How to Make a Pirate Shirt

Two Methods:Making a Laced Up Pirate ShirtMaking a Ragged Pirate Vest

Need a pirate shirt for a costume? All you need is a trip to the thrift store, a pair of scissors, and spare shoelaces. Once you have your shirt and vest ready, toss on a scarf and an eyepatch and you're ready to sail the seas.

Method 1
Making a Laced Up Pirate Shirt

  1. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 1
    Start with an oversize button down shirt. Start with a white shirt about two sizes too big. You're going for a loose blouse look, but you can also use a night shirt or a regular button down shirt.
  2. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 2
    Cut two holes in the cuff itself. These holes should be one inch (2.5 cm) apart, and big enough to put a shoelace through. This way, the cuff can act as a casing for the shoelace in the next step.
  3. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 3
    Lace the holes with a shoelace. Cut an old brown or white shoelace in half. Push the shoelace through the holes in the cuff, in and out of the sleeves. Tie the ends in a knot on the inside of your wrist, and pull to give yourself puffy sleeves.
  4. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 4
    Make holes along the chest. Punch holes in line with the top buttons of the shirt (or down the center of the blouse), about two inches (5 cm) apart. Stop at the second or third button hole, depending on how much chest you want exposed.
  5. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 5
    Criss cross another shoelace through these holes. Using another white or brown shoelace, make a loose criss-cross pattern through the chest holes, ending with a knot.
  6. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 6
    Dye the shirt with tea (optional). For a dirty pirate look, stain the shirt by wetting it with coffee or tea. Leave it overnight, rinse out the liquid, and wash the shirt.

Method 2
Making a Ragged Pirate Vest

  1. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 7
    Buy an oversized dark shirt. Look in thrift stores for a good selection of shirts that you won't mind cutting up. Old shirts you have after losing a lot of weight are also good for this project. Dark brown shirts or stripes work particularly well.
    • You can wear this on its own, but it works best if you wear it over the laced up shirt described above.
  2. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 8
    Cut the sleeves ragged. Be careful not to cut off any parts of the sleeves – you're just aiming for one to three rips or tears on each sleeve. Try to balance the rips at different levels on each arm so that it's more interesting to look at.
  3. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 9
    Snip a few cuts in the bottom of the shirt. Cut a few tears here and there to expand on the ragged effect. Optionally, cut off about 1 inch (2.5 cm) to remove the machined hem and make the vest look more worn.
  4. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 10
    Rip the collar a bit. Cut through the base of the collar and make a slit down the upper chest. Continue cutting all the way to the bottom of the vest, so that it hangs open.
  5. Image titled Make a Pirate Shirt Step 11
    Attach a patch (optional). For extra flair, sew or iron on a patch showing a skull, King Neptune, or another nautical image. If you're feeling ambitious, you can embroider your own design.


  • You may want to cut the collar off the shirt as well.
  • For a lady pirate costume, you could wear a corset instead of a vest. Consider cutting holes in the shoulders as well.

Article Info

Categories: Halloween Costumes | Historical Costumes