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Altering T-Shirts

February 5th, 2004 · post by chris 12-o-5 · 1 Comment

I am so tired of magazines telling me what to wear, what’s ‘hot’ and what’s ‘not’…I think it’s about time we took clothing into our own hands- we should wear what makes us feel strong and individual, not whatever Vogue is telling us is this month’s ‘must have’. Why should we be slaves to fashion labels and magazines when cheap and unique clothing is at our fingertips? … Welcome to Chris 12-oh-5’s D.I.Y (Design It Yourself) clothing ideas.

As a girl, one thing I find quite annoying is when bands don’t make t-shirts in girl’s designs, inflicting upon on us the ‘small’ option (which is clearly not designed for anyone with breasts). To combat this problem, I tend to pick up whatever t-shirt I can get my hands on and get to work customising it to fit my own shape and to give it that extra sense of individuality. I am by no means a fashion connoisseur, nor someone particularly skilled with a needle and thread, but I decided to put together a simple guide of some ideas on how you can customise your clothes when you are tired of bumping into 10 people in the same outfit as you.

1) The most simple way to produce a more loose fitting shirt (does anyone else hate it when t-shirts cling under your armpits?! ugh) is the basic ‘vest crop’ which works on both guys and girls. This is almost impossible to mess up, but more details later if you do end up cropping it too far in. This method is best done by cutting along the seams on the sleeves first and either hemming the excess in, which will give the shirt a longer life by preventing fraying, or just trimming it in bit by bit. The neck is done in the same way, but I generally find it looks better if you cut a deeper semi-circle on the chest side.

2) A problem a lot of people find is that t-shirts are quite baggy. I know it sounds girly to be talking about tightening shirts, but I know quite a few hardcore boys who take their t-shirts in as well. So, if you buy a t-shirt and find that it’s a little bit too loose fitting, the simplest way I know to fix this problem is by un-picking all the stitching. This will leave you with two bits of t-shirt, joined at the neck, which you then need to turn inside out. Decide how much tighter you want the t-shirt (I usually take it in about 3cm) and then stick pins through both pieces of shirt this distance from the edge all the way along (including the sleeves if you are not doing a ‘vest crop’). It’s important to remember to allow a bit more material around the chest if you’re a female, I’ve had a couple of disasters with not being able to get the shirt back over me because I made it too tight. Once it’s all pinned, stitch it back together (remember! INSIDE OUT) either with a sewing machine (overlocking) or by hand (I do mine by hand, but it doesn’t tend to last very well in washing machines), trim the excess and turn back the right way round.

3) As I mentioned above, sometimes making a vest can go a little bit wrong if you cut too much off the sleeves. This happened with my All Ages t-shirt and I was about to despair when my friend suggested I make a halter-neck from the remnants. The best way to make a halter is to wear the shirt and get someone else to cut around you, this allows you to cut the exact lengths and sections off without too much mishap. With this particular one, my friend cut from my arm pit, around the back of my neck (about 2inches below the neck seam) and back in line with the other armpit. She then removed the back panel by placing pins in line with where the ‘armpit triangle’ started and cutting a straight a line as possible between those two points at the back. I then decided to hack off the funny neck seam and cut the material so that I could vary the ‘tightness’ of the front of the shirt. If the back is hanging a little bit loose, you can either cut the back in half and then tie it together with bows (it depends how much skin you’re comfortable with showing) or else just pin it to your bra, which is what I tend to do.

4) I made the Movielife t-shirt a few years ago when I had enough time on my hands to bother with webbing, etc. I first took this shirt in (It was a Large) and cut the triangular shape into the neckline (both front and back). This looked good, but it was a little bit frayed, so I turned it in half a centimetre on the inside and joined it using webbing (which can be found at most good fabric shops… I think its proper name is Bondaweb). As you can see from the picture, sometimes large shirts are really difficult to get into shape, so I usually just put them on and fit it all together with pins (the timeless ‘I’ll MAKE it fit’ method).

5) The most fun way of customising your clothes is by messing around with necklines, ribbons, patches, safety pins, lace etc. It tends to be messy, but who really expects punks to have perfectly finished t-shirts? With the KISS t-shirt I simply cut two lines of vertical parallel holes and threaded ribbon through. Ribbon can also be used as a halter-neck if you completely bugger the neckline of your shirt and end up cutting it into a boob tube type shape. I have occasionally delved into the world of skirt making, the most basic example being the time when I cut the feet off some black tights and cut a denim skirt (£2 in a charity shop) in half. I removed a section of denim and replaced with a section of leopard print (attached with safety pins) and a couple of patches. This kind of thing creates a completely unique and practical outfit (you rip/spill beer on a section, simply cut it out and replace it with another…plus, you’re wearing tights, so there isn’t any mobility restrictions or that ‘feeling over dressed’ issue). Image maker is also a crazy way to make your own designs, but it can be expensive and tricky…although nothing beats turning up to a 50th birthday and every guest being presented with a pair of boxers with the hosts head on the front. Who the hell thought of that?

6) My final tip is based around charity shops. Not only is your money (usually) going to a good cause, but things that look pretty hideous on the rack can just be chopped up for the material. Other than that, those of you blessed with the skills of shoplifting, just take what you need and hack it up. I expect there’s nothing more satisfying than slicing into an expensive shirt that every teenage girl is lusting after because J17 told her it was ‘cool’. The most important element of customising clothes is to see beyond what you have in front of you; once you have a vision of how you want your things to look, the rest is relatively easy. Happy snipping.

Chris 12-oh-5

→ 1 CommentThis entry belongs to the following categories: Craft · DIY Guides

1 response so far

  • Bogzla posted:
    Apr 3, 2009 at 10:34 pm. Comment #1

    Another cool idea is making your own patches / iron on transfers. This site ( has some awesome fabrics / transfer sheets that you can put through any old inkjet printer to make patches that are surprisingly hard wearing :D