Greek Revival Shirt

4 Aug


I designed this shirt a few years ago while trying to make a costume with some extra fabric I had laying around, but I really liked it and started wearing it everywhere. Personally, I think there is a Greek goddess-like flair to this shirt; the flash of skin between the sleeve slits looks sexy in an “Aphrodite couldn’t pull off this look” kind of way. It is loose fitting and the slits make it cool and breezy while still keeping your arms partially protected from the Mediterranean sun. The front and back of the shirt are identical, which means if you ever accidentally spill olive oil down the front of it at a party you can turn it around and no one will be the wiser. (Not that I’ve ever done that.)

Tape measure
Masking tape or marking pen
Sewing machine or some other means of stitching
Two yards of fabric (approximately, more on that in a moment)
Iron (optional)

This shirt has the easiest construction you can imagine. It’s just a big T shape and the top sleeve seam isn’t sewn completely to create the slit. I made this shirt using the width of my fabric to make both the sleeves and the body, which means the sleeves only come to three quarter length on me. With a little extra math and a few extra seams you could easily make it with full length sleeves.


There are only three measurements in this shirt that matter, the length of the shirt from shoulder to hem (A), the distance around the chest, (B) and the length from the bottom of the armhole to the hem (C) To figure out these measurements you could use your measuring tape to measure your body, or you could find a shirt in your closet that has a good fit and get your measurements from there.

Before buying your fabric you need to know the length of your shirt from shoulder to hem. (A) To figure out exactly how much fabric you need, take this number and add an inch and a half for seam allowance, and then double that number. (I give myself fairly generous seam allowances.) You may want to purchase an extra eighth or even quarter of a yard of your fabric, this is a sewer’s version of an insurance policy. The fabric I used here was 54 inches wide, keep in mind that if you buy a fabric that is only 40 inches wide the sleeves are not going to be as long.

Wash and dry your fabric the same way you will wash the finished shirt. Most of the fabric we bring home from the craft store has never seen a washing machine. Pre-washing makes sure that any excess dye and starch is removed, and that any major shrinking the fabric may do is out of the way before we’ve put all this work into making a garment. Of course, if you aren’t planning to wash your shirt, ever, feel free to skip this step.


Cut your fabric into two square pieces that are the length of your shirt from shoulder to hem, plus an inch and a half (for seam allowance.) An easy way to do this is to fold your fabric in half with the selvage edges together on both sides and the raw edges together at the bottom. You may need to trim these raw edges to get them straight but don’t fret about it too much, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Cut along the fold to create two pieces. Lay your two pieces out on top of each other neatly. If you are using a fabric with a pattern that runs in one direction you will want to flip one piece of fabric so that the pattern will run in the same direction on the back and the front.


Mark out the shape. Take the measurement around the chest (B) divide it in half and add three inches for seam allowance and extra ease. This will be the measurement across the chest. Take measurement C and add an extra inch and a half for seam allowance. Use your marking pen to mark out your T shape using these dimensions. I used masking tape for this because the sound of a pen scratching across fabric makes me shudder like nails on a chalkboard.

Cut both layers of fabric out along these lines and you are ready to start sewing!

The fabric that I used for this shirt is mostly linen, which means the raw edges unravel faster than a Hollywood marriage. One way I prevented this was by using pinking shears instead of regular scissors to cut out my fabric. Another way to combat unraveling is to sew a zigzag stitch along the raw edges. If you are lucky enough to have a serger or a machine with an overlock stitch those are also good options.


This shirt is kind of odd in that the first seam you sew is a finishing seam. I’ve been using this type of seam for years and I don’t know what it’s proper name is. A google search told me it might be called a rolled hem or a double turnback seam. Either way it’s easy and makes a neat finish on raw edges.

This is where your iron comes into the picture. I was taught that you should always iron and pin folds flat before seaming if you want a nice neat hem. In reality, I seldom do this. (That shuffling sound you just heard was my grandmother rolling over in her grave.) I’ve included directions as if you are going to press your seams but you can take the liberty of skipping this step.

To finish the top of the sleeves fold over the top edge towards the wrong side (inside) of the fabric. You should only have to fold it over a tiny bit. (Less than 1/4 of an inch.) Iron and pin that fold flat all along the top. Then fold over that edge again by about a quarter of an inch to hide the raw edge inside the folds. Topstitch along the fold to create a hem. Do this all across the top of both the front and back pieces.


Fold over once………………………………………………………..Fold over twice

….And Topstitch.

Slap the right sides together and seam the sides and bottom part of the sleeves together on both the left and right side. You can use a regular topstitch here, but I was still worried about the edges fraying so I cheated and used a French seam. Just remember if you are going to use a French seam that you will start with the wrong sides of the fabric together.

Now you are going to seam the top of the sleeves first at the “cuff” end of each sleeves and then at the shoulder. Lay the right sides together and put a seam about two inches long at the top corner of each sleeve right below the finished edge.

It’s almost starting to look like a real shirt but first you need to place the seams for the shoulders. The best way I could figure out to do this was to fold the shirt in half hold, it up to my body and place a pin on each shoulder. The shoulder seam should fall right over your bra strap area. Before you sew your seams, pin it securely and try it on to make any adjustments. (Being careful not to accidentally stab yourself, of course.) It may take a few tries to get it placed right and symmetrical.

(It’s really hard to take a picture of this step.)

Keep your wrong sides together and sew a two inch seam at the shoulders. I recommend back stitching here a few times to make a good strong shoulder seam. If your sleeve gets caught in something this is the seam that is the most likely to rip. (Not that I’ve ever done that either.)

Finally you’re going to finish the raw edges at the “cuff” of the sleeves and the hem of the shirt using the same fold-over-twice-and-topstitch method. The only difference is that there will be a few seams incorporated into these finished edges. Simply press the seams open and fold over as before.


Yay! You’re done! Put your completed shirt on and parade around like Athena springing from the head of Zeus!




One Response to “Greek Revival Shirt”


  1. Singer Sewing Machines | Greek Revival Shirt « - August 4, 2011

    […] the original post here: Greek Revival Shirt « Filed Under: How To Sew A Rolled Hem Tagged With: Singer Sewing […]

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