Tutorial: Off-The-Shoulder Top

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I'm all for taking old, good-quality clothes and turning them into wearable, up-to-date garments that are actually going to be useful, and at the moment I seem to be inundated by men's shirts. Both my Dad and my husband have recently had wardrobe clear-outs and I've ended up hoarding a few of their shirts, just because the fabric seemed so nice. I knew I'd want to use them for something at some point.

As it turns out, men's shirts make really nice off-the-shoulder tops and I've put a tutorial together to share how easy it is to make one yourself. You don't need to be an experienced sewer, luckily all the gathering and the volume of the fabric makes this a very forgiving project. 

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A men's shirt is a great base for this kind of project, as there's so much fabric to play with; creating the loose fit that this top needs. 

Firstly, gather your supplies..

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  • A man's shirt (maybe check they don't want it before you start cutting)
  • Sewing machine - the most basic will do
  • Matching thread
  • Scissors
  • About 1 metre of elastic (I used one an inch thick)
  • Pins
  • Measuring tape

Step 1

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Firstly, you need to cut across from shoulder to shoulder, to remove the collar. 

Lay the shirt on a flat surface, and measure from the top of one shoulder seam, down 7cm, and mark with a pin. Then measure 7cm down from the opposite shoulder seam, and join the two markers up using a ruler or measuring tape, so you have a cutting line.

Step 2

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Cut across the pinned line you've just made, so that the collar comes away from the main part of the shirt, leaving you with a straight line at the top. This is going to allow your top to become 'off-the-shoulder'.

Step 3

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Next you need to create a channel for the elastic to go inside. Fold over the top of the shirt once, then once again, to the inside, to make a nice neat edge, all the way around the top. I made sure that my fold was just over an inch, so that the elastic I used could easily fit inside. Sew this down near the bottom edge of the fold, but leave a gap a few inches wide un-sewn, so that you can put the elastic in.

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It can get a little tricky when you're sewing around the tops of the sleeves, but if you pleat the fabric slightly, then it turns out fine. 

The thing is, even if this part looks a little messy, no one will ever know, as the elastic gathers the fabric up anyway, hiding any mistakes.

Step 4

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Next you need to thread your elastic through the gap in the channel you've just made. To make this much easier I tend to put a safety pin into the one end and thread that end through first.

Eventually the other end of the elastic will arrive out of the gap you've left.

Step 5

To know exactly how tight you need to make the elastic, it's a good idea to try it on and pin the two ends in place, adjusting if you need to. Mark where the two ends meet, so that you know where to sew them in place.

Step 6

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Now that you know how tight your elastic needs to be, you need to sew the two ends in place.

Lay one on top of the other, making sure you don't end up twisting the elastic, and sew them together on your sewing machine. 

Step 7

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After that, you should end up with something like this.

I like to wear this top with the original buttons at the back instead of the front, but that's up to you. I've made a few variations in the past and have styled it both ways.

This other version is one I made from my partner's old PJ top. As this top was rather humungous on me, I've also added elastic to the sleeves, and tied the waist, to draw it in a little, and make it look less like I'm wearing an old PJ top...

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Want to make something that looks like you picked it up at Zara, but will actually cost you nothing but a few hours of your time?

Done!

The best thing about it is that you don't have to be neat. No one is ever going to see any messy patches besides you, believe me. 

Try it out and let me know how you get on!