Plaid Shirt Makeover: buyer’s remorse with a happy ending!

I pulled this shirt out to show you the unmatched plaid on the sideseams, and realized it’s been stashed in my ‘repairs’ bin for over a year!

I bought it online, mostly because I loved the colour – turquoise plaid!

And because it was on sale, for something like $14.99 down from $54. And because who doesn’t like getting packages in the mail?

Except when it arrived, the so-called short sleeves were strange little bands that kept unrolling, and the buttons were bland clear plastic, like the kind on the inside of your pants and skirts for reinforcement.

Hello, online buyer’s remorse! Look at how the sleeve caps are unrolling. I didn’t even arrange the sleeve like that for the photo, this was supposed to be the before shot…

I love the colours still but know I’d never wear it unless I fix the sleeves first. (Plus, returning things online is such a hassle… before I knew it, it was long past the allowed return timeframe.)

After realizing it’s been in the bin for over a year, I decided it was time to fix it or toss it. Never one to give up easily (except maybe on the Beach Hat), I gave it a quick makeover.

I edgestitched down the sleeve bands, lining up the folded edge with the seamline. Basically, I secured it in place in the spot where it was naturally folding over.

And I replaced the ugly clear buttons withe cute turquoise vintage buttons. Plus, buttons are always sewn on so loosely on store-bought garments! These will stay on much longer.

Buttons before:

Buttons after:

Much better!

Sometimes even the littlest changes make the difference between a garment you’ll wear, and a garment that never makes it out of the house.

Though, isn’t it maddening that I had to fix a supposedly ready-to-wear garment before it was wearable? I know it was technically wearable before, but the little imperfections were going to drive me crazy!

How does knowing how to sew affect your clothing purchase decisions? Does it change what you buy, how much you buy, or what level of quality you expect? Leave a comment if you like, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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32 Responses to Plaid Shirt Makeover: buyer’s remorse with a happy ending!

  1. woolcat July 16, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    I can’t believe they were charging $50 originally for something with those weird buttons! Nice work on the changes – looks way better!

  2. Kati July 16, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    Cute shirt, I’m glad you fixed it!

    I buy cheaper clothes now that I can sew. I used to spend more money on higher end clothes because the fit was better but now I can adjust the fit. I’m also more aware of design flaws so I’m pickier about what I buy.

    When I go shopping I think to myself “how much would it cost to make this?” including my time and if I can’t make something for cheaper than the price then I usually buy it.

  3. Marybeth July 16, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    I’m just a beginning sewist, and I already notice lots of problems w/ RTW clothes… Mostly mismatched seams and poor quality notions (buttons, zippers, etc.). The hassle of returning things from online shopping is one of the big reasons why I’m learning to sew… I like being able to adjust the fit and choose fabric and colors according to my taste…

  4. Freya July 16, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    I recently bought a dress that I tried on in a particularly cheap shop in London only to realise it was so cheap and shoddy that they had sewn up the top half of the zip and it was not my everexpanding frame that prevented zip closure but rubbish workmanship! Still, I liked the dress and was going to change it for another dress with a functioning zip. Except I got sidetracked by looking at something else that was pretty and then queued and paid for the broken one without realising what I had done till I got home! I felt pretty stupid but not for long, because it took 2 minutes to repair. I’m also glad I am not the only one that buys things online and then forgets to return them because the whole returns process is a hassle!

    Thanks for inspiring me to do something with my repairs/alterations pile too! I love the colour of the shirt!

  5. Nancy at $25V July 16, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    Isn’t it funny how these simple fixes sit around our homes for years? I won’t tell you how long one of my boyfriend’s (now fiance’s) sweaters has been sitting in the fix pile waiting for me to reattach an arm…

    But I love the new buttons. So cute! Good choice on those!

  6. Molly July 16, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    I agree with Kati. I can’t even shop for dresses anymore because I can look at them, figure out how to make it and then think about how cheap it would be if I made it. I did that with a knit dress for 35 bucks the other week- I could make it, out of silk(!), for the same price or less! :)

  7. Christina July 16, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Honestly, I don´t really buy clothes anymore. I have been sewing for 3,5 years now, and my last clothes purchase was a black basic turtleneck at h&m for 10euro a year ago. I´ll definitly get myself a new one of those this year, because for 10euro I wouldn´t bother sewing one. I have to mention though, that I graduated from school last summer and haven´t really been doing anything since then (long story short: I started something and stopped, I now applied for sth new) so I have had SO much time for sewing.

    Another “shopping stopper” is: NOTHING fits me. I have a 28inch waist and 43inch hips. With my figure, I just CAN`T expect industrial-made clothes to fit me. I will never ever in my life go back to buying clothes if I don¬¥t really have to.

  8. CGCouture July 16, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    You know, it’s funny, I was about to make a similar post after being in a certain “upscale” department store the other day. Every time I go in there I find some sort of cute dress that they have priced for somewhere around $200, but when you go to looking at it closely, the serging is just barely on the fabric, mis-aligned plaids/stripes, etc. I’m not a perfect seamstress by ANY stretch of the imagination (well, in my dreams, maybe ;-) ) but to think of someone spending that kind of money on a garment made with such shoddy workmanship just makes me mad and sad.

  9. Harriet July 16, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    The distance between my shoulders and bust is very short in relation to the size I need to buy in RTW. So many of my clothes dip down much lower than they should, resulting in saggy armholes and necklines and unintended displays of decollete. This always seemed like an unsolvable problem, but I’ve discovered I can actually shorten this on some garments by undoing the shoulder seams and removing the extra from the top of the shoulders plus any facings and neck/shoulder bindings. I recently fixed a top I got at Target last year that I wasn’t wearing because of this fit problem, even though I liked the fabric, style, and color. It turned out so well that I’m now going through my closet to find other things that I can fix in the same way, and I will keep this in mind on future shopping trips.

  10. learningnewtricks July 16, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    My daughter and I love to shop the thrift stores and refashion them into something much cuter. I took a Ralph Lauren A line skirt and turned into into a Burda Marie. The other great thing about sewing is that we only shop the super sales (mostly clearance) garments. Quite often, the clearance ones have tears, or unsewn seams. We bought the cutest bubble dress with a elastic band under the bodice on a super clearance from $50 to $7 just because the bodice had an opening in the front.

    We also look at refashioning as a way to learn tailoring techniques, so the garments look finished and not just a slap dash quick project. Your blouse could have easily been fixed but cutting off the sleeves, but you put in the extra work to make them look beautiful. I love your button choice.

  11. Jessica July 16, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    If I’m going down that route, then I tend to get overzealous and think that I have the time/inclination to fix everything that I see is wrong with RTW garments … it’s this strange combination of lowering my standards in a way, but also having to knock myself over the head to NOT do that because the whole point of buying something is to NOT spend hours fixing it up! So I just try to stay out of stores altogether. Or if I’m thrifting, I’ll tell myself that half the clothes I walk out with should be “as is” purchases, otherwise the stash/fix it bin is just going to explode.

  12. Darci July 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Cute top, Tasia. I’m loving the changes that you made. The colourway reminds me of a pair of madras plaid shorts I had in the 80s. I loved the heck out of those shorts. :)

    Learning how to sew (and fit) garments has totally changed my life. I used to get frustrated at a lot of RTW and turned my anger inward, thinking I was “too” (too fat, too tall, too long in the torso, boobs were too big). Sewing for myself changed all of that. Knowing that EVERYONE has fitting issues really helped, too. I think I’m kinder to myself now.

    I’m a resale shop hound and Goodwill re-fashioner. Maybe twice a year, you’d find me “going shopping at the mall”, although I’m a BIG snoop shopper at upscale boutiques and couture design stores. I’ve usually got my sketchbook with me as well as a digital camera, so I shamelessly grab stuff from the racks, take ’em to the dressing room and snap away at the details that I like.

    I haven’t made jeans or well-fitting trousers yet, but that’s all part of the plan for Fall 2010!

  13. Janice July 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    I rarely buy RTW anymore. I’ve started sewing with a plan, and since then the only things I’ve been buying thrifted are cardigans. Even then when I do buy RTW, I think altering it defeats the purpose of buying clothes.

    I sew exclusively from vintage patterns and have been migrating over to that style (40s/50s) for everyday wear for a few months now. It has been time-consuming to shop RTW since where we are now fashion-wise is very different from the way I want to dress.

  14. The Cupcake Goddess July 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Oh man, you’ve nabbed me on such a good day for this subject. I was just in the store trying things on. None of them quite fit. Not a single thing I tried. Not to mention the fabric quality and workmanship. Arrrggh! The sweater I tried on said 100% merino wool on the label and felt thinner than paper. Sheesh! One wash or dry clean and that thing would be toast. If I’m in the mood for fixing things I go to the local thrift, because $4 and $5 won’t break the bank, but $45 and I still have to fix it and it’s supposedly on sale? Give me a break!

  15. The Cupcake Goddess July 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Oh and that blouse is seriously darling on you! Love the remakes!

  16. catherine July 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    If anything, knowing how to sew has made me even more picky about what I’ll buy from the store, and the quality of what I’ll buy. So I guess it turns out that sewers can be choosers huh?

  17. amber July 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

    I’m a total fiend for turquoise stuff, too. Great touches to make the shirt something you’ll actually love to wear!

  18. Stacy July 16, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Knowing I can sew really changed when out budget got tight 3 years ago. To make a really long story short – we got married, moved to MO, Hubby went back to school, 2+ years later we moved to TX. With only one of us working money has gotten tight so we by a lot more second hand….but the fact that I sew means I can create the right WEARABLE Something out of what is available. I have really become a refashioning diva! What you have done with this shirt has happened to many items in my closet, some alterations even more drastic! I view quality as what I can make it not how “they” made it.

  19. Alana July 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    Very cool post, Tasia and those buttons are adorable!
    I really like Darci’s comment and I know I definitely relate to having felt “too” for a long time whenever I’d go shopping. In New Zealand, obviously with a much smaller population, your choices of RTW are much more limited, especially if you wear more than a Size 16 (US 14). I tend to buy on-line a lot from overseas retailers, but many of those have been dissapointing too, and I think that’s why I sew – I’m just tired of being dissapointed all the time. Finding something nice to wear should be fun, happy and damn exciting, which is how I feel when I finish a project, even the imperfect ones.

  20. Tasia July 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Awesome, thoughtful comments! It’s fascinating how much of an impact sewing has on our purchasing decisions..
    @woolcat: Haha, I know! $54 I think, for cheapo clear plastic buttons and slapdash construction.
    @Kati: Interesting.. so you buy mostly things you can’t sew for that cheap? It’s great that you can look at items and have the option to decide if you could make it yourself instead.
    @Marybeth: Me too, I love being able to pick out colours I like, rather than what the stores have decided to stock. And shopping online is always risky! I usually stick to ‘safe’ items like tops but even still look what happens!
    @Freya: Oh man, that sounds like such an unfortunate shopping experience! Good thing you could fix the zipper! Yes, I forget to return things online, probably because it’s a hassle, so I put it off for so long that it ends up being too late. Good for the online company, bad for me!
    @Nancy at $25V: Yes! I love the buttons too, so cute! Haha, think how long this shirt would be in the mending pile if it wasn’t for myself… there are just so many more exciting things to work on than mending!
    @Molly: No kidding! It’s amazing when you can sew, how differently you see clothes. For some reason, especially dresses. Probably because they never fit me right anyways, so not only could I make it for less, it would fit me properly!

  21. Tasia July 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    @Christina: I don’t really buy clothes anymore either! Besides the fact that I can spend less money on fabric, than I would on shopping and still end up with more stuff – there’s also the same fit issue. I don’t have quite as much of a waist-hip difference as you but I have the same problem, small waist, large hips. No dress ever fits me off the rack!
    @CGCouture: I couldn’t agree more! I’m not a perfect seamstress either, and yet it’s more about the care and love and thoughtfulness of homemade clothes..rather than the mass-produced quick and sloppy sewing on store bought garments. You feel like a sucker almost, for shelling out that much money for something that probably cost them very little in labour and materials.
    @Harriet: Good for you for figuring out one thing you can do to make everything fit better! Sometimes you think it must be you that’s the problem, when really it’s just the please-everyone middle of the road fit of storebought clothes.
    @learningnewtricks: How awesome that you and your daughter can thrift-shop together.. and then come home and fix up your next-to-new clothes! It’s excellent when you can buy the ‘seconds’ that just need a little TLC to be good as new.
    @Jessica: Agreed, agreed! There’s no point paying retail for things that just have to be fixed, and you’re so right that it ends up lowering your standards a bit. I try and stay out of stores too! Less spent on shopping = more spent on fabric!
    @Darci: I loved your comment, where you said you thought it was YOU that was the problem! I thought it was me, too! I couldn’t buy dresses that fit over my ‘generous’ backside, and I thought it was my fault for being too large in certain spots. And that I needed to get smaller in order to fit properly into RTW clothes. Sewing has totally taught me that “it’s not me, it’s THEM!” in regards to fit. Clothing manufacturers are trying to please everyone, so they end up down the middle in terms of fit and body type. Whereas we who sew can tailor to fit our own specific body needs, be it large hips, or wide shoulders, or long torsos. And even though I sew a TON (every spare moment!) I still haven’t made well fitting trousers either. On the (massive) to-do list!
    @Janice: Totally, often what’s in fashion is very far off from the way we want to dress, or what suits us! Oh the joys of sewing, to be able to make whatever we please regardless of what’s hot at the moment! Especially if you’re a fan of vintage styles.

  22. Tasia July 16, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    @The Cupcake Goddess: Thanks! I know, once you’ve started sewing, it’s hard to go back to shopping!
    @catherine: You bet! We can choose whatever we want, it’s an amazing kind of freedom. Bonus: we won’t be wearing the exact same thing as anyone else, either!
    @Stacy: That’s awesome, refashioning can be just as much fun as sewing, plus you’re ‘saving’ a garment and giving it a second life.
    @Alana: Oh wow, you said it best. It should be happy, fun, and damn exciting, getting something new to wear! Instead shopping (and online shopping) can be frustrating and disappointing. No matter what size you are, but especially if you’re outside the norm in size or in proportions. Good thing we sew!

    Thanks for all the awesome feedback and comments! Great discussion :) Have a lovely weekend all!

  23. Tasia July 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm #

    @amber: Thanks Amber! Yeah, turquoise is my favourite colour, so much that my sister mocks me a little when I say I like something turquoise…

  24. Brumby July 16, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Well I think you already know how I feel about this subject, I just don’t buy RTW.
    However everything has a relevance I suppose doesn’t it? If I were to walk into a high end store, and come across a zip that had been sewn shut, or the buttons were falling off I would be absolutely disgusted. However, if I were to walk into the likes of H&M, I think I would almost come to expect some level of imperfection. It is unreasonable to expect high end quality on a low end price point. Your situation is a bit of a grey one in my eyes I suppose, because theoretically one would expect $54 quality (i.e their standard retail price), not $14.99 quality (the sale price), but then that raises another issue again, was it ever worth $54.00 to begin with, and the another issue again that I raised, about our misconceived ideas on price and value as a result of mass production. Yikes, we could go on forever!

  25. Tasia July 16, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    @Brumby: You’re right, we could go on forever! I suppose the moral of the story is, you get what you pay for, but you can control quality on what you make. Speaking of $54 quality, beside the cheapo buttons, the placket where the buttons are attached isn’t interfaced! I noticed when sewing the new ones on, as I was sewing through fabriconly. So lazy! Definitely not worth $54 to begin with. Well, not to us anyways… thanks for stopping by & leaving your thoughts!

  26. The Sew Convert July 17, 2010 at 1:17 am #

    I used to buy quite a bit from some online stores as I liked the designs but there are always issues with the garments. Prints on tees faded after a wash, sequins dropped off, the dresses are too short for me so some ended up as tunics and I always have a fit problem with pants and shorts. My shopping for garments have dropped by 99% since I started sewing for myself on a regular basis in May. When I see something I fancy, I just kept telling myself (in a happy way) that it’s something I can make either at a fraction of the cost or is a project challenging enough which I would rather make than buy off the rack. And honestly, I hated queuing for the fitting rooms. If I do buy something, it is probably ridiculously cheap for the quality or knit apparel which I’ve just started learning how to sew or a swimsuit which I don’t think I’m skilled enough to handle. Fabric shopping, however, is a totally different story….haha

  27. Renay July 17, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    So cute! love the colour. I hate seeing mis matched striped and plaids. What are we paying for??

  28. Katie July 17, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    I’ve never been one to spend a lot on clothing, that is to say I buy a lot of clothing at cheap prices such as at Goodwill and other resale stores. Learning to sew has only made me more of a clothing monster because if a dress is a little to big, I can adjust it to fit me, or if I love the style of the dress but hate the fabric I can cut it up and make a pattern out of it and use my own cloth.

  29. Eleanor July 17, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Looks waaaaaay better! It has a lot more character now with the “new” buttons. What I purchase is definitely different since I started sewing. However, I have yet to buy anything in a retail shop and say “I can refashion this/make this work for me”. However, I do purchase far more at secondhand shops now, where generally nothing ever fits me. Learning to sew really changed the way I look at garments now. :)

  30. Gail July 18, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    I was shopping in Melbourne with my daughter on the weekend. I did not buy a thing because of the real mismatch between price and quality. I was particularly annoyed by the $61 American Apparel cordouroy skirt with the gaping zipper and bulky lumps on the hem at the side seams. That one is now on my sew list for DD. I also found a $700 dress with mismatched prints!!

  31. Tasia July 19, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    @The Sew Convert: I agree, I don’t like waiting in line for fitting rooms either, and you’re so right, once you learn to sew you can make just about anything!
    @Renay: I love the colour too! Thanks!
    @Katie: Ah, that’s true, if you can alter, you can tailor anything to fit you. That’s a great way to look at Goodwill or second-hand clothing, anything that’s too big can be made smaller or recut into something completely different.
    @Eleanor: Yeah, it makes more sense to refashion second-hand clothing than full-price retail clothing – if you’re going to put extra work into a garment, it better be cheap or at least on sale!
    @Gail: WOW – I can’t believe you saw a $700 dress with mismatched prints! That’s appalling! I’m guessing the designer must not have noticed, as I just can’t imagine someone choosing to skip the matching step on a garment of that price..

  32. parismegs July 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Great work, Tasia, making the wearable wearable…..I couldn’t have left the cuff as it was either. As for my choices being affected by my sewing ability…that is totally true. As I am now a fashion student, learning pattern making – 1st year, I am no longer even restricted to searching for old patterns to get my vintage look. I do still buy some however – I just can’t resist getting a little parcel in the post occasionally. The miracle has been that studying pattern making has given me “pattern goggles” – my name for my newly discovered ability to look at a garment and visualise the pattern making process. I have only tested it a few times, but WOW…I feel free!!!