How to make a ruffle for a pirate shirt

Written by michelle labbe | 13/05/2017
How to make a ruffle for a pirate shirt
Pirate shirts often have elaborate ruffles at the collar. (Wikimedia Commons)

The swashbuckling pirates romanticised in legend are all about show and performance. Pirate costumes reflect that, with their gaudy earrings, eye patches, curved swords, long hair and, of course, their ruffled, puffed-sleeve pirate shirts. Assembling a pirate costume requires a variety of accessories to complete the distinctive look, and a pirate shirt helps to seal the deal. Start with a simple, loosefitting shirt and add a ruffled collar to make it fit to be worn by a pirate.

Create a dropped collar for the loosefitting shirt if it doesn't have one already. A dropped collar is one with a low neckline, either in a V-shape or a long slit down the front of the shirt. The ruffles on a pirate-style shirt run along either side of a dropped collar. To make a dropped collar, measure, mark and cut a straight line 12.5 to 25 cm (5 to 10 inches) long down the centre front of the shirt, starting at the neckline. If you prefer, make two diagonal lines and cut out a triangle of fabric to make a V-necked pirate shirt.

Turn the raw edges of the fabric over 6 mm (1/4 inch). Pin down, and stitch a straight line over the folded fabric to finish the raw edges.

Measure and mark rectangular strips at least 8.7 cm (3 1/2 inches) wide, or wider if you prefer a wider ruffle, out of the white fabric. Mark five strips, each about 37.5 cm (15 inches) long. Cut out, pin the ends of the strips together, and sew to form one long strip of fabric. The length of the strip depends on the size of the shirt and how small or large you want the ruffles to be. Be generous with the length. You'll be able to cut the strip down to size later.

Gather the top edge of the long fabric strip. Run a basting stitch along the top raw edge of the fabric strip with the sewing machine. To baste on your machine, set the stitch length to a long stitch and do not backstitch at either end. When done, pull the thread to gather the pieces into ruffles. Tighten the thread to create many small ruffles, or leave it loose for softer, larger ruffles.

Pin the ruffle to the neckline and collar of the shirt. Adjust the length of the ruffle if necessary. Trim if you have excess fabric, or gather it further to make it fit.

Stitch the ruffle in place. Fold the top of the neckline over the raw edge of the ruffle and pin in place. Sew the fold closed, running the stitch close to the edge of the fabric.


Make the shirt more pirate-like with a few extra finishing touches. Create layers of ruffles if desired for a more flamboyant effect. Add ruffles to the sleeves, or puff and gather the sleeves.

Things you need

  • Loose-fitting white shirt, long-sleeved
  • Measuring tape
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • White fabric, 112.5 cm (45 inches) wide
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Pins

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