20 ideas for refashioning a button-up shirt

How to upcycle a shirt: 20 refashioning tips

Button-up shirt upcycling ideas

Today you will learn helpful tips and ideas on how to upcycle a button-down shirt.

Every woman has at least one classic white shirt or blouse in their wardrobe. With a white button-down, it’s easy to create a casual, formal, or any look for any occasion.

You can wear them with a skirt and a blazer for a meeting, with trousers for the office, with jeans for a date, or shorts for a hot summer night party or walk. They look perfect with high heels, Converse, or casual shoes. You can never go wrong with a white shirt.

But if you are like me, you like to spice things up a bit. You can buy white shirts with a little bling-bling or decor, but they tend to get expensive. With some easy, inexpensive tricks and tips, you can transform your classic white shirt to something stunning; you will love to wear.

The photos are actual products, I added them for inspiration, but I give details on how to achieve the look. I tried to add ideas where you don’t need a sewing machine. You can use fabric glue or sew it by hand. Sewing takes more time, but I think it is safer and won’t get ruined with the first wash. Check out these ideas! 

1. Lace

With lace, you can never go wrong. Lace creates a feminine look, and it is easy to incorporate on a white shirt or blouse. You can add it anywhere on your shirt. Sew it on the bottom, front, or you can cut the fabric and create a see-through look.

The lace ribbon is perfect for this refashion idea, but you can also use lace fabric.

A couple of ideas on how to add lace to your classic white shirt:

  • Add lace to pockets
  • Replace a part of the shirt with lace (back, sleeves, add a heart shape, etc.)
  • Lace ruffles look stunning on the bottom of the shirt or the front next to the sides of the buttondown part
  • Sew/glue multiple lace stripes next to each other
  • Cut in a line and add a lace ribbon (with this trick you can also lengthen a shirt or the sleeves if you’d like to)

2. Black contour

Black lines on a white buttondown shirt look amazing. You can either draw black lines with a textile marker or sew/glue on narrow, black ribbons.

They look best on the collar, the sides of the button line, the pockets, and cuffs. You can also create a fun design, like a heartbeat line.

3. Buttons

One of the easiest ways to transform a shirt is by changing the buttons. You can sew on colored buttons (black buttons are trending, but you can choose any color), or buttons with different shapes (heart, flower, square, moon, bow, etc.). Try buttons with patterns (fabric buttons come in all colors and sizes, made with stunning fabrics) and different materials (metal, pearl, or stud buttons).

You can also create a fun look with the buttons, like this evil eye shirt.

A button can add a whole new look to the shirt. 

4. Feathers

Feathers are a fashion trend this year. You can incorporate them into anything and everything, buttondown shirts are no exception. You can add them to the cuffs, sleeves, bottom, collars, you choose.

Grab some feather fringe, sew or glue them on, and you’re ready to go with your super fashionable shirt.

5. Patterned fabric

Patterned fabrics are gorgeous. I love them very much! Floral, tribal, cute, abstract, colorful, geometric, animal print (not so much), I want to use them all.

A patterned fabric pocket, or a cuff, maybe a collar? They look awesome! You should try it. For a pocket, you can use any fabric, cut a pocket shape, and glue or sew them on. A different collar is a bit trickier. An easy trick is to find a shirt with a cool pattern, then remove the collar from both shirts, and exchange them. You can do the same with the cuffs.

This way you can mix up two shirts and get two new ones!

6. Studs

Studs are easy to add, and they look fantastic. You can choose from round, square, heart, pointy, blunt, shiny, colorful, patterned decorative studs, and the list goes on and on.

They look stunning on pockets, collars, and shoulders. You can also scatter studs all over the shirt.

There are three ways to insert studs: they either come with progs on the backside, with screw-back or a tool that connects the stud with its back (a snap fastener tool).

You can refashion your boring buttondown in no time.

7. Fringe

Adding fringe to clothes is also a fashionable way to transform clothing. You can buy fringe trims in a lot of colors and lengths.

Add colorful fringe to the back of your buttondown, above the pockets or on the sleeves. Black fringe makes a good contrast on a white shirt.

8. Ribbon

One of the most effortless shirts refashion is adding ribbon to the collar. A black fabric makes the perfect contrast on a white shirt. You can also try a red or navy blue ribbon.

Sew or glue the ribbon to the end of the collar and tie it in a bow. Looks feminine and elegant. This refashion looks best on a peter pan collared shirt.

9. Stamp

A buttondown shirt with a pattern is perfect for a casual outfit. You can easily revamp one of your boring shirts with fabric paint and a stamp.

Animal print is also a fashion trend this year. Still, you can choose patterns as simple as dots, triangles, or more complicated designs like flowers, stars, anchors, animals, feathers, cacti, etc. A lot of stamps are available on the market, but you can also make a unique stamp with potato, rubber, or with an eraser.

You can opt for a simple black and white pattern, or go crazy with colors. Stamp the whole shirt or add just design to the pockets or cuffs. It depends on your style.

Before stamping, always make a test on a hidden part of the shirt or another piece of fabric.

10. Pearls

You can change a shirt with a couple of pearls. Pearls are sophisticated and feminine. It’s effortless to add to the shirts.

You can sew on pearls (round or flat back) or choose the fast way, the hotfix pearl, that you can iron on the shirt in no time.

Decorate the collars, pockets, cuffs, shoulders, or scatter them all over the shirt. They look best on white button-downs or denim shirts.

11. Bling-Bling – rhinestones

Sew rhinestones on your shirt to add a little bling to your outfit. You can choose rhinestones from a lot of shapes, colors, and sizes. They look fantastic if you mix different sizes and shapes (round, square, oval, triangle, teardrop, navette). You can also buy hotfix rhinestones and iron them on your shirt.

Rhinestone and pearl combination look glamorous on any shirt or blouse.

Revamp with rhinestones the shoulders, pockets, collar, or create a unique design. You can also create a fake necklace embellishment under the collar.

12. Machine or hand embroidery

One of my favorite ways to refashion clothes is embroidery. Embroidered clothes are trendy and easy to make.

You can embroider your shirt with an embroidery machine or with hand embroidery. It is easy and fun!

You can create almost any design with embroidery. You can embroider flowers, words, animals, minimalistic design, or small drawings. Add embroidery to the collar, the front or back of the shirt, cuffs, pockets, everywhere.

13. Cut-outs

Let’s show a little skin! You can transform your shirt or blouse by making cut-outs. Cold shoulder shirts are very fashionable.

Cut-outs look amazing on the shoulders, sleeves, neckline, and back.

After the cut, you can either sew the edges or seal the edges with a fabric fray stopper. Be aware that the solution may stiffen the sides of the fabric. Make a test before using it.

14. Dip Dye

Another simple way to revamp a boring shirt is to dip dye. Pick up a bottle of fabric paint from a craft store and grab your white shirt.

The materials you will need:

  • a button-down shirt,
  • dye,
  • salt,
  • a container,
  • water.

Check out this excellent post on how to dip dye a shirt. You can find a lot of helpful tips within the post.

15. Metal embellishment

The easiest way to upgrade a buttondown shirt is to add a metal embellishment like metal collar tips. You can buy simple metal collar tips, decorated collar tips, and collar tips with chain. They are the earrings of a buttondown shirt.

They look stunning! You can choose from metal colors: gold, silver, bronze, copper, rose gold. They add luxury and style to any shirt.

And the good part, you can remove them and add them to any other shirt you want.

16. Tassels

 Colorful tassels make everything more fun.

A fast and fun way to revamp a boring shirt is by adding colorful tassels. You can easily make or buy pre-made tassels from Amazon or craft stores.

Add black tassels to the bottom for contour, or the front and complement it with embroidery. You can also try fun designs.

How to upcycle a white button up shirt

17. Chain it!

You can transform the style of your shirt with chains. Make a waterfall look by sewing them at the ends. Decorate the pockets or the shoulders with this easy trick.

You can also decorate the shirt by laying flat the chain and sewing down with thread. Sew chains in multiple rows on the collar, pockets, or cuffs. Experiment with different sized and colored chains.

18. Ruffles are trendy

Ruffles add a feminine touch to a dull and boring button-down shirt. You will need another shirt or fabric to add ruffles. For this refashion idea, you will need a sewing machine, or you can hand sew the ruffles.

You can add ruffles to the front, dropping from the collar, or next to the buttons.

19. Paint or draw

Another trick to revamp a shirt is fabric paint. You can paint on the button-down shirt any design you want. Use textile markers or fabric paint and a brush.

A minimalist drawing on the collars look sophisticated, but you can also aim for a fun, peek-a-boo design from the pockets.

20. Sequins

Sequins make a shirt or blouse stunning. You can easily upcycle a boring shirt by adding sequin fabric to the pockets or collar.

Sewing on sequins is time-consuming, but worth the time because the outcome is terrific. You can buy sequin fabric and sew/glue it to the shirt.

Adding a sequin pocket is simple, changing the collar, not so much. For the collar, I would recommend sewing on sequins one-by-one. Changing a collar needs experience in stitching.

Tips, tricks, and hacks for refashioning a shirt:

  • If you make cuts, don’t forget to seal the edges to prevent fraying.
  • Check the quality of your decor (beads, ribbons, chain).
  • Work with proper tools (sharp scissors, and needles, good quality thread, and fabric glue).

Conclusion about the buttondown shirt refashioning ideas

These refashioning tips are easy and inexpensive. You can transform a buttondown in no time. They work on different colored shirts too.

Most of them doesn’t require any spcial skills, so you can give them a try even if you feel like a beginner and not crafty at all.

Would you like to see an actual refashion post on one of these ideas? Add a comment if you’d like to see a tutorial on a button-down shirt upgrade.

Related upcycling posts:

Buttondown shirt upcycling ideas

20 ideas for refashioning a button-up shirt

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