Fix-it Friday – Downsizing a Shirt

Yes I’m wearing my 40’s floral dress today – I wore it to the supermarket!
For this week’s Fix-it Friday I am downsizing a bodyshirt in a printed chain design that I found in an op-shop for about $20.  I purchased it around January 2011 from This is Not a Love Shop in K Rd, so those creases are a year old! The fabric is a nice cotton modal knit, the catch being it is a UK size 20 sized for a 107cm/42″ bust – three sizes too big for me!
I did the same thing to this as I did to last week’s Fix-it Friday, and since you asked I’ve done a short tutorial!  This should work for a set-in sleeve, but not one of those drop shoulder shirt sleeves.
I wouldn’t recommend downsizing too far, three sizes is about my max.  Even then the collar is large and the bust dart too low.  Just as well I like large 70’s collars!
1. Remove the sleeves, and try it on again to pin the side seams – I am going to remove 4.5cm from each piece (18cm total) which is 3.5 sizes.  I’m also extending both darts to a better position for me:

2.  Taking in the side seam also raises the underarm level, which is good.  Ideally you want it about 6mm higher per size.

3. Take in the sleeve seam about 6mm per size, and taper it to zero at the cuff.

4.  Grade the sleeve head down – this is basically 6mm per size off the shoulder cap, and 3mm per size about halfway down the cap, and zero at the underarm.  I chalk this as I undoubtedly alter it a bit later.

5.  Grade the armhole down – this is basically 6mm per size off the shoulder seam to about halfway down the armhole, tapering to zero at the underarm. Chalk this bit too!

6.  Pin the sleeve into the armhole matching the chalk lines – start at underarm point, pin halfway up each side, ease the rest in.  I notch the top of the sleeve cap, and make sure it is placed at the same point on each sleeve relative to the shoulder seam.

7.  Try it on and check.  Fiddle around pinning and repinning until it sits nicely, then sew it in for good, and chop the excess off with the overlocker!

And here it is finished – yay, new cool shirt!

PS – Mmm,  it doesn’t look that different does it?  I promise it does in real life – next time I will try and take the photos with the same lens in the same position for better comparison shots!

Are you keen to adopt Fix-it Friday too?  I know lots of you were last week, so I’ve whipped up a badge to help provide motivation.  Stick it on your blog sidebar and every time you log in you’ll be reminded to fix-up some of those botch-ups, hehe!

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Designer, Patternmaker, Blogger Of All Things Sewing. Follow as I share projects, patterns, and my favourite tricks of the trade.

18 thoughts on “Fix-it Friday – Downsizing a Shirt

  1. Thanks for all the handy tips on downsizing a garment. I love buying second-hand finds and refashioning them so this post will come in super handy. I'm just catching up on blogging after the holidays and I must say I can fully relate with your post about choosing your style. I struggle with 40s fashion as well. I like it…just not on me. I've always felt a bit silly when I've tried it on. I think you need the image and personality to match it, to pull it off. I LOVE the 60s too.


  2. Ahhhh…. 'St Michael' it's the name that the UK high street chain 'Marks & Spencer' have used for years as one of their in-house brand-names (they dropped the use of the 'St Michael' name in 2000) 🙂

    P.S. Great info. on the sleeve resizing (the no. of mm's per size to take off). Thanks loads for sharing 🙂


  3. Today I bought a blouse that was a couple of sizes too big. It was on sale (75% off) and I loved the fabric so I got it with the intention of making alterations to make it fit. Thank you for your tutorial. I will start unpicking the sleeves right now.


  4. I think that is great – you look really good in red. Very flash look for the supermarket although I love the dress, like you I'm a sixties and seventies fan – I like the 40's styles but I would look like a dress up queen in them.
    I think it is so helpful that you actually give the actual sizing (in mm) … this mean I am actually learning something instead of just guessing. Thanks.


  5. thank you so much for posting this! i bought ruggy a jacket for christmas that needs to be downsized.

    question– on his jacket, the body is too big and the armhole sits too low. but, the sleeve length is perfect. if i take in the body & armhole, will that hike up the sleeve length?

    even as i type it i know the answer. i just want it to be a different answer.


  6. Such intestinal fortitude, to have stuck with Fix It Friday two weeks in a row! I am impressed. Re-setting a sleeve sounds daunting at first, until you realize that there is no more unpicking to do than on a side seam — and the results are so immediately better. I will Google “modal” to see what kind of fiber that is in the U.S. To me it is merely a musical term, spouted at us by our highly-educated choir director. I think it is something Renaissance-ish.


  7. It's really encouraging to see that such major alterations can be done. I love that mondo collar, too! You've totally motivated me to get cracking at the fixes (and some UFOs while I”m at it) and this week I organized a box of my must-fix clothes… I like the idea of planning on going at them on a regular basis and not when I'm feelin it, because I'm usually never feelin it!


  8. Thanks for the mini-tutorial. I just don't have enough confidence in my skill set to try something like this myself, which stinks because I have some shirts that need this kind of alteration! I may just have to sacrifice a couple of shirts for practice.


  9. Thank you so much for your inspiration. I too have shirts that need to be re-fit. If at all possible would you some time show the grading of the armhole. I think I understand your instructions but am not sure.
    Thank you again
    Marie Roche


  10. Oh man I love (and miss!) the “This is Not a Love Shop” shop – If only because of their seriously awesome & wacky window displays! Definately inspiring me with the Fix-It fridays. Ironic that my sewing powers so seldom get used to fix up the clothes I already have!


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