Types of T-Shirts

A tee seems so basic… but there are just so many styles! For the past couple of seasons, I’ve found myself reflecting on what silhouette of tee I want to sew and wear. Classic, drapey, or boxy? High neckline or scoop? Long, super long, or medium-short? There’s the matter of style, but also what is flattering… and I find my mind changes on that one quite often!

To help me process my thoughts and plan for spring, here are some of the t-shirt patterns I’ve sewn in the past:

PicMonkey Collage renfrew

On the left is my first ever project with knits, from 2012!

Sewaholic Renfrew

The original! As far back as September 2013, I’d already sewn 15 versions. (*cough* that’s how a knit obsessive was born *cough*). Looking at the pics, there are some definite fit issues… but truly, that doesn’t bother me with t-shirts. Renfew is such a classic pattern, and I do love it. I couple of those 2013 versions are still in rotation – particularly a swingy navy striped tank version that I hacked. I still wear my 2015 Jungle January Renfrew too – I’m a sucker for big cosy cowls in winter!

PicMonkey Collage kirsten

Proof that my colour palette has changed much in 3 years! Just last week I donated the top and skirt shown on the left – hope they get new life with someone else.

Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee

I made a million of these back in the day! Only one is really still in rotation (which has now been cropped to wear over sundresses) It’s a great free pattern that uses very little fabric. I haven’t made many in the past two years, but I do enjoy wearing the blue dress version from last fall! My sister likes this pattern, so I just might be sewing it soon.

PicMonkey Collage plantain

Deer and Doe Plantain

This pattern was a smash hit when it was released, and I think it’s a good shape for a rayon fabric. It’s swingy enough that fabric doesn’t cling. I go back and forth on how flattering I think it is though! The navy top above is an annoying smidge too short, and the red and white bamboo stripe is a pj top now… but I still love wearing the Cat Lady cowl version I made in 2014 and the super swingy tanks that I made last summer by adding extra volume to Plantain! (Oh yeah, and I wear this cropped knotted-hem version in the summer.)

PicMonkey Collage jalie raglan

Jalie Raglan

I loved this pattern SO MUCH last winter… but somehow I’m loving those tops less this year. The only think that’s changed is my tastes, I suppose, because I’m the same size… but these days the neckline feels a little open (bra straps end up showing!), the shaped side seams give just a bit too much fullness at the hips, and the shorter t-shirt length I enjoyed playing with last year just annoys me now! I still wear a couple of them now (like this stripe and lace version from last spring), but some have moved into being pj tops, like the coral stripe version above.

PicMonkey Collage olivia oversized tee

Maria Denmark Olivia Oversized Tee

This pattern either makes me feel fabulous or frumpy, and I’m not sure why! I still wear both versions pictures above. I love the print on the feather one, though I feel it’s a bit pastel for me and I wish it were a hint longer… and I wear the Drape Drape hack regularly, even though the neckline binding is annoyingly floppy. I LOVE the Winter Comino dress I made using this tee as the bodice. I’ll probably give this pattern another go this spring if I can find the optimal drapey knit!

PicMonkey Collage hemlock

Grainline Hemlock

Would you believe I lost this t-shirt? I’ve been looking for it for a few months, and I can’t figure out where it’s gone. From the start, I wasn’t sure it was flattering (makes my sloping shoulders look extra round, I think) but I like the concept of a trendy boxy tee with dropped shoulders. I’d still wear it if I could track it down!

PicMonkey Collage jalie dolman

Jalie Dolman Top

Very similar to Hemlock, but with a bit some shaping and multiple sizes. Again, I wasn’t sold initially but I’ve worn this top a ton this winter. I’ll definitely be making another one in spring colours!

PicMonkey Collage comino cap

Kitschy Koo Comino Cap

I almost forgot this one, but it’s actually a solid little pattern. I’ve made the dress version many times, but I’ve only made the tee twice. Time to make more! It works well with relatively stable knits, whereas I like the Kristen Kimono tee is better for drapey knits. (Case in point: this hideous Kristen kimono tee I made this Christmas in stiff Laguna jersey!)

Can you help me decide which t-shirt patterns I should make for spring? What’s the magical combination of trendy and flattering? I’m open to new patterns, too, if you see a hole in my t-shirt wardrobe – What are your favourite patterns?

PS. After scheduling this post last night, I wandered into my sewing room and cut two four tees without overthinking it! I guess writing out this post really helped. From left to right: a Comino Cap in a sketchy circle print leftover from a dress,  a Kristen Kimono tee in a black and white heart print, a leopard Jalie Dolman, and a Plantain in a jersey with little scalloped stripes!  All black, white, and/or grey… Shall I do a comparison follow-up post once they are sewn? 

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47 thoughts on “Types of T-Shirts

  1. What a great post idea! So nice to see all the Ts made up to compare!

    Personally, I love SBCC Tonic T. Made several versions and very easy to change necklines. Also made the Bronx dress 4 times (with a different neckline each time). Highly recommend.

    Love the look of Camino on you! The cut is really flattering! Also think the Jalie raglan is cut really well on you…at least in all these pics!

    Looking forward to your new spring make!

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    1. Thanks! I’ve heard good things about the Tonic Tee! Always meant to try it but never have! Actually, I’ve never tried an SBCC patterns… I keep waiting to totally fall in love with one, but I haven’t yet.

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  2. My favourite T of yours is the Jalie Dolman Top in black & white – perfect shape and fit! I like the Marie Denmark on you too. I love the whole variety of T shirt patterns on the market now. I thought you had made the blouse backed T by Hot patterns too? I’m making that one next myself. I have some lovely bamboo french terry and silk🙂

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    1. I haven’t tried any Hot Patterns tops yet – I find them a bit expensive and I haven’t totally fallen in love with one yet! But oh my, bamboo french terry and silk? That is going to be LUXE!!!!

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  3. I know you have plenty of choices already but my personal favorite tee patterns are the Megan Nielsen Briar, and also Kwik Sew 3338. I love them both! I’ve tried a few of the ones mentioned above but found these two to be more flattering somehow.

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    1. I tried a Briar last year… and somehow in sizing it up to fit me, I made it huge! Would you say Briar is quite similar to Plantain, or do you find there are good difference?

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      1. Somehow when I made a Plantain it just did not fit at all! It was way too tight in the top half and I didn’t get any swingy ease at the bottom, either. It was clingy and restrictive and made my arms all sausage-y. I was at the top of the size chart already so I said, screw this! A Large or Extra Large in Briar, depending on the fabric, is totally fine for me, and in the Kwik Sew I’m a Medium or a Large. I like how the Briar has a waist and flattering swoop. Maybe when they are correctly sized the Plantain and the Briar aren’t that different, I’m not sure. You have so many great t-shirts already, it may be too much trouble to give it another try. Whatever you decide, I support you, haha.

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    1. Sewing a t-shirt is my favourite palate cleanser… even if something goes wrong, it’s only 1m or 1.5m of fabric and an hour of work! Do you use your sloper for t-shirts?

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  4. Great post! I’m comparing my own tees too as I contemplate adding a few to my watdrobe. Please post when you’re done so we can enjoy. Great fabric choices!

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    1. There are just so many options once you start comparing t-shirts! I know some people roll their eyes when a designer releases something so simple as a tee, but I really love searching for just the right patterns for boring basics!

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  5. Those fabrics are nice and you should definitely do a comparison follow up post when they’re done! I definitely understand why you would have been motivated to do this kind of post. I was here planning my anniversary trip and trying to figure out which of my me-made clothing will be going so I was reviewing in my head which patterns I’ve made so far that I actually like to wear and in which fabrics/ options. Of course, sewing ADD kicked in and now I want to make more shirts in new patterns. #whenyousewproblems

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    1. Oooh, anniversary trip? Have fun!!! Where are you going?
      It’s always a funny balance when choosing a pattern: part of my wants to resew classics that I know I’ll reach for, and part of me wants something shiny and new!😉

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      1. We’re heading to Vegas for a week, so of course I want to sew new clothes. I really need more shorts, but I’m like new shorts need new shirts. Oh the life of a sewist!

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  6. What a great post. You would think that a t-shirt is just a t-shirt but all those patten looks so different. I absolutely love the Comino one on you. It’s my favourite of them all. I suppose that getting a final favourite is like finding the Holy Grail, or like finding the best jeans pattern. I am looking forward to seeing all your new T-s. The fabrics are gorgeous. Xx

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    1. Thank you! I’ve got all my new tops sewn up, and I”ll be posting about them tomorrow! (Ah, the glories of mid-term holiday!)

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  7. What a great post Gillian! I love seeing all these t-shirts in one post to compare. I really like the Comino on you … but I think you got it right all on your own with your choices for your new tees. I really need to work out this knit fear I have. I am making swimsuits so I don’t know what’s stopping me.

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    1. What is it that seems hard or annoying about knits? If I can help with anything, let me know! I think the secret is to sew enough that your fingers know the tension everything should be, and then bam! It’s super easy forever after.

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      1. I used a very stretchy tie dye viscose with a nice drape which worked really well, it’s a loose fitting style. I also made it with a thicker terry knit but it didn’t work well as there wasn’t enough drape. It’s amazing how much difference fabric choice can make!

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  8. I like the fit of the comino cap tee the best in your post. I think you should post your new tshirts, too. My favourite TNT tshirt to sew is the Briar. I’ve made 12 of them so far, with multiple variations. I have another one ready to sew.

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    1. I’ve made one Briar, but the sizing on mine was off (I was grading it up on the flay because my butt is too big for Megan Neilson patterns! :P) and I’ve never gone back to the pattern. I’ve seen lots of great versions out there!

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  9. I like the Plantain, Comino cap and Hemlock on you! The Plantain is still my personal favourite. I just made the Grainline Lark too, which is pretty nice in the body but the sleeves are a bit odd.

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      1. The sleeve cap is really high – higher than I’ve ever seen in a knit, more like a woven shirt – so I had bunched fabric at the front syce and it’s not so easy to raise my arms.

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        1. I am so happy to read this Katie – that’s how I felt about my Lark – I love the fit everywhere except at the front of the armscye, but I didn’t understand why! Hooray for comments!

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  10. Your plantain hacks are the best IMO, but I’m biaised because I love this pattern so much. Next summer, I want to try it with the ruffled hem, no matter if it’s still on trend or not. I haven’t tried so many tee patterns, but Tessuti’s Mandy boatneck tee was a good base for a boxy one. So many great patterns out there!

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    1. Ruffles forever! Serious, I have so many ruffled garments now, and they are so much fun to wear that I’ll keep wearing them even when the trend passes.
      I’ve never tried a Tessuti pattern, but I love their style!

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  11. I get overwhelmed with all the tee choices, so it’s nice to see some different styles to compare. I keep meaning to make the Kirsten Kimono tee, so thanks for the reminder.

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    1. The Kristen Kimono tee is GREAT when you only have a little fabric! I make mine fairly loose, but it works as a snugger top too. Definitely give it a go!

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  12. You always right such thorough posts! I love that. My favourite in you are Renfrew, Camino, and Hemlock. I adore the Camino dresses you’ve made and like how the neckline frames your face. Have you tried the Dolores top? I love mine!

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    1. I haven’t tried the Dolores! Would you say it is a lot like the Jalie Raglan in shape? (Curved side seams, dropped shoulder, slender sleeves?) But more batwing, perhaps?

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  13. I was needing a Tshirt post! I just made 2 Renfrew hacks and thinking of trying a new pattern. I think after seeing this great post I might look at Jalie and the Camino. Please do a follow up post!

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    1. Ooh, what did you do for your hacks? You can’t go wrong with Jalie, and the Comino Cap is a great dress and shirt pattern in one!

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  14. Great post! Always interesting to compare and contrast patterns like this🙂

    I’m a fan of the Ensis tee by Papercuit – good length, I like the gently rounded hem, and you can have a lot of fun with the colour blocking (great for using up small bits of fabric!)

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  15. Yesss! For so long I only had the Plantain pattern, thinking “a tee is a tee right? I only need the one”. But somehow it left some gaps in my casual wardrobe fare. Love the comparison, really helps to put them all side by side!

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  16. I like all of these on you – I love how you always jazz up a t-shirt with fun and bright fabric!! I really need to up my knits game! I love the neckline on the Plantain on you too – it always seems a bit low for me, and I also really love the Comino Caps on you too. I really need to try that pattern.

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  17. Thanks for doing this article. What a wealth of information! In the comments too. I like the t’s with the 3/4 sleeves on you. I have a favourite one by Swhin Designs called the Lane. It just feels and fits right and has an option to put little buttons with tabs on the sleeves.Blank Slate Patterns has just put out a free T shirt for our sizes with an optional Hack Pack for 5 dollars.I’m planning on trying that next. Also, I wanted to know what an average t would take in 60″ fabric. Could a person get it out of 2 yds?with 3/4 sleeves? Then I could take advantage of the knit pkg. monthly surprise by stores.

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  18. I really like the blue tank with the ruffle. Very nice on you and I’m going to make it right away. Also the Jalie Dolman and the Olivia Oversized tee are very attractive and fit you well.

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  19. I love the Jalie dolman on you the best – or is it just the colors, styling and photography in those pics because you look smashing in them.🙂 I am loving seeing all of these t-shirts made up and am excited to have found your fun blog.

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