The tee is arguably one of the most adaptable of all ready-made clothing. The classic tee has reached the clothing status of cultural icon along with its most ubiquitous of companions, the denim blue jean. Like an artist’s blank canvas, a T-shirt has limitless potential to be transformed into a unique personal statement. Take a pair of scissors to it, apply a few simple sewing techniques, cinch it here and there, add a little embellishment, and a T-shirt is so much more than a convenient comfortable cover-up. Some notable brands such as Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Lee adorn many of the classic tees of the past for men and boys. Designer brands such as Dior, Chanel, Versace, Armani, Givenchy, Karan, and Lacroix grace many fashion tees today.
T-shirt fabric is a fray-less wonder of softness and durability. The traditional shapeless classic style of the shirt, with its rounded crew neck, squared short sleeves and a boxy body-style make it easily identifiable to all. With a little creative thought, this seen everywhere garment is easy to makeover into a personal statement.
To add quick modern pizzazz to a classic T-shirt:
Cut the neckline band of the t-shirt off entirely shaping either into a rounded scoop or V-neck shape, cut off the sleeves, cut off the hemline and then gather the shoulder area together by stitching across the shoulder area in two parallel seams ¼” from either side of the existing shoulder seam. Pull threads to slightly gather. To secure the gathered area cut ties from fabric strips of the leftover T-shirt pieces.
If the T-shirt is too large and a close contoured fit is desired, just sew new side seams from the underarm edge to the bottom edge.
Although the T-shirt fabric will not fray, a decorative narrow rolled edge applied to newly cut edges can give the T-shirt a completely different look. Serge the cut edges using a color-coordinating or contrasting decorative thread in just the upper looper, stitch width the narrowest possible and stitch length the shortest. To produce a neat and clean looking rolled edge, stabilize the cut edges by using a water soluble stabilizer, 1" (2.5 cm) wide, either on top of or under the fabric while serging. Or any cut edges of the T-shirt may remain unfinished if a more casual look is wanted.
If using a sewing machine rather than a serger, a narrow hem can be applied by stitching 1/4" from the cut edges, roll the T-shirt fabric along the stitching line so it no longer appears on the right side, and then stitch on the right side using one of the machine’s stretch stitches.
For another variation, cut the neckline band off, then the sleeve and bottom hems. The cut neckband can be left raw or serge or zig zag stitch the edges. Fold up each sleeve from the bottom of the new sleeve edge about 1/2" or more, then fold again and simply press to hold. Serge or zig zag stitch the bottom edges so the shirt does not roll up.
Try shirring the sides of a boxy tee to give it that softly gathered look. After cutting and refashioning the neckline, sleeves and bottom edge of slightly over-sized tee, stitch two parallel rows along each side of the tee using a long stitch length. Gently pull on the two rows of stitching together so that the sides slightly gather for a softly shirred effect.
Thanks to James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Elvis Presley for elevating the unassuming garment into the sexy, rebellious, urban chic tee we know today.
Sew happy, sew inspired.