Easy Updates To Old Shirts

April 21st, 2015

Chances are you have a few old button-downs hanging in the back of your closet that you haven’t worn in a few months. They’re a lost cause. You ain’t wearing them anytime soon. Unless, you make one of these simple (and cheap) alterations to get them back into your rotation.

Here are two easy ways to update your old shirts and bring them some new life.

Slim Them Down

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You might have some old shirts from back in the day, before you realized the benefits of “slim fit” shirts. You know, those “Classic Fits” that are extra wide and baggy through the midsection and sleeves. Chances are you bought the right collar size and sleeve length, you just need to have them slimmed down… Some of my favorite shirts are ones that I was on the brink of giving away because I didn’t love the fit.

Shirts are relatively easy to alter. Taking in the sides, adding back darts (as shown above), and slimming down the sleeves can result in a whole new shirt, for only a few bucks at the tailor.

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Cut Them Old Dingy Collars Off

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We’ve mentioned cutting off the collar of a casual shirt to create a band collar. It’s fairly simple. The shirt already has the band, you just need to remove the collar from it. You can do this the clean way by un-sticthing the collar and sewing it back up, or you can just take the scissors to it and stay as close to the sewing line as possible.

This white linen shirt had a floppy collar that always looked a little scraggly, and it was starting to yellow, so we cut it off and created what feels like a brand new, more airy shirt. Perfect for the beach, or a hot summer night out.


Got any D-I-Y upgrades hanging in your wardrobe?

Thanks for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford. Styling by Dan Trepanier. Modeling by Will Howe

  • Meez Stephanie

    Thanks for the ideas! They work for women’s tailored shirts, too. I had a linen shirt I never wore because it just didn’t feel right– too clunky. I cut off the collar and as you said, it’s much airier now. I know I’ll wear it much more.

  • TO

    I think like is too short to worry about the look of darts, in reference to other comments. But interesting to know that some tailors and purists think that about them. Perhaps I don’t share the view because most of my dress/casual buttoned shirts that I’ve purchased
    Over the last 6 years or so have been 10 dollars or so (lots of time spent in vintage, second hand stores, etc.) and so darts have become somewhat of a best friend of mine that I don’t mind paying for and are usually a necessity. My MTM dress shirt on the other hand does not have them!

  • John

    Recently I bought a $5 anvil white t shirt from amazon (tube knit, soft, slim fit) and cut the collar off to give it a little bit of a unfinished hem around the neck with a bit of a scoop. It’s become one of my favorite t shirts since it has a bit of a unique look and knowing it was only $5, I’m not precious with it at all.

    A retired DIY move I used to do in 6th grade was cut an inch or two up the bottom seam of my jeans on the side to give my bootcut jeans more flare…I was still discovering my own style to say the least.

    • TO

      Lol to the grade 6 move!

  • Lothar

    I don’t like darts on the back of a shirt. I think they look a bit ladylike. I prefer for the alterations to be done along the seams. But that’s just my preference.

    • TO

      The only problem usually is that taking in on the side seams removes equally from the front and back of the shirt- and a flat or protruding stomach and a concave lower back need to be accommodated for differently.

  • Shawn

    How do you guys feel about darts on a shirt with side pleats? Yes, no? I’ve always thought it might look weird, even f you try your best to merge the pleats into the darts…

  • http://ledebonnaire.tumblr.com/ Juan Zara

    Even with a good pair of tailor’s shears, the result isn’t going to be perfect. Tearing apart the seams with a seam ripper and sewing back the seam line (either by hand or using a sewing machine) is a much safer approach and doesn’t take much more time.
    As for back darts, some tailors (especially older gentlemen) consider them a sort of “shortcut” to an otherwise well-constructed, good-fitting shirt, which should already fit perfectly without darts. Some people have a very “upright” standing stance, with a very straight back (myself included,) though, so sometimes they’re essential. The good news is, they’re pretty easy to sew by yourself, it takes 20 mins at most if you own a sewing machine.

    Start by drafting a cardboard dart pattern piece first, it will make it much easier to get things right. Place the pattern piece(s) on the shirt (remember to pin it to the shirt,) making sure you line them up to the shirt’s back side pleats (not necessary with a center box pleat, just make sure the darts end up being evenly distanced to the center pleat) and either pin up the shirt, or carefully draw an outline of the pattern with tailor’s chalk, then sew away. Technically you’d need to remove the extra fabric and “close” the edges by using a serger, but if it doesn’t bother you, you can keep it (or ask your tailor to remove it.)

    Another great easy update is to remove chest pockets or even replace them with chest pockets from other shirts. Granted it’s a little much if you’re a minimalist, but I love patchwork madras, and doing this with two different plaid/checked shirts creates a sort of similar effect.

    • Nia Lorre

      I followed your advice, Juan. I opened the seam, removed the collar and resewed the seam by hand. I mimicked the edge stitching, my stitches falling in the groove left by the original. It worked perfectly.

  • tommyjohn_45

    For some reason my tailor (who is highly regarded in Boston and comes from generations of tailors) refuses to apply back darts. Any idea why? He does do an exception job of taking in the sides/arms, and it has saved quite a few shirts. Just make sure you are satisfied with the collar/sleeve length, or else you’re likely just wasting the money and effort.

    • AdamE

      I assume this is as mentioned above. some tailors refuse to dart shirts, because it’s not a clean solution (a shortcut/lazy tailoring, I even had a tailor refer to them as a “skidmark” (although frankly, it was her tailoring that was a skidmark and that was the one and only time I took anything there…)…)… they prefer to rip it apart at the seems, and adjust by cutting away the excess fabric. This usually looks better than darts, although is more work and typically more expensive at the tailors…

      • tommyjohn_45

        Haha.. makes sense, thanks AdamE

  • Jack

    Do you have to close the seam when you cut the collar off? Or can you just cut away?

    • tommyjohn_45

      As close to the seem as possible. I actually tried this on a junk shirt just to see how it would go. I used a pair of kitchen scissors that didn’t give the closest cut, and it looked terrible.