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Re-purposing: Boy’s Button-Up into Girl’s Top with Tie

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I picked up a little boy’s button-up shirt the other day at the used kid’s clothing store.
It was in great shape…..and only $3.50.
But I didn’t get it for my little boy.
I turned it into a top for my little girl.
I kept the length but slimmed it down………
 Added little button strips (made from the old cuffs) for the sleeves……..

 Attached belt loops to the sides……..
Made a quick coordinating tie that cinches it in, all the way around……..
 (Look at that GA humidity curling her hair.  Something great about humidity.  Haha!)
Then we threw on some leggings………..
 And she was set.  And fancy free.
And really, you could use this same concept to make one in an adult size.  For a few dollars, no more.

Would you like to make one for your little girl?  Or maybe for you?
Find a long sleeved boy’s/men’s button-up in your closet, at the thrift store, from your neighbor’s recycle bag……
But be sure that it’s a few sizes bigger, to give the shirt a longer length.  And if you can find one several sizes bigger, you can turn it into a dress and skip the leggings.  
(This shirt was a size 5….but I think Gymboree makes things a bit bigger, so it was more like a size 6.  And my little girl wears a size 4.  In case you were wondering.)
 This one is Gymboree brand, and was in great shape, had washed well, and the seams and such were even and straight.  It always helps to have a nicely constructed piece of clothing before altering.  Something to keep in mind……
First, I tried it on my little girl and placed pins at the shoulders, where the edge of her shoulders hit.  I added about 1/2 inch more for a seam allowance.
Then I placed a shirt that fit her, on top of the button-up, to get an idea of how big to make the arm hole opening.  Knit stretches and so you don’t need as big of an opening, so I actually made the curved opening a bit longer than that knit shirt. 
Try to follow the curve of the original shirt sleeve seam as you cut, where the sleeve attached to the shirt.  Stay an equal distance away from that seam until you curve it out to the point.  Then trim away a bit as you try and make a straight-ish line from the sleeve point, down to the bottom of the shirt.  (Try to keep as much of the width of the shirt as possible… don’t want to slim down the sides too much, making the shirt uncomfortable and tight.)
Then, cut the seam away from the sleeve’s inner edge, keeping the same curved shape to this part of the sleeve.
Then, measure how long you’ll need the sleeve to be where it attaches to the shirt.  It should be equal length, but be sure you’re measuring along the curve of each.  Then trim the shirt down along the bottom, cutting it more narrow as you cut towards the end of the sleeve.  Then trim off the end of the sleeve, leaving it as long as you think you’ll need it…….and leaving enough for it to be rolled up later on.
Do the same to both sleeves……
 Then turn the shirt inside out and sew along both sides…….leaving the arm holes open.
Then turn the sleeves inside out and sew them together along the long side edges.  Zig-zag each seam to keep them from fraying.
Then pin each sleeve to the shirt’s armhole opening, pinning right sides together, and matching the side seams.  (If it doesn’t match up, you may have to adjust your side seams just a bit.)
Then tuck the sleeve down into the shirt, out of the way.
Then sew all the way around the opening, removing pins as you go.
This is how it should look from the inside…
Then trim the curve of the sleeve, near where you just sewed, but right at the armpit, where the side seams of the shirt and sleeve meet.
Then, open up the shirt, with the outside of the shirt facing up, and slide under your sewing machine.  Fold over the raw edges underneath towards the shirt bodice (not toward the sleeve) and top-stitch all the way around the sleeve opening.  You can skip this step……but it just finishes the shirt off, and makes it look polished.
See how nicely it looks now?
Then fold under the bottom of each sleeve a 1/4 inch, another 1/4 inch, then sew each hem into place.
Then try the shirt on your little girl and roll up each sleeve twice, to where it looks nice (right above the elbow).
Then grab the original cuff and open it up.  I used the cuff so that I wouldn’t have to re-make button holes.
I decided that I wanted the second button hole because of the straight edge on the end.  So I cut it out like a strip, leaving enough on each side to be able to fold it under.
And I did the same to both cuffs.  I also cut off the buttons because I would be needing those too.
Then I zig-zagged along both raw edges of both strips.
(Sorry, the pictures from here on out are really bleached out.  I didn’t realize it until too late.  Oops.)
Then I folded under each raw edge, just enough so that the button hole would still have an opening and then sewed each fold in place.
Then I attached each strip to the inside of each sleeve, with the raw edges facing up……..
… that when folded over, only the finished edge would show.  (You can find more info and pictures on how to attach these strips, here.  You can also use snaps instead of buttons if you follow that link too.)
Then I made a waist-tie by sewing some green fabric together into a tube, turning it right side out, and ironing it flat.  (Need help with sewing a tube?  Click here.)
 Then I tucked each end down inside of itself about a 1/2 inch, ironed it flat, then sewed it closed.
Then I cut one more little strip from the shirt scraps that was about an inch wide and about 4-5 inches long…..
Then I folded it in half lengthwise and ironed it flat.  Then I opened it up and folded each raw edge in towards that fold, folded it back in half, and ironed it again.  Then I sewed this shut.  (Sorry, the pic doesn’t help much.)
Then I cut this into two pieces, trimmed off the ends until it was the right length for my belt loop with some ends to tuck under.  Then I placed each belt loop along the side seams of the shirt, right where I thought looked right when the shirt was on my little girl (at the waist), then sewed along each end of the both belt loops.  (With the raw ends tucked under.)
Slide your waist tie into the belt loops, and place the shirt on your little girl.  
Or on you.  
Whoever you decided to make one for.
And enjoy your little creation.
Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Jeans and a Sweatshirt- says:

    Adorable! Thanks for sharing this tute. I used to wear very oversized shirts. Now I don't, and I've been trying to figure out how to fix the huge shoulders. This'll do the trick. It is a much simpler fix than I thought I would need. Awesome!

  2. Jennifer Hancock says:

    I did a similar thing for dresses. ( This Idea for a shirt is so cute!!!

  3. limoncellodituscany says:

    All things you are making are simply great!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Too cute!! The directions and pics look so easy to follow. Even though I don't sew, I think I could follow this. Love the site@

  5. Jessica Helgeson says:

    This is adorable! I just found your blog and I love it! I just wrote a blog posting about making your kids clothes last one more season! It turned out pretty cute! Check it out!

    Also, I have a Marketplace for all things Reclaimed! Your items would be adorable on there! Let me know if you are interested! -Jess

  6. Shellie says:

    I thought the instructions meant ONE WORD… not one comment! So, the word I chose to describe Expressions Vinyl is "vinylicious" because I have SO MUCH FUN and save SO MUCH MONEY creating the signs for our trucks! Yesterday I did two trucks with our company name, CA number, and truck numbers. It took about an hour to cut and put everything in place… and would have cost me $216 and the time to drive to pick up the stickers! THANK YOU VINYL EXPRESSIONS for selling vinyl at a reasonable price! I am the envy of all my trucking friends!

  7. mandy says:

    Adorable site! Love vinyl expressions as well. Can't wait to do something fun with the chalkboard vinyl – it looks like so much fun.

  8. Ashley says:

    Melissa, no I don't have a serger. That stitch is called the overlock stitch and it kind of looks like a zig-zag with a few straight stitches in between? But you try to let the zig-zag part of the stitch just barely go over the edge, to seal up those ends. Does that make sense? Email me if not…


  9. Liliya says:

    i have found your blog just a few days ago and i'm enjoying it very much.
    u r such an inspiration!

    thank you for sharing!

  10. Melissa says:

    Thanks for another great tute. I am always amazed at what cute ideas you come up with. I wondered what stitch you did on one of the pictures of the inner sleeve. I just got a Bernina, and now want a serger. Do you have a serger and use it, or do you finish it with that stitch I saw? Thanks!

  11. Mamaw T says:

    i hope i am dong this right…i am wanting to comment on Vinyl expressions…I LOVE IT…I am trying to save up to order…i have 11 grandchildren…love doing crafts of all kinds and have been looking for vinyl at good prices for a while… thx and God Bless!!!

  12. bonnie says:

    very neat shirt and belt and of course the head bands. thanks for

  13. Cindy in Ms says:

    re-purposing boys shirts! I have 3 grand daughters and I can pick up boys shirts cheap and re-purpose on purpose. LOL Thanks I love this idea and the tutorial is extremely well done and helpful. Thank you again for the idea.

  14. Peggy says:

    what a fantastic reuse of a button up shirt. And great picture by picture instructions. thanks

  15. says:

    That is SO cute! I love it and want one myself! Thanks so much, I'll be linking.

  16. amanda says:

    I am always amazed by your creativity! I would have never thought to make a girls dress out of a boys shirt!

  17. Kimbo West @ a girl and a glue gun says:

    gave you an award at my blog today

  18. Tricia says:

    Great Idea. I found some inexpensive button ups on the old navy clearance rack. I've been saving them for the perfect project. Since I don't have a little girl I'll have to make one for myself. Thanks for the inspiration.

  19. Melissa says:

    I should make one of these out of my husbands shirts for my self it would look really cute with my pregnant belly!

  20. Mary says:

    You are disgustingly creative and talented! What a cute idea, I never would have thought of that!

  21. marisa says:

    genius! I honestly can never get enough of these tutorials! Thanks for sharing!

  22. Tammy B says:

    fantastic! you made this look so easy that i think that even i – an extreme basic sewer – might be able to do this. thanks for the inspiration!

  23. KJ says:

    Found your project on Craft Gossip! I love this look. Well done!

  24. tracyp says:

    very cute! I think my husband just bought a shirt for himself with that same color and striping…..

  25. Coco loves vintage says:

    You make everything look so easy :) great idea how you have used the cuff's!

  26. Phyl says:

    Very cool. Does she notice that it buttons onthe wrong side since it was made from a male shirt?

  27. Momof3 says:

    I love this. Can't wait to get started.

  28. Bethany & Linda says:

    This is an awesome idea. Just this morning I pulled out an old button up blouse that I don't wear anymore. Now I know what to do with it. Now I know I can make a shirt dress for my daughter. Thank you.

  29. Justine says:

    Oh! This is so adorable! Such nice "girly" colors too!

  30. What I Did Today says:

    I love this! One of the better uses for a button up shirt that I've seen. Thank you for making the instructions nice and clear.

  31. Mrs. Hahn says:

    You really have some nice directions on your project. Thanks for sharing! Great ideas!

  32. Katie says:

    Awesome. And super smart to reuse those button holes. When I first saw this I thought to myself, "Ah, she must be a button hole pro!" Probably you are, but it's nice to know I wouldn't have to be to make this! :)

  33. Heather says:

    Very Cute as always! I love this I can finally use some of those boy's shirts up on my little girl!!! Thanks for the tutorial!

  34. Jill says:

    I totally want to do this for me!!! Thanks for the tute!

  35. Amanda Joy says:

    Very Nice. I have some fun plaid shirts that were my husband's. (He went to the gym and got soem muscles:) No that they don't fit him, I can use this tute to make some for Abbie when she gets a little taller. Thanks

    Amanda Joy Petersen

  36. The A Team says:

    This is a very cute idea, do you have more repurposing or boy fashion tutorials? I have a little boy and cute fashion is hard to find. Getting tired of the same old collared shirts.

  37. ShirleyC says:

    Very creative! I love using my DH's knit shirts to make pj pants for my grandson.

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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