The Refashioners 2015 – Elisalex

The way I see it, a refashion can be approached in one of two ways (generally speaking) – 1. Let the existing garment provide the foundation for your inspiration – nip it here, tuck it there and transform the overall shape and style, or, 2. Unpick your garment at the seams and make something entirely new from the fabric you reap. I chose to go down the latter road for this refashion, partly because the surprise shirt Zoe sent me was already so great that I couldn’t see past it, but mostly because I already knew exactly what I wanted to make!By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Let me start by saying a huge THANK YOU to Zoe – we had a bit of a post related drama in that the first shirt she sent me never showed up. Time was running out and it had been a good two weeks since she sent it (Brighton to London not exactly a major shipping conundrum) so very much dedicated to the cause, she went out and found me a new shirt and once again, faithfully sent it out into the void that is the Royal Mail.

By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Two days later, Shirt No.2 arrived safe and sound, and a day after that, Shirt No.1 sheepishly shows up. Oh, Mr Postman. I now can’t remember if it’s Shirt 1 or 2 that I ended up refashioning, but either way, they were both gems and I already have big plans for the navy check number waiting in the wings…


Back to business. With my current obsession with all things Mejicana, one thing high on my to-make list has been a ruffled off the shoulder crop top, something very much inspired by this one at Tara Starlet. As I fondled the soft Swiss dot-esque cotton of my shirt (and it is so soft and fondleable, believe me…) and eyeballed some black pompom trim in my stash, I set about drafting the pattern – all the while fingers tightly crossed that I’d have enough fabric…By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

So intent was I not to screw this up for fear of wasting this truly lovely fabric, I made a quick muslin from some white dotted Swiss voile. And thank goodness I did! Although pretty and wearable, this first attempt needed a little tweak to the shape of the armhole, and the ruffle wasn’t nearly as ruffly as I was hoping it to be…By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

For anyone who might like to whip up a few of these pretty tops over the Summer, the pattern is simple to draft-it-yourself, and sews up in under two hours (including cutting). Here’s how I did it…


How to draft a ruffled off the shoulder top

By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Take a piece of dot and cross paper or whatever you prefer to make your pattern from – brown paper is great, so is baking paper. Start by drawing a vertical line roughly 10” long. This part doesn’t need to be accurate yet, it’s just our starting point for the rest of the pattern. This vertical line represents the centre front and centre back of the main bodice portion of the top. Both front and back pieces are identical, so we just need to draft one, and cut two.

From the very bottom of the centre front, draw a horizontal line that measures (your bust measurement + 2”) ÷ 4 (shown as a red dashed line in the diagram below).

Now, measure up the centre front line about 3 ½” from the bottom – this will be the depth from hem to just above the fullest part of your bust, so may need to be deeper or shorter depending on your own shape. From this point, draw another horizontal line out measuring (your high bust + 1”) ÷ 4 (shown as a grey dotted line).

To draw the side seam, connect the grey line with the red line.

Now measure a further 4” up the centre front from the grey line and 6” horizontally out from this new point. This is your neckline.

Using a French curve, or your best hand-drawing skills, connect the neckline to the side seam.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Finally, we need to add seam allowances. Please bear in mind that I had to be a little stingy with my seam allowances as I was working within some strict fabric limits! I added ½” along the neckline, side seam and hem, and ¼” at the armhole.


You’ll also need another rectangle that measures 65” x 6½”  for the ruffle.

Sewing it all up

Cut out your pieces – two of the main bodice piece and one of the ruffle.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Close the side seams of your bodice and press open.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Press the scant ¼” seam allowance at the armhole in, press and stitch. Clip carefully into the curves to release the tension. If you have more fabric/time/patience I would recommend finishing the armholes with bias tape instead.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015



By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015Next, finish the raw edge at the hem, press in by ½” and stitch, leaving an inch or so unstitched at one of the side seams. This is where we’ll be feeding the elastic through.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015


Now for the ruffle!


Close the back seam to create a loop and press open. I actually had to make my ruffle from multiple strips pieced together, as the shirt didn’t have sleeves long enough to cut it whole. And in case you were wondering, I cut my bodice front and back from the shirt’s back; and I cut the strips for the ruffle from the sleeves and shirt fronts. After setting aside one final strip for a waistband (for my matching skirt…), all I was left with was a collar, a placket, a pair of cuffs and some serger spew (don’t worry Portia, I took a picture of that too).

We now need to mark the centre front (CF) and centre back (CB) on both the bodice and the ruffle to make sewing the two evenly together a doddle. Do that simply by folding the bodice in half so that the side seams are facing and notch the folds either side. For the ruffle, your CB should be marked by the seam, and the CF can be marked by folding it at the CB seam and notching the fold on the opposite side.

Now place the ruffle over the bodice, right side of the bodice facing the wrong side of the ruffle, and make sure that your CF and CB notches match up too. Pin the ruffle to the bodice along the front and back necklines and baste into place.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Finish the entire neckline and press in by ½”, again leaving an inch or so open at the centre back seam through which to feed the elastic.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

The final thing to do before elasticating the neckline and hem, is to hem the ruffle and add any decorative trim such as pompom trim, lace, ricrac etc whatever rings your bell.  By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Finish the ruffle’s hemline and press in by ½”, pinning your trim into place as you go. Stitch the hem and trim in one go from the right side. Or, stitch your hem first, then appliqué your trim over the top.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Nearly done!

Take your elastic (I used regular lingerie elastic as I wanted something narrow with a soft stretch to it, if you know what I mean… I felt like anything too harshly elastic would dig into my skin) and cut two lengths – one that fits snugly under your bust and one that sits securely but comfortably around your shoulders.

Use a safety pin to feed the elastic into the tunnels at the hem and neckline…By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

…And then either tie the two ends in a secure knot or stitch together when it reemerges. Stitch the tunnel’s opening shut and ¡ay caramba! Your top is done!By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015


This top looks great dressed down with a pair of high waisted jeans or a sarong, but a top like this also needs a proper dancing partner, if you know what I mean, in the form of a matching skirt.By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

Obviously! I decided to use up some beautiful pink chambray I had knocking about at home to make a gathered skirt, complete with waistband made from the remnants of the spotty shirt to nod to the top, and embellished with the last of that black pompom trim.

Luckily I had my very talented and enthusiastic little brother to take some shots of me in the finished outfit… For the record, he is 10 years old and he art directed every shot. I must say, I think he did a killer job at picking up on the details, making me feel at ease and mixing it up with some interesting locations and compositions. Here are my picks:By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015

And Portia, as a thank you for having me, and because I know how much it turns you on, here’s my official Refashioners 2015 #sergerspew:By Hand London - Elisalex - The Refashioners 2015



¡ay caramba indeed!!!! Bloomin heck Elisalex! You really went and nailed this one and what an awesome shirt find from Zoe too!! Often when you think of shirt refashions you think of  classic pinstripes or solids. But don’t forget back in the 90’s & into the 00’s there was a huge trend for florals and more feminine prints in mens shirts. So keep your eyes peeled for those! Silk and cheesecloth shirts had a phase too and I often come across them in charity shops!  Both great fabrics for a more feminine incarnation. And of course, the addition of some fun trim is never a bad thing! Oh and thanks for the serger porn Elisalex…that’s not just me….right?!

You can find Elisalex here and she and the team at By Hand London are including your choice of three pdf patterns from their range in the prize package!!  Take a look at ALL the amazing prizes to be won as part of The Refashioners 2015 Community Challenge. So get involved for a chance to win!!! Grab a shirt and get refashioning! You have until Sunday 27th Sept to enter! Stay tuned for more inspiration throughout the WHOLE of August!

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  1. Pips August 10, 2015

    Beautiful refashion!

  2. Juliette August 10, 2015

    I too have a soft spot for all things Mejicana, so it’s no surprise that this refashion was one of my favorites! And may I say, I’m really grateful that you used this post to show us how to draft a similar top! Sooner or later, this might probably come in handy!

    • Elisalex August 11, 2015

      Thanks so much, and you’re welcome! Such a quick and easy one to draft and sew, I’m planning one in every colour! And a not-so-cropped one with elastic at the waistline instead, oooh and a dress….!

  3. Wowee! What an incredible transformation! Loving the summery fun outfit and your fabulous pics – you have a talented resource on your hands there 😉

  4. Camilla August 10, 2015

    Awesome re-fashion. I really like these tops and was thinking of drafting my own pattern too. Gorgeous outfit and photos.

  5. Pamela August 10, 2015

    YOU are who I’ve been looking for! I want to refashion also but have trouble coming up with the courage to cut up a shirt! Thanks for this little cut up off-the-shoulder top but I’m too old to wear this, but plan on going back through all your old posts and look forward to your new ones!

  6. Patti August 10, 2015

    So creative and fun! Love this top!

  7. Helen August 11, 2015

    Amazing refashion! Looks fab paired with that skirt (and those abs!)

    • Elisalex August 11, 2015

      Ha! Thanks! Those “abs” stop at my belly button though I’m afraid – it’s all post-baby tiger stripes after that 😉

  8. Marilla walker August 11, 2015

    Adorable and I love all the bobbles! Nice shirts Zoe!

  9. Marie August 11, 2015

    Elisalex, is there no end to your cool? I love that you came up with the idea of a fab outfit like this and then managed to pull it off in the making…it’s so frigging cute!!!

  10. Sasha August 26, 2015

    creative and cute – the best combination !


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