Sunday 23 February 2014

DIY Shirt Alteration

I spotted this shirt from across the store and lost all senses as I threw myself towards it. The fact that it was in the men's section didn't strike me as unfortunate, just look at that print! How could I possibly resist? Especially at Primarni prices, you know what I'm saying! As if written in the stars, this retro car print shirt found its way into my excited mits and home we went to make an alteration or two.

As you can see from the image below, despite buying the smallest in the men's sizes, this shirt was still going to swamp me. I decided to do some simple adjustments to the basic fitting and silhouette, to suit a wee shrimp of a gal like myself. I have laid out my process step by step, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or queries, maybe I can help. This really is a no fuss tailoring job, nothing fancy, just a quick pin and tuck to give it a more feminine (and short!) shape. The creative options, whilst making your alterations, are pretty limitless, see how artistic you can really get- I mean, its Primark, no worries if things go wrong!

// Original state //

// Fine details //

Ok, my first step is a boring but seriously essential one. Iron the shirt. This makes everything easier, trust me. Then try the shirt on, in front of a mirror or a handy friend, and decide how long or short you want to go. I used tailors chalk and made a little mark, in front of the mirror, whilst in the shirt, to get an idea of how much to chop off.

Take the shirt off, button up and lay it nice and flat on a desk or use your ironing board. Using a measuring tape or ruler measure the length of the centre front seam (with the buttons down), from the joining seam just below the top button, right down to your mark. Trying to be as even as you can, follow the measurement out, either side of your original mark.

Rather than keeping the hem of your shirt the same length the whole way around, as a simple design feature it can look quite nice to take the side seams up an inch or two. If you choose to do this (as I did), measure the side seam from the under arm down, and rather than taking this to your hem level, count up an inch or two (depending on where on your body you'd like it to sit). Use your ruler or free hand to join this mark to your centre one, rounding off the edge to create a smooth line.

A handy way to find the measurement on the back of the shirt, is to place a pin from the front, following the line of your desired hem. From the centre back of the shirt, you now know where your hem lies. Do the same to the back, as we did to the front and join the hem line together.

Now you have your hem line sorted, lets add a seam allowance. The seam allowance gives you a nice bit of space to neaten and finish your edges. I made mine by marking a line underneath the hem at a 2cm point, all the way around the shirt edge. Next, carefully cut the excess bottom of the shirt, along the lowest chalk line, like in the image below.

Before we stitch the hem it's a good idea to take in the side seams, if needed. Turn your shirt inside out and put it on, doing up the buttons (fiddly job when inside out!!), and jump in front of the mirror or borrow your friend again. Now we want to pinch the side seams on both sides, to a comfortable fit, lying flat against your body, but not too tight. (This all depends on what kind of fit you're after of course). Very, very carefully pin from the under arm down to the hem, getting a roughly similar amount on each side, then wriggle out of the shirt, avoiding the pins (durrrr).

Button up the shirt again and lie flat on your surface. Measure the distance from the original side seam, (starting from the hem up), to the pinned line of your new side seam and mark the line with your chalk. When you get to the under arm and sleeve, taper the line towards the sleeve using a curved line, unless you have plans to alter the shape of the sleeve itself. Once you have matching sides, stitch along the line on your machine. In the absence of a sewing machine just keep your hand stitches nice and small and close together.

About two inches from your new side seam out (towards the original seam), trim the shirt back, cutting off the excess fabric. To keep the edges nice and neat I used a small zig zag stitch on the outer side of the new side seam (between the trimmed edge and the stitching… See image above!). If you have an over locker at hand then serge away!! This isn't desperately necessary, but it sure helps secure the edges and prevents excess fraying as you wear. You can now trim the edge even more, leaving a small amount next to your zig zag stitch. Working on the inside, open the seam like butterfly wings, and iron flat, then flip the shirt over and iron the side seam on the top side.

You should now have a gorgeously fitted side seam, tailored to your own body shape, finished neatly and super secure.

Next we finish the hem. Working on the under side, turn the bottom edge up 1cm and iron all the way along, then turn it up another 1cm and iron again. If you have used a 2cm seam allowance this should now have bought your shirt up to your chosen hem length! Carefully top stitch all the way along the bottom edge of your shirt, creating a lovely hem. You can even go crazy and use a contrasting thread!

As a finishing touch I used a bright pink embroidery thread and stitched over my button thread, to add a little detailing, and I folded the sleeves up and put a few discrete stitches to hold the fold in place. The options for design features are plentiful, you could swap your buttons for new bold ones, you could round the collar into a Peter Pan shape or even shape the sleeves into a cap sleeve! It's really up to you.

// Fitted and finished! //

// With my fluffy candy coloured birthday jumper //

One, tailor fit, retro print shirt, after an easy alteration. I hope this opens up a few opportunities for you now, with the knowledge that fitting to your personal shape can be an easy way to fix an ill fitting garment creating a more flattering silhouette for your own body, to breathe new life into an old item or to simply redesign a feature or two making it a one of a kind piece of clothing.


  1. Oh wow this is so amazing! It looks so good on x

  2. It's a lovely print, I couldn't resist the retro cars!! It fits much much better now with a little nip and tuck, just excuse the pictures!! : )

  3. Looks so good on you :) You did a great job ! xx

    m @