1970s Up-Cycled Shirt

Up-cycling is a 2000s term, but the concept behind the term is not.  Taking old clothes and turning them into something new or decorated goes way back, even further than the 1970s.  But like so many young crafters on etsy and 10 thousand DIY bloggers who think they invented the idea of re-using a garment, we girls of the 1960s and 70s thought we discovered recycling and crafting.

I usually don’t buy other people’s craft projects, but the shirt above is the quintessential 1970s crafted garment.  It is actually a man’s shirt – a navy issue chambray work shirt.  It’s very possible that it came from an army-navy store, one of the chief suppliers of clothing for all of us who were protesting the Vietnam War.  I actually have a similar shirt, but in denim, that I embroidered flowers and butterflies and such onto in 1972.

Don’t you just love how the stem goes through the hole?  What is that hole for, anyway?

There are even more appliqued flowers on the back, along with a speckled butterfly.

Nothing like a little eyelet edging to add a feminine touch!


Filed under Collecting, Sewing, Vintage Clothing

17 responses to “1970s Up-Cycled Shirt

  1. Liz…the hole is for your wood pencil to stick up through, of course.
    I used to see many a chambray work shirt like this one in the men’s department of JC Penny Store. That’s what we called them…work shirts.

    I am not sure, but this IS a man’s shirt because of which side the buttons are on down the front. Right?


  2. Yep. The hole is for your pencil. What makes me laugh is modern men’s shirts that do a button hole on the pocket flap, but it’s just the stitching…no actual hole! So the vague idea has hung around, even as the utility of it seems to be forgotten. It’s right up there with false pockets. What, exactly, is the point?


  3. Lizzie, you are so great at finding these interesting pieces, and then talk about them so eloquently. I want to be just like you when I grow up!!! 😉


  4. Isn’t the hole for a pen? I am related to enough engineers to have grasped that immediately!


  5. It was hell going through growth spurts in a bell bottom era. Nothing worse than high water bell bottoms. So, we used to split up the outseam from hem to knee and insert a vee of floral, usually calico, print and add a band around the bottom to add a few inches. More flare, more length.

    Then you could make a drawstring neck halter top to match.


  6. I would love to find one of these originals in a thrift store or estate sale. Relatively new reader here and love the blog.
    Honey Stop The Car Vintage


    • I dug this one out of the bins at my local Goodwill Clearance Center! The truth is, I don’t see 70s decorated clothing very often. All the “hippies” must have gotten rid of them in the late 70s when they rejoined mainstream society. ;~)


  7. sam common

    Lizzie , I have to admit I was smiling at the whimsy of the project, until I read the description ” – a navy issue chambray work shirt.”, and my heart sank. Last November I sold a 50s chambray work shirt NWOTs for 164 $ to a Japanese buyer.
    I would suggest readers of this blog (especially Thrifters) become familiar with chambray shirts both Military and plain Work types auctions on eBay. There is a super strong market for them. Unfortunately, I do not believe they are interested in Up-cycle examples.
    As always thanks for your wonderful blog. I learn something new all the time that helps with my understanding of this field.


  8. Teresa

    I love the pocket detail!


  9. I love your idea of doing a post on vestiges of formerly functioning clothing parts. For example, why are jeans still made with a watch pocket in the front?


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