Some time ago I realized I needed another white Agnes shirt. I’ve made a couple of Agnes shirts in white linen already, and recently I made the Saint shirt in white cotton, too, all of which I love and wear regularly. However, a classic white cotton shirt with a shorter hem was missing from my wardrobe.
Sourcing good quality white cotton shirting is easier said than done. Most of the qualities I find are too coarse or too thin for my liking. I wanted really soft, high quality fabric with enough body to keep its shape, a high thread count and low weight (GSM), such as cotton poplin or lawn. I suppose there are some good options online, but often they come at a high price point, so I have had limited luck with this category so far. However, one day I ventured into a charity shop and found a pristine menswear shirt in crisp white cotton, a Brooks Brothers shirt in a large size. Brooks Brothers is an iconic American brand well known for delivering high quality clothing. I promptly bought it, hoping it would provide enough fabric to make a shirt for myself.
When I took it apart I realized that it would be too little fabric to cut all the new pieces from this one shirt to make a new one. I managed to cut the back, the double yoke, the sleeves and the cuffs from the available fabric, and to my rescue came a remnant from the Saint shirt, a light cotton poplin of similar weight and quality that I managed to source a couple of years ago. I cut the remaining pieces, the fronts, the collar and collar stand and was ready to go. The pattern I used was a firm favorite of mine, the Mönsterfabriken Agnes shirt. I’ve made several Agneses in the past.
The Agnes shirt is slightly cropped and quite wide at the hem. To be able to use the limited shirt fabric I straightened the side seams from the armpit and down. I’ve done this on other versions of this pattern, too, and I love the resulting boxy look. The original sleeves were long enough to cut new slimmer ones, but I wasn’t able to avoid the existing sleeve plackets. I decided to leave them as a design feature. There weren’t much of them left, barely enough to add the cuffs plus a couple of centimeters, but I actually love the result. The resulting width with unbuttoned cuffs is perfect for pushing up the sleeves to my elbow, and they look intentional to my eye. This is part of the fun and charm with refashioning, in my opinion: Letting some features be dictated by the available resources and go from there.
I made no other alterations to this shirt, and I really love how it turned out. I now have a classic white shirt in a lovely fabric. I used 1 cm seam allowances throughout and overlocked the shoulder seams and side seams before adding topstitching so they stay flat. The yoke and collar are sewn with hidden edges and topstitched, too. I contemplated adding a litte detail in a contrasting color, maybe on the buttons, but that will be for another time, now I wanted a “blank canvas” to secure as much versatility in my wardrobe as possible. White it is.
I have never tried making a new shirt from an existing one before, and I learned that it produces more waste than I thought it would. My shirt was in the large menswear range, but particularly the front pieces were still too narrow for my purpose. If I buy two or three matching shirts I guess there will be enough to make a new one, and I would really like to try that one day. The scraps could then possibly be repurposed in other projects. I combined to different qualities of white cotton shirting in this project, but it s hardly noticeable. It was a very satisfying project, both the actual making and that I managed to make a brand new shirt in high quality fabric for a very low price.
Have you done anything similar? Please share in the comments if you have any good ideas to spare!
Pattern: Agnes shirt from Mönsterfabriken
Size: 88 cm bust measurement (I’m between sizes and went with the smaller one)
Fabric: Repurposed second hand shirt
Time: One day