What To Do With That XXXL Race T-Shirt: A Tutorial

I love race shirts. They are one of the few tangible things I get to take away from a race. I love racing too, of course, the camaraderie, the feeling of accomplishment from having finished, the bagels at the finish line. But mostly the shirt. Unfortunately, race shirts are almost never my size. Even if they have the size that I ordered, which is rare, it really isn’t the size I prefer. This is because most of the time, race shirts are the “unisex” model and completely unflattering on women. Which means it becomes a thrift store donation or another pajama/painting shirt. Not something I really want to be seen wearing in public. But I worked hard for that shirt! I trained and I ran and I want to be able to wear it with pride, not embarrassment. So this is what I do: I tailor it. It’s easy and it’s fast. I’ll show you how you can resize your t-shirts, too.

(If you don’t have a sewing machine, but you know someone who does, you can do all the tracing and cutting beforehand, and then just borrow their machine for about 10 minutes. It’s that quick.)

1. Pick a shirt that you like the fit of from your stash of shirts. On the left is the “good” shirt. On the right is the big, unflattering race shirt.

2. Turn both shirts inside out. Lay the good shirt on top of the race shirt, lining up the shoulder seams on top and smoothing them out so they are flat flat flat. No wrinkles.

3. Using a fabric marking pen (or a sharpie, if you want), trace the side seams of the good shirt onto the race shirt. If the good shirt has a narrower seam allowance than you would like, draw the line a little bit farther out from the edge of the shirt. If your good shirt is a lot shorter than the race shirt, be sure to extend the line to the bottom hem so it flares to accommodate your curves.

At the armpit, where the sleeves connect, you may have to trace over the seam. Don’t worry about it. It will be fine. Don’t try to avoid the seam, just draw over it.

4. Fold back the sleeve of the good shirt so that you can traces the sleeve seam. This is kind of tricky. As you trace the seam, be sure you are following the curve of the good shirt as closely as you can.

5. Once you have traced both sides of the good shirt onto the race shirt, get cutting. Cut along the lines you drew. Then set aside the good shirt and the sleeves from the race shirt for later.

6. Pin the sides of the race shirt up to the corner where it turns into the sleeve hole.

7. Sew up the sides of the race shirt. Just the sides. Not the sleeve hole.

You may find that your seam allowance took care of the armpit seam you had to include. Hooray. You can cut it off when you are done.

8. Put the race shirt body aside and grab the sleeves and the good shirt. Now you are going to trace one of the sleeves of the good shirt onto one of the sleeves of the race shirt. Get the sleeves of both shirts to be as flat as possible and then line up the top folds of the sleeves and the hems of the sleeves.

9. Trace along the bottom seam of the good shirt onto the race shirt. Then fold the sleeve back so you can trace along that tricky, curvey sleeve again. Cut along the lines you just traced. The good part is that you only have to do that once because then you can cut out the sleeve you just traced and use it as the pattern for the other sleeve on the other side.

10. Take the sleeve you just cut from the race shirt and line it up with the other sleeve from the race shirt. Trace and cut.

11. Pin the bottom of the sleeves together and sew the bottom seam.

12. Turn the sleeves so that they right side out.

13. Take the body of the race shirt. It should still be inside out. Leave it that way. You want sleeves outside out and body inside out. Here comes the tricky part. Slide the sleeve into the sleeve hole so that the raw edges match up. It’s hard to show because the sleeve is inside the shirt, but the picture shows what the sleeve should look like when it is inside the shirt.

14. Line up the side seam of the body with the bottom seam of the sleeve and put a pin in it.

15. Pin the rest of the sleeve into place. I like to put a pin in the bottom seam, then the top because sometimes the sleeve needs to be stretched a little and this ensures that it gets an even stretch all the way around.

16. Once you’ve pinned the sleeve into place, sew around the sleeve.

17. Repeat steps 13-16 on the other sleeve.

18. Take out the pins and clip any dangling threads. You can also trim up those pesky armpit seams if you want.

19. Try on your new tailored tee. Admire your handiwork. Be proud of your accomplishments: not only did you run a race, your saved a perfectly good t-shirt from being relegated to the pajama drawer.

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  1. Wow! That’s so awesome! Looks great.


    lizzie Reply:

    Stephanie, are you thinking about doing this for your GAR shirt? I’d love to see how it works for you.


  2. I second that!


  3. I can’t wait to try it! I haven’t wanted to throw any of those massive race shirts away because I did earn them! But I wasn’t sure how to fix them. Brilliant! Thanks for the steps!


    lizzie Reply:

    Let me know how it goes! I’d love to see how they turn out.


  4. thank you for the tutorial. i had done something like this both and forgot to book mark the page, that tutor was for a tank, but i prefer tshirts. I didn’t follow the directions exact, i just cut the shelve holes and just sewed up the entire side of the shirt, it came out great. thanks again.


    lizzie Reply:

    Glad it turned out!


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