our everyday life

How to Cut Up a Shirt for the Gym

by Melissa J. Bell, studioD

Layered gym and yoga clothing is comfortable, colorful and cute, but can also break the bank with brand prices. Redirect the cash you'd lose on a new workout wardrobe toward the membership fees that keep your body in tip-top shape, and transform some of your old workout wear into new creations. No more boxy crew-neck tops or swimming in oversized tees. Instead, repurpose a plain old T-shirt into a fun gym shirt or muscle tank; no sewing necessary.

Turn the shirt inside-out and put it on yourself or a dress form. Enlist a friend's help if fitting yourself, as it may prove difficult to draw or cut any design changes neatly.

Alter the neckline to suit your tastes. Cut the ribbing off the neck, leaving no seam behind. Draw the shape of a V-neck, boat neck, square neck, scoop neck or off-the-shoulder look with the fabric pencil, then cut along the drawn lines.

Alter the sleeves. Trim the sleeves short at the armhole seam to make a tank top. Cut straight down from the armhole seam to the bottom of the ribcage to make a wide-arm-hole tank top. Cut the shirt from the shoulder seam straight down to the hem and knot the hem edges together for a very wide-arm-hole tank. Cut the shirt from the underarm seam to the neckline on the opposite side to make a one-sleeve shirt.

Alter the shirt's length. Trim the length shorter with a straight cut, or cut off the bottom at an angle for an asymmetrical look. Make a concave curve at the front and a convex curve at the back for a high-low style.

Incorporate cut-outs into the shirt, if so desired. Cut long, horizontal slits into the back or over the ribs for a distressed look. Cut shapes into the fabric along the neckline and hem for decoration, or cut out the entire back for a sexy style.

Open up the sides of the shirt to expose a cute sports bra. Cut the side seams open, stopping just below the armholes. Cut many horizontal slits on each side to make rectangular fringes, then tie the fringes together.

Make a racerback top by repurposing a strip of spare material from the other alterations. Thread the strip through the armholes of a tank-style shirt and knot it at the back. Continue wrapping the strip below the knot, encasing only the back of the shirt. Knot the strip again halfway down the back and trim the excess material.

Items you will need
  •  Plain T-shirt
  •  Scissors
  •  Fabric pencil


  • Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt; Megan Nicolay
  • Sew Subversive: Down and Dirty DIY for the Fabulous Fashionista; Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng and Matthew Carden

About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.

Photo Credits

  • Angela Weiss/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images