Sarah Hatheway
March 31, 2014 10:00 am

The calendar might say “spring,” but the weather in Chicago right now is decidedly transitional. It’s not quite warm enough yet for me to wear my go-to dresses, so I’ve been sticking to my standard get-up of skinny jeans, a button-down shirt and a cardigan. But wearing the same thing over and over can get old. One of the many perks of knowing how to sew, though, is that you don’t necessarily have to go out and buy a new garment—you can find fun ways to update what you already own!

This is a quick way to refresh a standard button-down shirt, simply by adding a new placket and cuffs. I like the contrast the solid blue trim gave to my sage-green shirt, but a print would look adorable as well. And the possibilities are endless—think about how cute a dark shirt would be with new, bright cuffs, or how fresh and feminine a white Oxford would look with floral fabric.



  • Button-down shirt
  • Colorful or patterned fabric (I recommend cotton or linen)
  • Thread in a corresponding color to the fabric
  • Basic sewing needle
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Ballpoint pen or tailor’s chalk
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Optional: sewing machine

Craft away:

Measure the length and width of the placket of your shirt—the piece of fabric on the front with the buttonholes on it.

Trace a rectangle of that same size onto the fabric. Add an extra 1/4-inch all the way around, and cut out the shape. I find it useful to draw two separate lines, so I have folding guidelines.

Measure the cuffs of your shirt.

Trace two rectangles of that same size onto the fabric. Add an extra 1/4-inch all the way around both shapes, and cut them out.

Fold the extra 1/4-inch of fabric in on all of the pieces, and iron the folds to set them in place. Pro tip: trim a small triangle off the corners of each piece to make them easier to fold neatly.

Pin the pieces to the placket and cuffs, with the folds facing in.

Stitch the pieces to the shirt, using either the needle and thread or a sewing machine. Use a basic straight stitch.

Carefully snip buttonholes into the placket piece, using the existing buttonholes as a guide.

Stitch the overlaid fabric to the sides of the buttonholes using the needle and thread. Use a looping motion, and keep your stitches close together to ensure a strong seam.

You’re finished! Show off your freshly updated button-down on its own, or under a cute cardi.