I may have perfected the art of the man’s shirt to dress recon. Maybe.

I have a minor obsession with men’s button-down shirts, as you might have noticed from previous posts and a strangely truncated run of tutorials therewith. I like that they arrive as pre-constructed things with lots of style and structure already; it’s fun to play around within the limits of the original shirt. And I’m finally starting to get really good at it. For example, here’s my latest baby:

If you’re a particularly obsessive reader of my blog, you might have noticed that this is the shirt I was complaining about in the post “On Failure.” I ripped out all the seams I’d sewn into it and began taking it apart with an eye toward making a little sundress. It’s a heavier fabric, but I like to wear short dresses into the fall, so I figure it’ll be okay. It’ll look especially nice with tights and cardigans.

If you look up at the dress, you’ll notice a particularly neat detail. See how it comes in at the waist and then fans out at the top? That was part of my multi-step solution for getting rid of the extra bulk of the fabric while still having a full skirt and bust.

You’ll also notice that there are no buttons on the front of this dress. That’s because my mother came in while I was doing a try-on, mentioned that the buttons were pulling in the front, and suggested I spin the dress around and wear it backwards. It turned out that it looked much better that way. Here’s the back:

The back is heavily darted and tailored because it was originally the front, but I think it looks good. I have a tendency to ignore the backs of dresses; maybe what I need to do is just make a front and then spin the dress around.

I’m feeling particularly autumn-y this week, maybe because I just got back from Portland and the Virginia stickiness is getting me down. So I put my electric fan on its highest setting and took a photo of the dress in its native environment, a fall outfit:

(Socks and boots both gifts from my mother, who knows exactly how to pick things for me. In case you can’t tell, the socks feature crows on a telephone wire.)

This outfit makes me so happy. It’s sort of innocent and country-girl but also sort of witchy, a perfect combination for fall. I have this whole story in my head that goes with it, and maybe later I’ll get myself out to a place where there are some hay bales and do a photo shoot. I can already tell that this is going to be one of my favorite outfits as soon as it gets cool enough to wear long socks again; in fact, I’ll probably wear it on a day I know is probably going to be too hot and then tell everyone I “misread the weather report.”

Total cost for this project? $2 and change, plus a lot of time. And a lot of seam-ripping. But turning failure into success is beyond price.


Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, Day 3: Modified T-shirt

And now we’re back on schedule with Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, which is in retrospect, a really long name. Maybe I can just call it ButtonDownFest. Or something. Anyway, here’s project #3.

(Picture taken by TJ, boyfriend and photographer extraordinaire. He’s also really tall, as you can tell by the downward angle.)

I swore I’d never buy one of these shirts, the two-shirt hybrid. I tend to find them a little silly. But if the button-down is falling apart, or the t-shirt is falling apart, or if you have sleeves and a collar left over from another project, this is a good way to dress up the t-shirt and/or bolster a sad-looking neckline or sleeves, which is what I did. And I’m actually pleased with the results.

One note: for this shirt, I went with short, cuffed sleeves. If you do longer sleeves, instead of sewing the button-down sleeves to the very edge of the t-shirt sleeves, sew them at the shoulders instead. Otherwise they’ll be saggy.


  • 1 t-shirt that needs some stuff added to it
  • 1 button-down shirt, or sleeves/collar from same
  • A sewing machine, or needle and thread
  • Scissors


  1. Lay out button-down shirt, flat.
  2. Cut off collar and sleeves.
  3. Place t-shirt over collar and sleeves. Take  a gander and make sure it’s all you thought it’d be before you sew. Still good? Good.
  4. Pin the back of the collar to the back of the t-shirt. Sew.
  5. Pin the front of the collar to the front of the t-shirt and sew. Be sure to leave it unbuttoned, and don’t allow the two sides of the button-down collar to overlap when sewing. If you don’t, the neckline won’t fit over your head.
  6. Be sure to zigzag stitch all the edges of the button-down (which is now sewn into the shirt.) This will keep those edges from fraying.
  7. If you’re doing long sleeves, try the sleeve on your arm. If the sleeve is too baggy on your arm, take to your sewing machine. Turn it inside out and and sew it smaller, in the same genera area as the seam. Try on, see if it fits your arm now, trim the excess.  Pin the button-down sleeves to the insides of the t-shirt sleeves and sew, being careful not to sew sleeves shut.
  8. If you’re doing short sleeves, unbutton and roll up the cuff. Pull the sleeve up your arm and mark on the sleeve the place where you want it to overlap the shirt. Take the sleeve off, and leaving about a quarter to a half an inch excess, cut off the unnecessary part of the sleeve. Use this first sleeve as a template for the second one.
  9. Unroll the cuffs. Pin the sleeves of your button-down into the sleeves of the t-shirt, all the way around, gently stretching the t-shirt fabric if necessary. Sew.
  10. Roll cuffs back up, so that they cover the edges of the t-shirt sleeves. Sew into place in a few different spots around the sleeve, so that they won’t come uncuffed at inconvenient moments. 

If you’re doing a long-sleeved shirt, you can ignore this step. You were already done back at step 7. Why are you still reading?

And there you have it! A much dressier t-shirt, and a lot of extra fabric to play with.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about what you can do with the leftovers. Are you excited? I know I am.

Table Cloth(ing)

Please note: Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down is suspended for a day or two due to a tragic shortage of button-downs. Please accept, instead, this picture of me in a tablecloth.

Would you guess that this skirt used to be a tablecloth? You would? Because I told you? Well…fine. *Sticks out tongue in a childish manner*

This skirt was a lot of fun to make. You remember that I bought this tablecloth, along with a bunch of other stuff, at a yard sale recently. It was a big circular cloth, so I figured I could just cut a hole in the middle, add a waistband, and make a circle skirt. And I was right! Although it did take me a few tries to 1) get the pleats right and 2) figure out how to sew a buttonhole. But the final result was definitely better than I expected when I bought the cloth. The pleating even strategically hides a paint stain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to twirl away like one of those skydancer toys from the mid-90s.

(Only, you know. They flew instead of just standing there.)

Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, Day 2: Sleeve Scarf

So remember those sleeves you have left over from Day 1? Today you’re going to put them to good use. The sleeve scarf is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s an incredibly simple project–so simple it should only take you about ten minutes. Here’s me modeling the finished product, using my new digital camera and tripod courtesy of an uncle who upgraded.

(again with the ailing model-face…I’ll learn.)


  • Discarded sleeves in need of a home
  • Sewing machine (or needle and thread–this is a project that could probably be done with hand-sewing)
  • Scissors
  • Pins


  1. Take sleeves and place next to one another. Notice how they’re both cut at diagonals? Put the long part of one diagonal against the short part of the other diagonal, and vice versa, like so:This will help you maximize scarf length.
  2. Unbutton the cuff on one of the sleeves. Now, turn that sleeve inside out over the other sleeve.
  3. You now have a sleeve-within-a-sleeve. Pin the raw edges at the tops of the sleeves together, all the way around. This is going to be your one line of sewing for the day. You ready?
  4. Now, sew the raw edges of the sleeves together! If you’re feeling really fancy, you can go back over your stitches with a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.
  5. Take the sleeve that was inside out, and turn it right side out. And there you go.

See, wasn’t that easy and painless? And now you have a distinctive–dare I say it–classy summer accessory. This lightweight scarf is downright breezy.