Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!

Makeover Monday: Collaring Outside the Lines


Previously on Makeover Monday, I showed you a skirt that I made to go from work to tango dancing. This week, I’ve got something a little different for you: a quick and easy upcycled accessory project! Read on…

Remember the necklaces shaped like collars that were so popular last fall and winter? Personally, I still love them, especially the ones that are made at least in part with fabric, so they almost look like actual collars. And the other day, I was sifting through a pile (one of many) of pictures I’ve snipped out of various publications, trying to choose some for one of my mood boards, when I ran across a photo of a bejeweled faux-collar necklace, with this note scribbled on it: “real collar, wear like necklace”.

I often find my somewhat cryptic notes in unexpected places, and don’t always remember exactly what I was getting at, but this doesn’t really bother me; these notes always spark at least a few ideas, even if they’re totally different from the original inspiration. In this case, I suspect I was thinking of sewing a fabric collar from scratch, but when I read the note, my first thought was to make it even simpler: take a collar off an existing shirt. Great idea!

Problem: I don’t actually own that type of shirt. At least there are none in my closet at this moment. But I dug through my big clothes-to-be-made-over bag, and look what I found:

My "before" shirt

My “before” shirt: lightweight cotton with intentionally frayed edges, Western-style. (Don’t judge me: I bought this in Nevada to wear to my first real rodeo. At least it’s a good color.)

It’s possible that this isn’t the ideal shirt for this project; the fabric is fairly light and soft (i.e. not a lot of body), and those frayed edges are a little iffy for professional use. But we’ll see. The important things are, does it fit comfortably when buttoned around your neck? And does it have a collar stand?

Collar and collar stand

Collar and collar stand: make sure your shirt has both parts before starting! (And try the shirt on and button the top button, to make sure the neck is not too tight to be comfortable.)

Here’s what I’m going to do: Remove the collar from the shirt so it can be worn on its own, almost like a necklace. (Later on, I’ll show you a fun way to wear your new collar!)

Let’s get started:

Step 1. Start by ripping out the stitching that connects the collar stand to the body of the shirt; the collar and stand will stay attached to each other.

Removing the collar

Step 1a: Removing the collar. It’s easier to start ripping somewhere other than a corner (as in top photo), then work your way around to the right until you’ve passed the point where the collar attaches to the collar stand (lower photo); the collar will fold down when you’re done, hiding your new stitching line.

Tip: In case you’re wondering what that contraption is, it’s a seam ripper. I mention it because I’ve only recently started using one myself, and I’m really starting to love it. With scissors, there’s always a danger of snipping too much, but it’s almost impossible to do that with the seam ripper. To buy one, click here; the basic one is what I’m using.)

Removing the collar, cont.

Step 1b: Go back to where you started ripping (top photo), and work your way to the left, to the opposite side of your collar stand, again continuing to rip until you’re past the point where the collar connects to the stand. Bottom photo shows what it will look like when you’ve finished this step.

Step 2. Rip the seam that connects the stand to the shirt.

Ripping the seam

Step 2: Ripping the seam that connects the collar stand to the shirt.

Here’s my collar, sans shirt:

Collar separated from shirt

Step 2, completed: Collar separated from shirt. Now all that has to be done is to re-stitch the collar stand!

Tip: After removing the collar from your shirt, if you decide you like the shirt enough to keep the remains, you could always make and add a new collar to it! For my quasi-Western shirt, I might think about a washable-suede collar; if your shirt is plain white, consider adding a contrasting color, print, or texture. Choose fabrics that are a similar weight to the shirt, and be sure they’re laundry-compatible, too!

Step 3 (not shown). Remove the neck button; this will facilitate stitching around the end of the collar stand. Leave the thread ends that are left when you snip the button off, to mark where to put the button back later. (Note: I left the button on mine in these photos to make it easier to show what part of the shirt I was working on; I did remove it just before the machine-sewing part, and I sewed it back on afterwards. Here’s a button-sewing tutorial, if you need it.)

Tip: If you’re familiar with your machine’s zipper foot, you can use this; whether or not you can sew easily around the button depends on its size and shape, but using a zipper foot may mean you won’t have to remove the button at all.

Step 4: Sew the collar stand shut. You’ll just be sewing around the outer edge of the stand, putting back the stitches you ripped out earlier.

Re-stitching the stand

Step 4: Re-stitching the stand. Take your time, especially around the curving ends of the stand; the most important thing is keeping the stitching as even as possible, and a consistently small distance from the edge.

And we’re done! Now we get to play with ways to wear this fun new accessory! In keeping with the Makeover Mondays of the last few weeks, I’m going to see if I can make this collar/necklace/thingie a part of my Take Tango to Work (TTTW) wardrobe, starting with this simple (but nice) Little Black Dress:

Little Black Dress

Little Black Dress-ed up for work! I often wear neckties as one would a necklace; see the difference it makes at top right, just adding the tie? And I like it even better with my new collar!

LBD plus collar and tie

LBD plus collar and tie, ready for its close-up.

To make it even more professional (well, creative professional), I’ll add a jacket:

Adding a jacket

Adding a jacket. When the jacket is worn unbuttoned, the dress/collar/tie combination almost creates the illusion of a vest. Tres Gatsby, non?

Jacket buttoned over LBD.

Jacket buttoned over LBD. Now you can’t see the dress at all (at least on top).

With my jacket worn buttoned up, as in the last photo, the top of the dress isn’t visible at all. And yes, I planned it that way, just for the sake of a Really Big Dramatic Reveal when I take this outfit to tango— all I have to do is take off the jacket, tie, and collar, and I’m ready to dance in my LBD!

Tip: In case you’re wondering why I wouldn’t leave the tie and collar on for dancing, it’s primarily because in Argentine tango,  the physical connection between partners is through the upper part of the body; I’m pretty sure that necktie knot wouldn’t feel good to the person I’m dancing with. (I don’t wear necklaces when dancing for the same reason.)

I’m really intrigued now with the possibilities with this collar-ific little accessory; for instance, I think it would look amazing worn with a bejeweled choker, or you could even just pin a vintage brooch over the button.  I’m also thinking about variations, like different collar shapes and sizes, or even including a bit more of the original shirt for something like what used to be called dickeys.

Most importantly, I want to know what you think: would you wear something like this collar? How would you wear it?

As a postscript, here are some ideas that occurred to me in the course of working on this project. I hope they’re useful! And as always, I welcome your ideas, so let me have them!

Sewing tip: If you have a sewing pattern for a shirt or blouse with a collar and collar stand (the band between the collar and the body of the shirt), why not try making this from scratch? It would be a great way to use up leftover pieces of fabric! I tend to hang onto even the smallest bits, especially of really special fabrics like re-embroidered lace and sequinned pieces, which would make beautiful collars. (With a highly textured fabric for the collar, I’d use a smooth fabric with a lot of body, in a coordinating color, for the collar stand; it’s good to consider what the fabric will feel like next to your neck.)

Shopping tip: On some of my recent thrift-shop trips, I’ve noticed quite a few shirts with beaded/embroidered/sequinned collars; many of the shirts themselves were made of fabrics and/or colors I didn’t care for, but some of the collars were beautiful. You could get a wonderful deal on a so-so shirt with a special collar and use it for this project— and the garment size wouldn’t matter nearly so much!

Wardrobe-planning tip: It’s really interesting to see how, once I focused on a specific goal (in this case, making over my wardrobe with versatile outfits that transition easily from creative professional to tango dancer), so many decisions are instantly easier; I think it’s because now I have a clear criterion on which to base my clothing decisions. So the test for me is to ask myself, “Self, would I wear this to meet a client? And could I go from that meeting to a dance?” Of course, not every single item will work for everything, but I do believe I’m going in the right direction. Finally.

Author: Colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, lingerie, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

3 thoughts on “Makeover Monday: Collaring Outside the Lines

  1. Pingback: Thrift-Shop Thursday: Shopping Strategies, Part 2 | Changing Your Clothes

  2. Pingback: Makeover Monday: A Shirt Story | Changing Your Clothes

  3. Pingback: Makeover Monday: The Tail End of a Shirt Story | Changing Your Clothes

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