Anyone who has raced lately knows that more and more women are racing at all distances from 5K to marathon. (men still have the corner on ultra-marathons, but even that is starting to change) While women’s only races are becoming more and more popular, the majority of races still provide “unisex” race shirts to all participants. And we all know that “unisex” is really just another word for “men’s” when it comes to clothing!
Do you have a drawer full of “unisex” race shirts that you’ll never wear? Do you give all your race shirts to the man in your life? Do you decline to even take the race shirt at packet pickup because you know you’ll just end up donating it to charity? If you can use a ruler and sew a straight line, you can easily adapt that boxy, too-long, giant armholed unisex tech shirt into something you’ll actually wear!
Here’s me in the size medium “unisex” shirt from the 2010 RunDisney Wine & Dine Half-Marathon. I’m 5’3″ and wear a size 8 or 10 petite in most brands of clothing. The shirt doesn’t look terrible in this photo, but I would NEVER wear it to run. It’s too long, the sleeves come nearly to my elbows, and the armholes are enormous. Also, the shirt is pretty ugly so I figured if I ruined it, I really wasn’t out much.
This is my gray size medium unisex RunDisney shirt and my teal size medium women’s cut Champion tech shirt. Can you see why I don’t like the fit of the gray shirt? The teal shirt is going to be our pattern for adapting the unisex shirt into something that fits!
Start by pinning the pattern shirt to the shirt being adapted. Deciding where to make the cut for the new armhole will be the trickiest part. You can take a marker and draw a line just outside of where you’ll trim or mark it with pins.
Using a seam gauge or a regular ruler, trim the sides of the shirt to match your pattern shirt. Leave 5/8ths of an inch for your seam allowance.
Trim to make the new armhole. I only left a 1/4 inch seam allowance here. The RunDisney shirt had lots of extra seams in the sleeves so I used them to double check before I cut that I was putting the new armhole in the exact same place on both arms.
Now it’s time to trim the old sleeve to match the pattern sleeve. Again pin the pattern and original shirt together and carefully trim. Remember to leave just a bit for your seam allowance… I trimmed mine a bit too closely.
Here’s the new sleeve matched up with the pattern sleeve.
Here’s the new sleeve being used as a pattern for the second new sleeve.
Two new sleeves!
It’s time to sew! Start by sewing up the new side seams.
Then set your new sleeve into your new armhole. Take care to match the seams in the armpit so they line up. This took a lot of pins as the sleeve needed just a bit of gathering to fit into the armhole.
Here’s the new sleeve attached to the new armhole with just a 1/4 inch seam allowance. You may want to go around it all a second time to reinforce the stitching.
Here’s the new sleeves and armholes turned right side out. All that extra detail stitching is a bit wonky when sized down, but remember, this is a shirt that was going in the donation box before.
If you needed to shorten the overall length of the shirt, you’ll probably want to replace the hem. I’ve done just this step on several of my shirts because the current trend for long and skinny in women’s cut clothing means shirts come nearly to my knees. I’m talking to you, Nike women’s cut dri-fit shirt, because 39 inches for a size medium shirt is TOO LONG for someone who is only 63 inches tall.
I hem by folding up 1/4 of an inch, pressing that in with an iron, then folding up another 1/2 inch, pressing it in with an iron and sewing one seam around the bottom of the shirt to hold those folds in. Be careful when using an iron on tech fabric, too much heat could ruin both your shirt and your iron!
Here’s the new shirt and pattern shirt, hanging out together on my kitchen table.
Here’s the new shirt – this one will get worn!
I was so happy with how this turned out that I went ahead & reworked my 2011 Wine & Dine Half Marathon shirt too!