Dressing up the gun show: How to add a rolled cuff embellishment to a men’s shirt

Guestpost by Liz Gubernatis on Jul. 12th

completed cuff

Long sleeves aren't always a good plan for a man's shirt. Most nice dress shirts seem to come in that too short or too long sleeve, which makes my husband nuts. Rolling the cuff can look messy as the night goes on, but here's a way to find the sweet spot on sleeve length and make it appear effortless. Altering a shirt this way makes a button-down more comfortable for the laid-back guy looking to dress up the gun show.

Materials and tools

  • One button down shirt (that fits comfortably through the elbow at least)
  • Chalk or safety pin
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Matching or coordinating thread
  • Needle or sewing machine (I tend to machine sew, but this is easy enough to hand-stitch)
  • Optional: Decorative buttons (2)

Special Note Regarding Shirts: Before you cut into an expensive shirt, I highly recommend investing in a practice shirt from the thrift store. Get the hang of it on a shirt that costs a dollar and you won't be cussing as much later. Wait, is it just me that cusses when I have to pick stitches out and start over? Sadfais.


Step 0: Before you do anything, iron your shirt sleeves so you get a nice, crisp crease down the side — this will make marking and stitching everything SO much easier. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT SKIP the ironing. For realz. First try, I skipped the iron. OMG wonkysauce. Threw it in a corner. Cried. Don't make my mistake!

Step 1: Put the shirt on and mark your ironed crease with chalk or use safety pins to indicate the line where you want the shirt to cuff to when complete. Try to match on both sleeves. Eyeballing here is close enough.

Pin where you want the sleeve to end

Step 2: Remove shirt. Hold sleeves together at the shoulder seam to check for uniformity. When you're happy your marks are even, measure 5" from your chalk mark/pin. Mark this measurement and then check both sleeves again. When you're happy they're even, go ahead and cut sleeves off here.

Cut off remaining sleeve

Step 3: Pick the stitches out of each cuff with a seam ripper (or patiently with a needle and scissors).

Pick the sleeves

Step 4: Snip the button off each cuff. You can reuse these or add different, decorative buttons later.

buttons removed

Step 5: Carefully stitch the cuffs closed again. This is a good time to add any coordinating thread colors or decorative stitches. For a subtler look, go for matching thread and an even, straight stitch.

restictch cuffs

Step 6: Hem sleeves, folding over ¼ inch, then folding again and pin in place.

fold over twice and pin to make hem

Then stitch down the edge, for a clean line.

stitch hem close to edge

You CAN stop here — if you just wanted a new hemmed sleeve edge, you're good to go.

finished hem

Step 7: Remember that first chalk/pinned line you drew? Double check for uniformity on both sleeves again. Roll up the sleeves to that line. Then measure up the sleeve from this line 1/2 inch. Mark and stitch your buttons on.

measure half inch up from cuff and stitch button on

Step 8: Button on the cuff.

buttonhole on cuff buttons onto the freshly sewn button

Step 9: Cut the cuff twice as long as from the buttoned cuff to the end of the rolled sleeve. Then unbutton the cuff again.

Step 10: Fold over half an inch of the cuff. On the inside of the sleeve, centered half an inch from the sewn on button, pin the cuff, enclosing the raw edge between the sleeve and the cuff.

pin cuff to inside of sleeve near button

Step 11: From the inside, stitch the cuff to the shirt sleeve being careful to backstitch at the edges for a good hold. (We're almost done!)

stitched down as seen from the inside

Step 12: Roll up your sleeves, button your cuffs and Voila! Time to try it on and flex. Oh yeah — that's one dressed up gun show!

gun show!


Obviously this is not *just* for men's shirts, but I think it's important to explore embellishing menswear. This is a great fix for lots of ladies' shirts and children's shirts, too. Works on turning too-short pants into on-purpose rolled shorts, too.

This is a good look foundation for adding steampunk details, anachronistic historically inspired details, and rockabilly effects, too. Some funky stitches, neat buttons, and if you're feeling inspired, a cuff from a totally different shirt can add a lot of personalization to an otherwise basic look.


If your cuff doesn't seem long enough to go over your rolled sleeves, roll them three times instead of twice — the shorter distance your cuff needs to fold should be fixed.

If you choose new decorative buttons the won't go through the button holes of your cuff, one option is to just sew them on right to/through the cuff's general buttonhole area.

Your Turn!

Will you add this cuff embellishment to a shirt or shirts for your wedding? Tell us how you'll make this look your own in the comments below.

Read more posts about: ,

About Liz Gubernatis

Liz is a Pepsi addict who married her sword-wielding urban Viking (who probably inspired the “What’s in YOUR wallet?” commercials) on 1-1-11. Originally from Nebraska, she spent some time on the East Coast but left before it made her hard-hearted, landing back in the Midwest, where she thrives. She sews, paints, cooks, bakes, plays with paper, computers and cats, loves chocolate, peanut butter, and popcorn, and frequently purges her apartment to make room for more fabric, craft supplies, and projects to play with.