Upcycling clothing: how can I reuse or recycle a dress shirt?

Continuing on our impromptu upcycling clothing week here at Recycle This, I was wondering what could be done with long-sleeved/dress shirts — we’ve already talked about recycling or reusing the ties, so why not the shirt as well?

The fabric is usually lighter than for t-shirts and the like, so they can lend themselves for different purposes. Hankies (like the ones I made from an old blouse a few years ago) seem an obvious idea – but you know, who doesn’t need more hankies? Finer fabric is also good for lining handmade purses or bags etc.

With their full length sleeves, old shirts make good (albeit thin) clothes-guards while painting or crafting.

If you are reusing the fabric, don’t forget to save the buttons – for mending and making purposes.

Any other ideas?

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14 Responses to “Upcycling clothing: how can I reuse or recycle a dress shirt?”


  1. Su says:

    Cut off the cuffs to make a larger cover up or pinny for cleaning/ cooking, if the shirt is big enough.

  2. Cipollina says:

    I’d remake them into… shirts!

    Usually it’s the cuffs and the collar that have seen better days, they could be replaced with new.

    For me I think I’d take the cuffs and collar off and line (back or front – both can be nice) the edges with fabric from a differently coloured old shirt – maybe even re-edge the whole front. Change the buttons into nicer ones, too, maybe, and embroider something matching on the breast pocket…

    Old shirts are also great for making summer dresses for very small girls.

    • Medeea says:

      Exactly.
      I usually remove the collar and then stitch it on the reverse.
      But I like your idea of using some other material and new buttons.

      I would simply turn a shirt into a pajama. Get some pants to go with it and voilla!

  3. Bellen says:

    Removing collar, sleeves and the fronts where buttons & buttonholes are the resulting shell can be used as a lining for a vest. Combined with a similar weight shell it can be a reversible vest.

    Shirts, in their entirety, can be used as a lightweight outer layer – I have 3 striped shirts that I use with solid T’s and 2 solid shirts I use with print T’s

    Cut off the sleeves to make a short sleeve shirt

    Use the cut off sleeve to make a plastic bag, or anything, holder by sewing elastic into the non-cuff end, add hanging loop on the cuff end

    For an apron – Cut the back off keeping the yoke for the waist area, hem edges, add waistband if necessary and ties using cut off parts. Can also add pockets from cut off parts

    Cut squares to use for a quilt if the fabric content is cotton or mainly cotton.
    About 4 shirts cut into 4-6″ squares will make a child’s quilt or adult’s lap quilt. Good for taking into the car, for outdoors or general lounging about where getting dirty isn’t a concern. An old blanket used for the batting and an old sheet, or more shirts cut into larger pieces used for the backing.

    Large pieces of shirt can be fashioned into book, checkbook, etc covers

    Smaller pieces can be sewn onto card stock to make one of a kind greeting cards. Small pieces can also be glued to cardstock to make ornaments for any holiday – use appropriate colors and/or add embroidery, etc.

    Silky fabric can be combined to make nightgowns especially when using the yoke of the shirt for the top of the nightgown, or a shirt can be cut down and refashioned into a bed jacket

    Depending on colors and fabric toys for children can be made – mixing colors and adding texture by sewing pleats will make an ‘educational’ toy

    Cuffs, with ends cut off, can usually be stuffed – sew ends after lightly stuffing, sew several together by long edges and you have a hot pad. Or by sewing more together you have a table mat for hot dishes. For nicely finished edges bind with contrasting material or with same material

  4. anna says:

    If you’re done with teh shirt, save the buttons.
    Pockets can be used for projects (anywhere where you want to add a pocket… wall organizer etc).

    I’ve made a few bags of some shirts.
    And one I ripped to 2/3″ wide yarn, which I then crocheted to a handbag.

  5. If the weave isn’t too fine, I use the fabric for embroidery. The arms of long-sleeve dress shirts make cute baby pants, and if you have two matching or coordinating dress shirts, you can make a woman’s shirtdress. I also like to remove any stiff parts, like collars with stays, and use them as light jackets, beach coverups, or sleepwear.

  6. carol says:

    I make baby bibs and use the backs of the shirts to line tote bags

  7. I used a couple old dress shirts to make this shopping bag…
    http://feliciafollum.blogspot.com/2011/03/upcycled-shopping-bag.html

    http://feliciafollum.blogspot.com/search/label/Craftivism%2FArtivism
    Here are some other examples of craftivism and artivism including upcycling

  8. Could be used for smaller cushions and other little nick nacks.

    Could be donated to charity if they are not totaly done then there could still be a use for someone else

  9. Cassandra says:

    In college I needed work shirts for a class…I took 2 of my grandfather’s old dress shirts and carefully took out the seams at the collars. Under is a short “mandarin” collar and I simply restitched the seams back together minus the pointy collar then wore the shirts with a simple chain belt and WOW did I get compliments! People always said they were too good to wear as work shirts!

  10. Medeea says:

    Line a short coat with it.
    Make pillow cases and use the buttons at the back.
    Make table napkins out of it, especially the checkered ones.

  11. Debbie says:

    I have some dress shirts left from my father. I would like to reuse them and make them into something that my sisters and Mom can use or just have them as an keepsake.
    Any ideas?



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