Easy off-the-shoulder top tutorial

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Today I’m sharing with you a tutorial on how to turn a man’s shirt into this season’s most on-trend top! This super easy refashion is my absolute favourite thing to wear right now, as anyone who’s seen me in the last week can testify, and it only takes a couple of hours to whip up. Off-the-shoulder tops are everywhere right now; check out these for inspiration…

Cotton poplin top, £235, Milly
Poplin top, £29.99, Zara
Warehouse, Cotton Off The Shoulder Top Neutral Stripe 1
Cotton top, £32.00, Warehouse

To make your own fab version (for a fraction of the cost), you’ll need the following:

  • A man’s long-sleeved shirt (the larger the size, the more volume your top will have – mine was XL) – I got mine from a charity shop 🙂
  • 1-inch wide elastic, sufficient to reach around your body where you want the ‘neckline’ to sit, including your arms – I used 1 metre/39″ plus a little extra for overlapping
  • A ruler, and a way to mark your fabric (I used biro as this is simply for marking the cutting line, but if you want to play it safe, a soluble marker would be better)
  • Matching thread, scissors, pins and a safety pin (to pull through the elastic)

1. Firstly, decide if you want to retain the button placket or not. If not, do up the buttons, fold it to the inside and sew so the placket disappears into seam allowance.

2. Try on your shirt. Pull it up at the shoulders so the bottom of the armscye sits where you’d like it to in the finished top, and pin those shoulders to hold this fit in place. Then place pins to mark the height of your desired neckline. Don’t worry about the sleeves at this point, just mark the level across your front. (Sorry I don’t have any photos of this; my hands were busy with the pins!)

3. Remove the  shirt and place more pins (or use a pen) to mark a straight line right across the front at your desired neckline level. Measure the height of the neckline from the bottom of the armscye and use this measurement to ascertain the position of the back neckline (also straight across).


4. Mark a line 1.5″ up from your line of pins. This will be the cutting line. When you reach the sleeves, carry the line on at a right angle to the sleeve grainline. If you’re using stripes, this is especially easy!

5. Cut all along the marked cutting line. Now is the time to stitch your button plackets together if they remain. Then press under a narrow 1/4″ hem and stitch in place.

I made the hem slightly deeper at the button plackets for ease of sewing through all those layers.

6. Press over another 1 1/4″ to form the channel for the elastic. Stitch in place, leaving a 2″ gap for elastic insertion. When you reach the sleeves, because they get wider towards the top, you’ll find you have excess fabric gathering; this is absolutely fine and you should sew right over the gathers, trying to spread them as evenly as possible. The gathers will disappear into the overall gathering once you’ve inserted the elastic.

You can see the sleeve gathering in this pic.

7. Insert the elastic through the gap you’ve left using a safety pin. When the elastic is all the way through, pin the two ends together and try on your top. Adjust the elastic for your desired fit and stitch the ends together accordingly.

8. Stitch over the gap where the elastic was inserted. You can now decide on the length of your top, and trim and hem accordingly (I did an enclosed hem by turning up 1/4″ and then turning it up again).

9. It’s also up to you what you do with the sleeves. I liked the puffy look of keeping all the fabric so simply cut off the cuffs, stitched the plackets together at the bottom and put in 1/4″ elastic to gather the new cuffs and enable me to push them up, creating a voluminous sleeve. But there are lots of options here!

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10. Wear your lovely new top with pride!

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3 thoughts on “Easy off-the-shoulder top tutorial

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