Monday, 18 June 2012

What To Do With Your Hideous Work Uniform

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing the past two weeks I haven’t posted, I started my summer job at the beginning of June and have been CRAZY busy. I work in the office at a summer resort, and since I am the only returning staff member, I had to train the five new people joining my department. In addition to this, we host weddings in the early season, which can be very chaotic and difficult to keep organized. Since I didn’t wanted to leave the new girls alone with anything too complicated until they were ready, I was working loads of extra hours. Throw in a really slow internet connection and that should hopefully explain my two-week absence. Anyway, I’m here now.

My job requires everyone to wear a uniform, and for the office, that means a navy blue polo shirt. For some reason, the sizing for these polo shirts is just crazy. I also choose an Extra-Small, but even men’s sizing doesn’t explain the sheer vastness of this Extra-Small:

It’s not like I am a particularly tiny person; I typically wear a women’s size Medium. This “Extra-Small” is comparable to a normal Men’s Medium or Large. This leads to a conundrum. The whole point of having a uniform is so that we look presentable in the office. But wearing a tent-like polo is the opposite of presentable. So I have to take matters into my own hands.

The alteration I’m going to describe is really simple. It hardly even deserves a tutorial. But I think the pictures speak for themselves in terms of the amazing difference a simple alteration can make. You can do this alteration by hand or by machine, so anyone who has a basic idea of how to sew can do it. It’s obviously a lot faster on a machine but of course not everyone has access to one. I used to do this alteration by hand all the time before I had my own sewing machine.

First, turn the shirt you are altering inside out. Make sure that it is lying flat with no wrinkles, and pull it so that the side seams are all on the side (most shirts have a seam along each side, but if the shirt you’re altering doesn’t have one, just make your best guess for where the sides should lie). Now, select a shirt you already own that fits you well and has a similar level of stretch to the shirt you are altering. Turn that one inside out too and arrange the side seams so they are perfectly on the sides. Lay it on top of the shirt you’re altering, making sure that the shoulders are at the same level.

Now, trace the edges of the smaller shirt onto the larger one. 

I use a special white crayon/pen that supposedly can write on anything, but you can use a regular pencil for a light-colored shirt, or for a dark-colored shirt, you can use any light or bright shade of eyeliner. (Buying a $1 white or lavender-colored eyeliner pencil made by NYC at your local pharmacy, supermarket or Wal-Mart is probably cheaper than finding the same kind of marks-anything crayon/pen that I have, which I stole from my mom seven years ago.) Don’t use a pen or marker because that will permanently mark the shirt and the ink can bleed, while cheap eyeliner tends to evaporate or come off in the wash.

There are various schools of thought on what to do with the armpits. I tend to take the lazy route and just flare out to where the armpit seams lie.

If the shirt you are altering also has massive sleeves, though, you can also take in the sleeves by simply tracing the smaller sleeves of the shirt that fits. It wasn't necessary to do that for this polo, though, so here are the lines I traced:

Now, just sew a simple seam right along the lines you’ve traced. When you’re done, try on the shirt. Keep in mind you are going to have a lot of extra fabric bunched up inside where you took it in, so the fit will be a little looser once you’ve cut that off. With that in mind, decide if the shirt is too big, too small, or just right. If it’s not right, make adjustments; you can take out the seam you’ve put in with a seam ripper or with a pair of scissors and a lot of patience. If the fit is correct, turn the shirt inside out again and just cut off the extra fabric. I usually leave about half an inch between the seam I sewed and where I cut to prevent fraying. If you are altering something especially nice and you’re feeling nervous, you don’t have to cut the extra fabric off at all. But I’ve found the alteration isn’t much use if I don’t cut off the extra, because then all the fabric bunching up inside ruins the look anyway. But do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

And here’s the result:

Before and after:

From frumpy to polished in a ten-minute alteration! I do this alteration to all kinds of clothes. I do it with dresses, tank tops, and even sweaters. I did it to every single thing I owned one time when I lost weight. I can’t even guess at how many  hundreds of dollars this has saved me over the years.


  1. FABULOUS tutorial, thank you! I have actually never altered a shirt... I know. I don't know how I got through life sometimes... Good thing I was a teen in the 90's I guess. Can't wait to try this. :)

  2. I'm glad your blogging absence was merely overwork and not something bad. I was kind of worried, because you're one of the most productive bra bloggers out there! I did miss your reviews. Hope work allows you to bra blogging like before!

  3. Hello, there :)

    I have to write, because you and your tutorial about altering those baggy men-shirts have absolutely MADE MY DAY!

    A few days ago, I got a very cool, very nerdy "Sherlock"-Tshirt as a surprise present from a friend. Sadly, he picked a men's "M" size, which was wayyy to big and saggy. I was quite disappointed, because I could only wear it at home that way - it just looked absolutely ridiculous. But then I remembered your altering tutorial and I thought, I'd give it a try.

    So today, I took the shirt to my mum (who owns a sewing machine) and the outcome was just wonderful!!! Thank you so much for this idea, I would NEVER have come up with this on my own. (Not really the queen of needlework... ;))

    And please, keep on writing your brilliant blog. I'm quite new to the whole "bra-fitting"-experience and I learned so much already from reading your posts! Carry on! :)

    (And sorry for not commenting more, but I'm always a little bit unsure about my English ^^°)

    Greetings from Germany,

  4. God hates spam, you know. :-)

  5. I really appreciate all your reviews and hints on taking clothes in. I do have a suggestion for marking clothes that's cheaper than tailor's chalk or even eyeliner: soap! It marks surprisingly well, and obviously washes out perfectly. If you're picky you can cut off a sliver with a knife and sharpen it like a crayon, but even the corner of a full bar works fine.

  6. THANK YOU! I will use this to adjust quite a few tops that I was planning to give away because they don't fit me anymore! ...

  7. That's a really creative sewing for a perfect fit. I also put this idea on my tees which needs some fitting.

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  8. Now, that's what we call a major overhaul! Lousy work uniforms really make one look less appealing. Anyway, it does take a lot of work and research in order to come up with a good idea on how to “spice up” your good ol' uniform. This one is awesome! Thanks for sharing your tips. Keep posting more great thoughts! Cheers.

  9. Ohh it such an easy tutorial. Will definite try this with all my shirts and t-shirts .Thank you this is great help.

  10. Let me just say, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! You are awesome! :-D I got my first sewing machine over the Christmas holidays & I've been trying to summon the courage to use it. Right now, it's sitting on my new crafting table, looking very intimidating. lol. This tutorial is just what I need to finally get to it! One of the biggest reasons I got it was to learn how to make alterations on my clothes to fit my big boobs. lol. This looks so easy & is just the push I needed to finally get started. Yay! So again, thank you!

  11. I just found you and I love this stuff! I just did this to several pairs of slacks I got at the second hand store. Just took ones I liked the fit of and use them as a template to change the shape of the other ones. Inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and flattering. Nicely done!

  12. Very great idea... I will definitely gonna try this out.corporate wear and uniforms