Introduction

Over this series I will show you how to personalise outfits and how to create pieces that add the individuality we all aspire to.

In this article I will demonstrate how to personalise a shirt with two simple additions, making it on trend and unique. We will create a detachable bow tie and give it an injection of life with a simple change of buttons. Our aim is to make your wardrobe unconventional geek-chic not geek-gone-wrong.

On with the series…

Buttons

This is by far the fastest and easiest alteration you can make, and often the most effective. Switching up buttons is a skill that can be transferred to a whole host of wardrobe pieces – so it’s important to master it early. Today I will show you the difference it can make to a simple shirt.

Instructions

1) Start by choosing the buttons you wish to add to your shirt. Vintage or haberdashery shops are great places to look but there are also amazing finds on the clothes in charity shops (please purchase before taking them).

2) Take off all the buttons (make sure you get all the threads off as they will get in your way later on).

Choose your buttons and remove the old ones

3) Sounds obvious but before you begin don’t forget to check the buttons you are replacing the old ones with fit through the existing buttonholes! That is very important otherwise your shirt will not fasten. Very Miami vice, not so style savant.

4) Carefully hand sew each button in the place of the old ones (you should be able to see where the old buttons were and you can follow this.) There are varying ways in which you can sew the buttons, each as good as the other. Just make sure it is secure enough to withstand a tug or two and leave all excess thread behind.

Sewing Techniques

There are a whole variety of sewing techniques and so it is up to you to experiment and find which one you are most comfortable with. It will also depend on whether you have buttons with 2 or 4 holes. You can find a vast amount of instructional videos on youtube, and here is one that I thought went into good detail.

Hint: the first part of the video has no relevance so skip to around 1:15 in…

Finished Product & Inspiration

Suddenly a simple old Marks & Spencer’s shirt has been given new life with a statement button and a mix of styles running down the shirt fastening. We have also replaced the collar buttons – a simple trick that can make your shirts just LOOK more expensive and therefore perfect for work or formal occasions.

Finished Product - Breathing Life into old Shirts

So what other pieces can you breathe new life into? Well how about some of these ideas:

  • Chinos: Buttons on the waist band. High street examples normally come with cheap plastic buttons (we are looking at you Topman). You can replace these with higher quality brass, pearl or vintage buttons quickly and easily – it will instantly make them look more expensive. There are sometimes button closure pockets on the back as well you can replace so that they don’t give you away. I have even seen it mentioned in the forums that guys have replaced the main waistband button with those you find on jeans closures – but that is a whole other technique.
  • Trench Coats: Most outerwear like pea coats and overcoats have buttons you could change if you wanted to. However, my favourite has to be the trench coat as it is a more relaxed smart-casual piece and can look great with vibrant coloured buttons. Otherwise you can just replace the standard plastic buttons with higher quality examples. Again it makes your high street piece unique, and increases the visual quality immediately.
  • Blazers: I am not suggesting you start adding bold coloured buttons to your work suits – we are not animals after all! However, smart casual blazers can definitely be given a makeover. If you can purchase higher quality buttons you can in fact give that high street suit an alteration – pair that with getting it tailored professionally and suddenly that £100 suit looks FAR more expensive.
  • Polo Shirts: Another good one as they only have a couple of buttons but it allows you to add a statement version to the top collar button. These are not normally covered by a tie (like shirts are), so they can be a great modification to show some individuality. Choose a contrast colour to really make it ‘pop’.
Unconventional Chic

Lacoste’s latest campaign promotes and proves ‘unconventional chic’ is more fashion forward than ever. I want to guide you on your way to achieving this look. After taking note of Tommy Hilfiger’s ‘American preppy’ style and Tom Ford’s pin-on ties, I thought surely these are feasible looks to achieve yourself? We have already given our ‘formal’ piece some unconventional flair & individuality, so now let’s accessorise it.

The inspiration for the bow tie we will create comes from past Tom Ford campaigns, Tinie Tempah at the GQ awards, and retailers like Topman releasing their own unique takes on the bow tie this season:

Finished Product - Breathing Life into old Shirts

  • Topman Bow Tie
  • Topman Bow Tie
  • Topman Bow Tie
DIY: The Bow Tie

I’m not expecting miracles but we’ve all had textiles at school and acquired basic sewing skills, so you might as well put hours of pricked fingers to use…

1) Firstly, chose your fabric. I had a scrap piece of fabric around the house but you could use an old shirt or buy some fabric.

2) Decide on the length you want your bow tie to be. Remember that your going to have to tie it. Think about how long or if you want it to have tie ends and how thick you want it (mine is 7cm by 60cm which is quite large).

3) Fold your fabric in half (so you can draw out one but cut out two).

4) Draw out the length and width (chalk is good as it can be rubbed off easily).

left: Equipment Needed Right: Draw out your length and width of bow tie

5) Now add a 1.5cm seam allowance (S.A.) around the edge (this gives you sewing allowance).

6) Cut around the outside edge of the seam allowance (S.A). You now have two rectangles.

Allow for 1.5cm seam allowance and cut around the outside edge

7) Place the right sides of your fabric facing each other and pin inside the S.A.

8) Sew along the inside edge of the S.A. remember to leave a gap (do not sew around the whole rectangle) big enough to pull it through on itself.

Sew along the inside edge of the seam allowance

9) Trim all the edges down (this is so once you have pulled it through later the seams will fall nicely and not bulk).

10) Pull it through on itself then fold the edges that are open inside and hand sew closed so you have a sealed rectangle.

11) Pull into a bow shape by scrunching the middle together and hand sew a few stitches in the centre so it holds the bow in place and gives it added support.

12) Attach the safety pin on the back and your bow is ready!

Finished Product

Remember that you can go as thick or as thin with your bow tie as you like. If you want to create something like the Topman pieces above, then use less material and make it thinner. Practise on scrap material and then invest in some good quality fabric that suits your style and wardrobe. The great thing about DIY is that you can tailor it exactly to your specification in terms of style, colours, quality etc.

A DIY Pin on Bow Tie

Conclusion

These simple, fast and cheap modifications to your everyday garments are an effortless way to give your clothes a fresh look for winter. They are a slither of what is to come, an introduction to the abandonment of average.

Have a look through your wardrobe and see what you can change to give it the edge. Whether you want a bow tie like Tinie, or to keep it low key and play on subtlety, go for it! Stand out and set trends.

You can tweet us some of your own wardrobe creations at @FashionBeans and we’ll showcase the best! Alternatively post them in our forums or on our Facebook page so we can all discuss how to create them ourselves.

If you have any further questions about the above, then please just post them in the comments below…