Magnum PI called… he wants his shirt back

Thinking about a holiday wardrobe for a trip to the tropics I got very excited about making summer clothes despite it being a rather chilly November here in London. First on the list was a shirt to keep the sun off my shoulders while sailing.

I picked up this XL mens’ Hawaiian shirt on a recent trip to San Francisco. It actually came from the Goodwill store in Haight-Ashbury. I am happy to report that this store has a great selection of mens’ Hawaiian shirts, in case you’re in the area :-)

Slightly confused by this label as it certainly isn’t RTW bottoms and I didn’t pay $13.99 for it. As I recall it was around $10 (around £6.40 at the time of writing). It’s made from 100% Rayon making it both lightweight and breathable. I also love that it’s reminiscent of everyone’s favourite Hawaii-based private detective, Magnum PI, without being too garish – I love the slight retro feel and the cars remind me of Cuba… Check out that moustache!

As a men’s XL it needed size adjustments as well as a new style. Firstly I deconstructed the garment a bit, cutting off the sleeves and chopping from left to right at armscye level. I actually measured the top section from the shoulder vertically downwards to make sure it coincided roughly with my underbust.

For the yoke, I measured (with difficulty) around the widest part of my shoulders. I estimated the finished shirt would need to be half this circumference in width in order to get it on and off over my head easily. Then it was simple enough to cut the required amount off, shaping a bit to make some armholes.

Here’s how the yoke looks right side out. Whilst initially worried about the amount I cut off the shoulders, since the shirt was meant to be shielding me from the sun, I was happy with the amount of shoulder coverage after I tried it on. You can see in this picture that I basted along the centre front under the buttons just to keep it closed while working on it. I finished the armholes by doing a very narrow hem (not shown).

For the bottom half of the shirt, I folded the remainder inside out and trimmed it off in a straight line – you can see from the ‘before’ pictures above that the back was a bit longer than the front. Then I stitched down roughly where the centre front was, leaving the buttons/buttonholes in the seam allowance, and cut the excess off to leave a loose tube of material.

Here’s the centre front of the original, which will become the centre back of the new shirt.

The final step was to gather the tube all the way around and attach it to the bottom of the yoke.

After I finished I tried it on, and decided to add two ties under the arms that can be tied at the back to make it fit a bit snugger, or a bit looser, depending on the temperature. These were just cut from off cuts of the sleeves.

Here I am modelling this shirt on holiday. The pictures were taken off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. I am happy to report that the shirt was both very comfortable to wear and a very efficient sun shield.



  1. learningnewtricks

    Super cute! I love men’s Hawaiian shirts, and turned one into a skirt. I prefer to wear my buttons the lady way, so I redid the entire button section and the skirt buttons like a proper lady shirt should. My skirt doesn’t resemble a man’s skirt in anyway anymore, as I added darts in the front, and a pleat panel in the back on both sides. I cut up the skirt too much in length, so I added a 2″ border at the bottom, and made a waistband out of linen for the inside of the waistband because my material was in short supply. I’ve seen ton’s of refashioned men’s shirts, and your shirt is a nice change.

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks for the kind comment, I am glad you liked the shirt and yes it is certainly a challenge to come up with original ideas for things to do with mens shirts. (You could also check out my earlier mens shirt post here: )
      I really like Hawaiian shirts actually – I have another one in stash but that will have to wait until next summer, I think…
      Your skirt sounds great – did you post pictures up anywhere (Refashion Co-op or anything?) I would love to see it.

      • learningnewtricks

        No, I haven’t posted anything yet. I have many projects completed and in progress, but I am one of those people who worries and stresses way too much about the mistakes to post them online. I am fine wearing my garments with the mistakes, but would stress out if they were visible to others. I know it’s silly to worry about such things. Especially as others have graciously posted their wonderful garments online as an inspiration to keep us sewing. Maybe someday I will post them and not worry about the imperfections.

        On another note, I appreciate your posting a step-by-step refashioning of your garments. I look forward to seeing your next Hawaiian shirt refashion.

        • charityshopchic

          That’s a shame, as I think you’ll find the vast majority of people online are very supportive. Many people also blog their mistakes and ‘learning experiences’. I hope you do decide to post something eventually!

  2. Lesley Scott

    If only it wasn’t a cold 17C in summery Sydney I’d love to sport one of your fabulous refashioned men’s shirts – you are soooo clever.
    Hawaiian prints remind me of a pair of shorts I had as a kid living in hot and humid Brisbane. I thought they were the cats pyjamas; must give some thought to hawaiian printed thingies for Christmas!!

  3. Nick Foot

    I’m gonna go straight to Goodwill next time I’m in SF for some Hawaiian shirt action…but I’ll be wearing them in their original condition! Nxx

  4. liz

    great refashion! very cute dress/tunic and the print is totally something my grandpa would have worn back in the day [in hawaii]!

  5. Mimi

    Hawaiian shirts never really go out of style, at least in resort areas [where I’m lucky enough to live]. One caveat to keep in mind … some vintage shirts, particularly the silk and rayon ones, sell for big money if they’re in good, nearly original condition. There are books on the subject. One wouldn’t want to cut up an old shirt worth hundred’s of dollars.

    I lived in Hawaii, and am now in Florida. My husband owns dozens of Aloha shirts, a few of which are now collector’s items. He loves them, and can’t bear to part with any. But when a few have developed stains or tears making them unwearable, I get to refashion them, the style or use depending on the severity and location of problem spots. Some leftover pieces make darling facings, peeking out of plackets, collars and cuffs. I even used part of one shirt as a lining for a crocheted purse I made, keeping the pocket intact to hold my cell phone. Since it was inside the purse, no one would notice the stain which had made the shirt unwearable.

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Mimi – excellent point about the vintage shirts, but I’m pretty sure that this is a modern one. When I saw the long rack of castoff shirts all at $10 or less it didn’t occur to me that there may be some valuable ones in there. Personally, I love Hawaiian shirts and am really glad that these ‘loud’ prints are in fashion this year!

  6. Kathy

    My son has that same exact shirt!! But his is smaller. We bought it at a thrift store about a year ago and it’s one of his favorites. He likes those types of shirts. Funny thing, now he is into watching Magnum, P.I. on Netflix.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s