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The beauty of converting a shirt into a vest is that you don’t need to add buttons, or really much of anything else! You mainly just remove elements that you don’t need.
- Button-down shirt
- Double-fold bias tape, 1/2 inch wide
- Safety pins
- Sewing pins
- Fabric scissors
- Rit dye (optional)
First, I nabbed my little leprechaun for a fitting. I determined which buttons I would keep as the top and bottom ones of the vest. I pinned the hem and spread the collar. The fold line of the opened collar would be the future line on which I would cut to begin to remove the collar. I also marked where I wanted the shoulders to land. You can see me gauging whether or not to take the side seams in. I ultimately decided not to, but you could to achieve a trimmer fit.
Next, I folded the shirt perfectly in half on my work surface. I matched the armscye seams with pins, and then marked the new shoulder grade down to the armpit with more pins.
The pins holding everything in place allowed me to cut through both sleeves at once to achieve the (basically) exact, mirror-image armhole shape on each side.
Next, I used a ruler to guide the straight cut I made from the shoulder to the center front.
Here, you can see the cut-open collar. See? It’s starting to look like a vest!
It’s a bit awkward to cut through all the layers, like the button placket. However, covering the newly cut neckline in bias tape soon fixes that problem. It is very satisfying to encase all the internal weirdness with a cohesive strip of material!
Next, I finished removing the collar entirely with just a few scissor snips along the collar band. I saved the collar, along with the sleeves, to make matching, Irish princess accessories for the girls!
Regretfully, I was in such a hurry to finish the vests, (when am I not, though) that I don’t have pictures of me sewing on the double-fold bias tape around the neckline. However, it is pretty intuitive, and there are lots of great YouTube videos that can show you how, like this one!
The above series of photos showed how I quickly tacked up the hem of the shirt with a few back and forth stitches in strategic areas. Then, I ran over the hem with an iron to make a crisp, finished look. (Did I mention that I was in a hurry?) Below, I show more hem and bias tape details. By far the trickiest part of handling bias tape is how to tuck and fold the ends to created a clean, mitered edge.
I finished the armholes of the vest by serging around them and then folding that edge inward and stitching around it one time. The result was rather puckered armholes This is probably mostly because it is difficult to hem a curved edge. Encasing the armholes in bias tape would have produced a cleaner, more polished look, but, c’est la vie! Fortunately, this shortcoming isn’t as noticeable when the vests are worn.
And, there you have it, folks: Yes You Can make cute vests from button-down shirts!
More St. Patrick’s Day Content
- DIY Dyed Green Leprechaun Costumes – RIT Dye tutorial
- DIY Irish Princess Crowns and Necklaces – Turn shirt scraps into Celtic capes, chokers, and tiaras.
- Happy St. Patrick’s Day – The photo shoot with the finished costumes!