Top 7 Ways to Spice Up College Shirts

Top 7 Ways to Spice Up College Shirts


  1. Cutting edge
  2. Add some spice
  3. Layer your look
  4. Shine like a star
  5. Mix and match

Everyone wants to stand out in a crowd and when it seems like you keep seeing the same college tees around campus, it can be difficult to feel unique. With some simple alterations, even cheap college shirts can be fashionable, contemporary and cool.  Get your scissors ready, it is time to spice up your college t shirts.

Custom college shirts can be created without spending much cash on accessories or tools.  All you need is your imagination and some insight to pull off a style transformation.  Think of this as an introduction to customization.

Cutting edge

You will need a good pair of scissors or a sharp blade, like a box cutter, to make clean cuts.  Some simple t shirt alterations include cutting to change the shirt’s neckline. Most college t shirts are crew neck, especially men’s cut tees.  It is easy to create a v-neck or boat neck top out of traditional college tee shirts. Measure straight down eight inches from the tags and use that as the point of your vee. Cut from that point to the shoulders and you’ve created a new, feminine look.  

Want to take a women’s cut t shirt to a new level? Try cutting from where the shoulder seam meets the collar around the collar to the opposite shoulder. This will give you a sultry, off-the-shoulder vibe.

Of course, trimming a few inches off the bottom of a well-worn t shirt instantly turns a basic college shirt into a sexy crop-top. Combine this with the off-the-shoulder cut for a fun fit that harkens back to your mom’s days in college (leg warmers and headband optional).

Add some spice

Cut out a shape on the back of your vintage college t shirt and fill the cut out with some lace.  Don’t worry if you don’t know how to sew, just use some heat-activated mending tape to permanently attach a lace or fabric insert.  A flirty heart-shaped cut-out can look feminine and delicate on your back. But remember, if you are attaching lace with mending tape, you will need to put something between the front and back of the shirt to prevent sticking.  

Another great touch is to cut a deep vee and either sew or attach ribbon to each side of the cut.  Then, tie the ribbon into bows.  Whether you choose a single bow, or a row of four or five, the effects can be dramatic.  You may want to make sure your ribbon or fabric matches your college’s colors.

Laced-up is a popular look for college tailgate tees. Cut a v-neck like we described earlier, on the front of the college tee. Don’t worry about cutting through the logo or name, and then create a placard by adding some contrasting ribbon. The mending tape works well here. Cut button holes into the placard on opposite sides and then lace it all up with chunky shoe laces or ribbon.  This style looks particularly cute when layered.

Layer your look

You can create some striking looks by distressing your college tee shirts.  Think strategically and mark your intended scuff marks with non-permanent marker or pencil before you start to cut.  Check your positions in the mirror or with the help of a friend-- you don’t want to cut too much.  Once you are comfortable with your spots, cut slits into the fabric, about a half inch apart.  Once you’ve put a few slashes into your college shirt, scrape the edges of the cuts with your fingernail. You want to fray some threads, not tear things apart.  Wear a form-fitting tank underneath in a contrasting color to rake the rips pop.

When layering, remember that contrasting colors make the layers work. Got a traditional heather gray t shirt?  Add elements of color that complement the logo or lettering. The same can be said for adding elements like ribbons, bows, or cuts of fabric.  You may even be able to find patterns that include your school’s logo at a local store.  Think outside the box and incorporate unique twists to display your own style.

Try to layer using different textures and fits. Try wearing athletic tanks under loose tee shirts.  Add something soft and shiny beneath your basic cotton. Layering and patterns can elevate solid-colored t shirts.  

Shine like a star

The sewing department of your local craft store has some inexpensive items that can really brighten your look. There are glue-on rhinestones and studs, as well as hammer-on snaps and buttons.  Again, you don’t need to know how to sew to add a bit of style to your college tee. Add colored rhinestones to the lettering of the tee to set things off.

You may want to add some foil iron-on touches. Gold, silver and even colored chrome foil can add just the right amount of shimmer to a boring, old t shirt. Try some pre-cut letters or play with cutting your own shapes, designs and accents.

A simple way to add a little shimmer to your college t shirt is with metallic paint pens. Trace logos and letters with metallic paint pens to add a new, dynamic touch.

Mix and match

Don’t be afraid to add multiple elements of design to your vintage college shirts.  Adding cuts and touches of shine can elevate an inexpensive college shirt to a stylish, trendy look. The only limitation is your imagination.  

Whatever you choose to do, start small. You can always cut a little deeper or add more details, but it is nearly impossible to mend over-ambitious cuts or remove rhinestones.  Practice on some old college t shirts that you don’t intend to wear anymore. Learn through experience.  And then, once you’ve practiced cuts and add-ons, you should feel confident enough to dive in deep.  

You’ll find that once you have successfully transformed a drab tee into a custom tailgate t shirt, your friends are going to want your help creating original looks for them, too.  

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