Repurposing Your Button Down

Leandra Medine | May 4, 2015

Recycling 101

Already mastered the art of the summer button down?  Let’s move on to fall, pumpkin spice latte basics.

Amelia once commanded that you never underestimate the power of a button down. She called it one of the most versatile garments a woman could own, honing in precisely on its ability to challenge the constructs of the direction in which you are supposed to button and let it live like a bipartisan, aptly buttoning both up and down. What she failed to mention, though, is that after you’ve accrued a large enough arsenal of the shirt style to veritably identify with the unsung heroes of high fashion: male high school teachers, the question of flexibility is presented.

Here we stand, taking for granted the covered shoulders and forward facing buttons and collars and matching bottoms extolled by our shirts as we wonder whether we’ll ever grow tired of what could become the wardrobe’s equivalent of almond milk. But to ask that question is to disregard entirely the notion that a shirt is not just a shirt. It’s an opportunity. It is an almond and a gallon of water. And vanilla beans. But you know what they say, right? Show don’t tell, so without much more ado, here are three ways to recycle your button down shirts (viva sustainability!).

Exhibit A: The off-the-shoulder technique

Button Down Three Ways Man Repeller Hair1114

This approach was first popularized by Man Repeller favorite Claire Beermann, who recognized the prevalence of off-the-shoulder blouses sprouting like peonies on a Pinterest board and took to her work shirt. I paired mine, by Equipment, with counter-stripe pants and an arm scarf and chain bracelet. I would call it structured pajama dressing if I wasn’t afraid to sound like a human bromide.

Exhibit B: The shirt-as-turtleneck

Button Down Three Ways Man Repeller Hair1181

Bear with me for a second here — I know that it looks exactly as though I’m wearing a button down backwards but that’s also because I am and if it is any consolation or might make you feel more comfortable about turning the mullet on its head, consider that Marni has been selling shirts to look like this for years. Poplin turtlenecks are not uncommon among high fashion designers but they are also not cheap. Why not do your part to save a penny, flip your shirt and then call your back The Great Reveal as though it is a new car?

Exhibit C: The skirt

Button Down Three Ways Man Repeller Hair1210

This shouldn’t look unfamiliar to you as the shirt-skirt is hardly a novel concept, but what you may have been remiss to consider is the notion that you don’t need to buy a shirt-skirt to get the look. You can quite simply re-appropriate the very same blouse and even opt in or out of a slit as high or low as your legs want to shine. I’m wearing a bathing suit with my chef-d’oeuvre plus a jean jacket. Now, who wants to go swimming?

Images by Krista Anna Lewis

  • This is so great the varying looks with this fun button down. It looks fantastic off the shoulders and so cool as a skirt. I really love the metallic shorts and the striped pants.

    Hugs, Bry


  • Natali

    First outfit is pure love, everything is simply perfect about it!

  • Shelby

    You manage to make even the silliest ideas seem SO fashionable! I love all of these looks on you, definitely going to try a few this spring:)

  • Cute! I like the off-the-shoulder styling the best!

  • Allie Fasanella


  • I turn everything backwards and let me just say it is the best thing ever. Every shirt is suddenly 2 shirts and every neckline is suddenly super high. It’s great.

  • Thamsa

    A few times I just switched the buttons or removed the collar to create a mandarin collar if I really wanted a new look.

  • OMG love all 3 looks!

  • Love these ways to repurpose your current wardrobe! Speaking of “Sustainable Fashion”… We are launching a site for sustainable designers this Fall!
    We are currently crowdfunding. You can check out our page here to contribute:

    Or follow us on Facebook!


  • Laura

    But how do you keep the shoulders down? Mine will just rise up on me all day I feel 🙁

  • Oh I love this!

  • Love that second look! I saw a similar top at Comme des Garcons just like that. But I have to say the first one is perfect <3


    ROUGH & TOUGH☯ // I`m on Bloglovin! // IG: @jiaachacruz

  • Dasha Akhten

    I like the backwards one the best..will be trying!

  • Lua Jane

    Those Derek Lam pants are gorgeous. And all I can think of now is how to raid my dad’s closet for a perfect striped buton down to wear. All these options as alluring as they look are great only on a very slender body such as Leandra’s.

  • Denise

    I ADORE all outfits! You look great.

  • jackson toom

    I just found such a similar looking shirts on!! SO HAPPY!

  • I’ve been obsessing over this shirt on your instagram! Love it as a skirt. What size did you get for the equipment shirt? Thanks! 🙂

  • Baanou

    Loving the stripes!


  • Caro

    I find this fantastic and very inspiring.

  • reversecommuter

    The Derek Lam pants are super duper cuteness but I have to admit I am all about trying the button down shirt skirt!

    • Leandra Medine

      NEED A TUTORIAL GIF? LUK. (as in: let us know)

      • reversecommuter

        Yes Pahleeeze!

  • Compared to these this is a simple idea, but I solved the problem of loving the print of a dress but hating the top by wearing a button down shirt and tying it at the waist.

  • hi, where is it from that red/basket bag you’re holding…. OMG i want one. please inform us. thks

  • Just two weeks ago I wore the Shirt-as-turtleneck to University. First thing another Student said to me: you look like crazy Edna broke out of the nuthouse. Oh thanks. This is fashion, you Idiot.

  • Faye

    She looks like she fell out of bed & that’s what happened with the first look. Second it looks like her 5 year old dressed her. The third she looks like she was late for work & threw something on ! I could see someone liking the looks but not for me. Someone is really bored & trying to be creative with the shirt. I love Frenchcuff shirts so I can wear them with vintage cuff links.

  • viki aminarti


  • sarah

    i have an oversized MiH oversized shirt that just looks too much and me, so I am so happy to see the skirt version where the collar essentially becomes the waist…..HO!!!!….yay for you. thank you for saving me her.x

  • Karel Paragh

    The shirt-as-turtleneck looks terrible