Transform a Plain Shirt Into a Trendy Swing Top

When you see a cute shirt in a catalog that's out of your price range, don't just keep turning the pages. Instead, check out your closet or a nearby thrift shop for an item to transform into a similar look and feel. To make this trendy Anthropologie swing top, look for a button-down shirt with a gingham pattern.

$98 Anthropologie swing shirt and DIY swing shirt
(Image: Beth Huntington)
catalog and transformed shirts
Picture of catalog shirt and transformed shirt. (Image: Beth Huntington)

Things You'll Need

  • Plain button-down shirt

  • Measuring tape

  • Washable marking pen

  • Sharp scissors

  • 1 yard of fabric that matches the shirt

  • Pins

  • Iron and ironing board

  • Sewing machine with a 90/14 needle

  • Seam ripper

supplies needed for the project
(Image: Beth Huntington )

Step 1

Start with a plain button-down shirt. To determine the new empire waistline, put the shirt on and look in the mirror or have a friend mark 1 or 2 inches under your bust. Mark this line with a pin.

Take the shirt off and measure the distance from the bottom of the shirt to the pin. Mark this distance around the shirt with a washable marking pen.

measure and mark new waistline
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 2

Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut along the marked line.

cut the bottom of the shirt off
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 3

If your plain shirt has a collar, cut it off from the collar band with a sharp pair of scissors. Cut as close to the collar band as possible so you won't have to worry about fraying.

cut off the collar
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 4

Cut two pieces of matching fabric that are 45 by 14 inches. These will be used to create the new bottom of the shirt.

cut bottom pieces
(Image: Beth Huntington)


If the fabric you'd like to use for the bottom is new and slightly stiff, you can soften it first by soaking it in white vinegar overnight, then washing and drying the fabric a few times. If it is still too stiff, try soaking it in salt water overnight, then washing and drying it.

Step 5

To finish the inside edges of the new bottom of the shirt, create a french seam by first pinning the short sides with the wrong sides together.

fold and pin
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 6

Sew a 1/4-inch seam along both short sides using a 90/14 needle and a medium stitch length. Be sure to remove the pins as you sew.

sew ends together
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 7

Fold the sewn edge over so the raw edge is on the inside now and press along the sewn edge. Repeat on the other short side.

press new seam
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 8

Sew along the folded edge with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Do this on the other side also.

sew along fold
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 9

Open the fabric and press the new seams to the side.

press fold
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 10

Now press under 1/2 inch twice along the bottom edge of the new bottom piece to create a hem.

fold and press new hem
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 11

Pin the new hem in place.

pin new hem
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 12

Sew close to the inside fold of the hem. Be sure to remove the pins as you sew.

sew new hem
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 13

Then sew again close to the bottom fold to create a double-stitched hem.

sew again
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 14

Change the machine to the longest stitch.

longest stitch
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 15

Baste around the top edge of the bottom piece. Mark the centers and the sides with a washable marker.

sew and mark centers and sides
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 16

Pull on the basting stitch to gather the top edge of the bottom piece. Pin the top gathered edge to the bottom raw edge of the shirt with the right sides together. Match the sides and the centers.

pin top to bottom
(Image: Beth Huntington)

Step 17

Sew the top piece to the bottom piece, removing the pins as you sew.

sew top to bottom
(Image: Beth Huntington)

If your shirt has pockets, remove them with a seam ripper, and you now have a new top similar to the pricey one in the catalog for a fraction of the cost.

before and after of the shirt
(Image: Beth Huntington )
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