on upcycled shirt

4. Try on time

However when I tried it on, it was a different story! It looked hilariously bad to me, mainly because the shirt was so much longer than the t-shirt.

Plus the two garments together were too large for me.

Adjusting upcycle

I tried different adjustments, but shortening the shirt to match the length of the t-shirt seemed to work best.

As that was a pretty easy modification, I decided to do that first and then see if I needed to change anything else.

Adjusting upcycle

5. Modify the original plan

I cut off the bottom of the shirt and hemmed it to match the length of the t-shirt.

It was definitely an improvement, but I couldn’t make up my mind whether to take in the side seams as well.

I decided to style it up properly and see if it was worth salvaging.

Styling upcycled t-shirt

DIY upcycled t-shirt

I styled it with distressed jeans and a 90s style beanie and sunglasses.

I think my t-shirt upcycle has an authentic grunge look, which is definitely wearable. It’s very oversized and comfortable but I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it.

Not all upcycle ideas work out the way you imagine, but that’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t work so well.

I’d love to know what you think of this attempt. Please drop me a comment below. Would you wear this as it is, or would you have done something different?

Next, learn How to Make a Cozy Flannel Shirt Dress Out of 2 Old Shirts.

Suggested materials:
  • Collared shirt
  • T-shirt
  • Scissors
See all materials

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Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Lora Taylor Hyatt Lora Taylor Hyatt on May 13, 2024

    Should of ripped the seam out on the sides of the flannel shirt and sewed the T-shirt into the flannel shirt

    made it look like it was layered

    just my observation