Monday, 16 January 2012

How to: Detachable Collared Shirts

Greetings and a Happy New Year to you all!

Apologies for the lack of posts in the last few months but if you follow the progress of my Southern Retro project you'll see that I've been busy adding some fabulous new people to the collection!

Anyway, "Get on with it old chap!" I hear you cry.

Without further ado; welcome to this, my first (and hopefully not last) "How to".
Where-upon I will show you how you can turn a readily available collarless "Grandad" shirt into a detachable collared shirt at no expense!

"Hold on!" I hear you cry, "Why bother when you can get detachable collared shirts from specialist shirt companies such as Bromley's?"

The answer is simple, these shirts will set you back a goodly £42+ and are very limited in pattern and material whereas there are a number of very good "Grandad" shirts on the market at the moment in a much larger variety of weight, fabrics and patterns and they will only set you back £12 - £15 each!

So to the tutorial!

First off you'll need these three things:
  • A collarless "Grandad" shirt
  • A detachable collar
  • A set of collar studs
You may already have yourself a good collarless Grandad shirt you want to convert but if not here are a couple of possible options:

These 'Loneflower' shirts are available via their eBay shop here:
They have a wide range of patterns and are clearly sized but are made of poly-cotton.
These 'Collarless Shirt Company' shirts are available from Starbright in Horsham:
Their shirts come in a couple of different weights and a number of patterns. Their 'Summer' weight shirts are in a lovely lightweight cotton that is very breathable and soft. The downside is their sizing isn't very clear (although I have asked them to provide me with collar size and sleeve length) and the loose-weave of the cotton causes them to shrink over time.

Irish Inspiration do a range of 'Lee Valley' brushed cotton collarless shirts:
These shirts come in various weights of cotton & cotton/linen but are more heavyweight than other shirts especially the 'heritage' range. Again their sizing isn't very clear and the shirts are a lot roomier than other brands.

Detachable collars are a little more difficult to get however you'll only ever need one of these so you can either get one from someone like Bromley's: or from various eBay sellers such as Fogey Unlimited:

IMPORTANT TIP: Remember the rules for detachable collars are that you need a collar that is half a size bigger than your standard collar size so if your shirt size is a 16" collar then you need at 16.5" detachable collar.

Collar studs again are available at Bromley's: or eBay:

Method One: The 'Proper' Way
For this you will need a sewing machine with a buttonholer (and the knowledge of how to use it, or a wife/girlfriend/significant other who can help).

Step One:
Remove the button from the collar of your shirt and place it in the back of the buttonholer to get the correct size for the buttonhole you are about to create.

This is a buttonholer

Step Two:
Line up your shirt collar point-to-point so you can mark out where the buttonhole should be on the side you just removed the button from. The new buttonhole should be an exact mirror of the existing one. Whilst you have the shirt collar folded point-to-point mark the back of the collar in the middle where the centre point is (and a little bit either side) as we will be creating a second buttonhole here later.

Step Three:
This is the scary bit!
Place the marked side of the shirt collar under the buttonholer and create the buttonhole. Each buttonholer will have it's own method so you'll need to refer to the instructions on your machine... I would suggest you practice a few times on a spare bit of similar material before doing the real thing!

Finished buttonhole

Once you've created your buttonhole remove the garment from the machine, cut away any loose threads and break open the buttonhole with a seem ripper - being careful not to tear through the ends of the buttonhole (you can stick a pin through across each end if you are worried). When you are happy with your finished front buttonhole move onto the next step.

Step Four:
Now you need to create a button hold at the back for the rear collar stud to go. The centre point of the buttonhole should be dead centre at the back of your shirt collar. Again remove from machine, cut away loose threads and break open the buttonhole with a seam ripper.

Finished rear buttonhole

Step Five: (Optional)
Professional tunic shirts have a 'pocket' that the rear stud sits in so that it doesn't press against the back of ones neck. Obviously we don't have the luxury of this as it would mean unpicking the collar to create the pocket, but you can sew a piece of cloth on the inside of your collar to cover the buttonhole if you find your stud is rubbing.

Stud 'pocket' on a professional tunic shirt

Step Six:
Attach your collar using the studs and you are away!

Finished shirt with collar attached

Method Two: The 'Cheats' Way
If you don't have access to a sewing machine or a buttonholer DON'T PANIC! There is an easy 'Cheats' option which will allow you to achieve a similar effect (albeit not quite as comfortable)... and you won't need to fork out on collar studs either!

Step One:
Most shirts worth their weight will have a spare button sewed somewhere on them, most often these can be found on the care label.

Spare button

Remove this button and keep it safe.

Step Two:
Line up your shirt collar point-to-point as we did in Step Two of the 'proper' method in order to find where the centre point is at the back of the collar. Mark the point in the middle of the fold (and just the point this time).

Step Three:
Sew the spare button onto the rear of the shirt collar where your mark is like so:

Rear collar button

Step Four:
Attach your collar to the rear button using the buttonhole in the detachable collar like so:

Attached collar rear

Step Five:
Now attach the two front ends of the detachable collar by placing the normal top button of the shirt through each of the buttonholes in the collar and Voila!

Method Three: The 'Middleman' Way
You can, of course, mix and match these methods if, for example, you wanted to:
  • Retain the top button of your shirt but use a stud in the rear (give a bit of extra movement).
    Just create a buttonhole in the back of your shirt as per Method One - Step Four.
  • Just use the front stud and not the rear (again gives a little extra movement and you don't need to worry about the rear stud rubbing).
    Just create the front buttonhole as per Method One - Step Three and sew your spare button on the back as per Method Two - Step Three!
Well that's it!
I hope this tutorial is useful to you, Let me know what you think of it and, of course, how you get on using it!
Please feel free to send me pictures of you wearing your newly created detachable collared shirts!


  1. You can look like you have a closet full of a rainbow of clothing manufacturers using this tutorial! Thank you for the many options and step-by-step instructions.

  2. This is really an awesome tip that you have shown .I must apply this to my wears also.

  3. This is a kickass post. Thanks for the tip about 1/2 sizing up.

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