As some of you may know, I have ties to the punk and metal scenes. Of course the metal ties come from being with my husband, Arthur, for the past 8 years. But from my teens to very early twenties, I listened to mostly punk music…and dressed the part! As evidenced in photos of me from 2008:
Crazy to think I ever had hair that long!
Anyway, back then, my wardrobe consisted of mostly band t-shirts. And as any woman who loves underground music knows, women often get short-changed in the merch department. Because printing companies charge bands more to print women’s shirts, a lot of bands just forgo printing women’s shirts altogether. That leaves us with having to buy men’s cut shirts, which aren’t always the most flattering. I think that’s why a lot of women take to cutting their shirts up.
I used to cut up most of my men’s-cut shirts, and recently I’ve taken to it again. For me, it’s a nostalgic practice. It reminds me of my punk years. And it always amazes me how just a few snips can completely change the way a shirt drapes.
I’d like to show you how I recently cut two band shirts. I don’t do fancy braids or elaborate cutouts, mostly because I want to stay true to a more gritty, punk-style t-shirt cutting method. And also because I don’t like having weird tanlines. Today I’ll show you how I made a boat neck tee out of a two-year-old Cormorant shirt and a tank top out of a brand-spankin’-new Rome shirt. No sewing skills necessary!
First Cut: Boat Neck Tee
This is the simpler of the two designs. No need to get it completely symmetrical. We’re talking punk t-shirt cutting here!
A word of advice before we start: Always cut off less than you think you need to. You can always cut off more as needed, but once the fabric is cut, you can’t add more fabric on. Also, make sure to wash your shirt before you cut it, especially if it’s brand-new. Fabrics change a little bit in the wash, so to preserve the shape you cut your shirt into, wash a new shirt before getting the scissors out.
First, lay your shirt flat and smooth on your work surface. Cut the sleeves (both sides of the shirt at once—the front and the back) about halfway between the hem and the armpit. Make sure to cut parallel to the existing hem. Try to keep the two sides of the sleeve flat as you cut. You may end up with a few jagged-looking, uneven edges from your cut. Not to worry! Just carefully cut those away for a smoother line.
Next, cut the neckline. For a manageable boat neck, cut about halfway (give or take) between the existing neckline and the shoulder seam. Unless you want your shirt to be off-the-shoulder on both sides, I don’t recommend cutting all the way to the shoulder seam. I usually prefer necklines that don’t fall off my shoulders, so I cut slightly over the mid-point for this one.
Also, if you’re cutting a band shirt, I’ve found that the placement of the band’s logo can be a helpful guide for how deep to make the neckline. I pretty much never cut into the logo, so I always cut a little bit above the top of the logo.
If you want the back of the neckline to have a different depth than the front (deeper or shallower), cut each side separately. If not, cut them both at the same time like you did with the sleeves.
Your cuts should look like this:
Now try it on! Alter it as needed. If you want to cut a little more off the sleeves or neckline, go ahead and do it now, but do it a little bit at a time. You can even cut the length if you want. Sometimes taking off the bottom hem helps give the shirt a nicer shape. I usually leave the bottom hem on, but feel free to lop it off if you don’t like how it looks. You can even make a crop top if you like!
Here’s what mine ended up looking like:
You may be wondering who the corgi on the right is. That’s my brother’s corgi, Boltzmann, also known as Odo’s cousin. He and Odo were playing while I was taking photos, and I invited them over for treats.
Second Cut: T-Shirt to Tank Top
With our 90-degree weather this weekend, this newly-cut shirt was a godsend. It’s breezy and open and really customizable. You can open the armholes really wide and wear a bandeau underneath, or you can cut it like I did and wear a matching bra or tank top underneath (or a contrasting one if you’re feeling festive).
As usual, lay the shirt out flat on your work surface. Then cut off the sleeves, making sure to cut off the sleeve seam in the process. Cut along the shape of the seam, like this:
This is your basic sleeve cut. Before you adjust strap thickness, you’ll want to cut the neckline. Cut both the front and the back at the same time, but don’t cut it quite as wide as you did with the boat neck shirt. After you cut the neckline, adjust the sleeves as shown. I tapered the cut so the armholes wouldn’t open too wide. The shirt does open a bit on the side, but it’s not muscle-shirt style.
Try the shirt on now. Adjust the neckline or sleeves as you like, taking off small bits at a time until you get it to how you like it. This is how mine turned out:
I might even hem the cuts I made on this shirt…we’ll see!
One thing to remember about cutting shirts without hemming is that the raw edges will roll a little bit after you wash them. This is all part of the charm! So if your edges roll a bit, don’t worry, it looks great, I promise.
I’ll close this post with a few outtakes. I wore my rad Yellowstone map bandana at one point.
Also, this picture I took while focusing. Odo is going turbo-derp right here. And Boltzmann is hiding behind flowers.