Shirty little secret

Everyone laughed when I said I was bringing dickeys back.

My blue dickey has turtles on it

Then they were all, hey, nice shirt! and I was like, WHAT SHIRT, BITCHES?


Dickeys. Cost effective. Space saving. Easy to make. Cute.



(I had just asked my mom if the pictures she was taking were going to highlight my dickey. You would giggle too.)

But wait, no! Dickeys are great! What’s the problem, man? Let’s come at it academically. Other than the name, what’s so funny about a dickey?

Dickeys in history

  • Exhibit a. Judge Harry T Stone from Night Court wore a dickey under his robe because he was a hopeless-but-lovable nerd. Comedy!
  • Exhibit b. Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation wore a dickey because everything he did was wrong. Comedy!
  • Exhibit c. The Harriet Carter catalog. Yikes.
  • Exhibit d. Steve Urkel. He didn’t wear a dickey as far as I know, but wouldn’t he just?

History has definitely taught us that dickeys are ridiculous. (I bet that’s even where the word “ridiculous” comes from!) Mind you, historically, history tends to be wrong about stuff like that (remember when sushi was OMG SO SUPER GROSS? Thanks, 80s TV). That’s why, when dickeys eventually reenter the fashion stratosphere, I’m pretty sure they won’t be called dickeys. I’m not sure what they’ll be called, other than hey, nice shirt!

My green dickey gives dresses a new look.

Kidding aside, I can’t think of a cheaper way to update the hell out of your wardrobe. Hideous shirts in cool prints are about a dollar at the thrift store, in abundance. They’re even cheaper at garage sales. And since only the neck has to fit, you’re not limited by size, style or cut. It doesn’t even have to be a ladies’ shirt. For every buck you drop on an ugly shirt, plus two minutes (five if you’re fancy) spent turning it into a dickey, you’ve just enhanced a bunch of outfits in your closet like crazy. And you’ll be able to layer, even when it’s not quite chilly enough for it—or when the thing you want to wear on top is too thin to hide a whole bulky shirt, like my blue dress.

And if you’re still too ashamed to wear a dickey, you don’t have to tell anybody! As long as you don’t do that pulling-your-dickey-out-of-the-top-of-your-shirt-to-surprise-people thing that I sometimes do (hopeless-but-lovable nerd exhibit a.2), no one will be the wiser.

How to make a dickey out of a shirt that doesn't work

How to turn an unsuspecting shirt into a dickey in practically no time at all

  1. Try it on and decide how long you want it to be. Mark the spot (or just remember which button it’s near.)
  2. Lay the shirt flat, then fold it in half with the front side out. Cut a curve, starting at the spot you decided on, all the way up to about half an inch in from the shoulder seam.
  3. You can be done now if you want, as long as your shirt was made from a fabric that isn’t going to unravel. But if you want to get fancy, turn the edges over, press or pin, and sew a little hem all the way around. Or use a serger to finish the edges. Or paint on some of that no-fray stuff they sell at the sewing store. Your dickey will last longer if you complete this step; plus, if your dickey should ever happen to peek out through an arm hole, people may be less likely to get suspicious if it’s at least got a finished edge.

Three awesome dickeys

These are my three favorite dickeys. The white one was a thrift store find in a print I love, but a size I couldn’t wear. The green one was from a garage sale, but was designed so strangely that it couldn’t accommodate boobs unless you had them in the back also. And the blue one has little turtles on it! (There’s a chance it might have been pajamas at one time. Don’t tell anybody.)


Laugh all you want, but guess how many of these suckers I can fit in my dresser, you guys.


Thanks to Donna for photographing my finished dickeys!

Kristina Ackerman

Kristina Ackerman is a busy freelance web designer, living and DIYing with her fella and their little fella in a cute old house in Atlanta, GA, USA.

  • Anonymous

    The nice thing about dickies is, you can add a “layer” without getting overly warm. 

    • Anonymous

      Totally! I have some sweater vests that are maybe a little bit too warm for this climate even on their own, but I love wearing them, so with a dickey, at least I don’t have to add a whole layer to them. It’s such a great trick.

  • 1000naturalshocks

    Just discovered your blog, can’t get enough of it! Seriously, I’ve spent all afternoon adding various projects and recipes of yours to my to-do list. And now I’m seriously considering wearing these…shirty thingies. Well played.

    I agree the name needs changing (the original name is prohibitively giggle-inducing). According to this other post I found while researching … dickeys (mmphksghb-ahahaha…!), apparently at least one store has begun calling them “toppings.” Which is also quite silly, but not *prohibitively* silly.

    • Anonymous

      Awesome! Yeah, I think society might be able to top “toppings” (or maybe it’s just me—I think of ice cream and pizza) but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Definitely.

  • Ahhhhmazing. Totally trying this right away, I have so many shirts that I always think “this would look sweet with a collared shirt underneath…” but it always looks bulky and feels uncomfortable. I’ve seen something similar on the urban outfitter’s website but I can’t remember what they called them… doesn’t matter though cause your version is way thriftier!

    • Rita S Mckinney


  • Tasheena Zickgraf

    I’m so on board with this. Can’t wait to be the one saying “WHAT SHIRT, BITCHES?!”

  • HT

    Let’s take “toppings” one step further and just call them sprinkles. That’s a very serious word for a very serious fashion statement.

  • lisagreenwriter

    You are hilarious, thanks for the inspiration (and simple instructions!)

  • Amanda Westerik

    You are a Genius.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed your article and I am in the dickey business! Trying to start a Dickey Renaissance – it’s not a taboo word ;0  Thank you for writing all of the great benefits of wearing one.  Your style is great!

    – Heather
    President & Founder

  • Sammie4884

    Awesome! I’ve been looking for “modesty” panels or dickeys for plus size and decided to just make my own. This isn’t anything I’d thought of! Perfect for those cute non plus size shirts in thrift stores!! I can hardly wait to get started! Thank You!

  • missstarlamae

    This is genius, and you completely crack me up.  I just found this blog, and I am loving it!

  • Eldoyle6

    I love your little shirty secret.  I have been sewing for many years and one of my favotite thing to make are collars.  After taking inventory of my shirt collection I realized the last thing I need is another shirt.  I also plowed through my fabric stash and found a million pieces to small for me to use especialy where I quilt no more.  I have always and only bought luxury fabric admitedly a textile snob.  I began making dickies by doing this I can  make collars to my hearts content with out filling my closet with unnecessary shirts.  They are wonderful.  I’ts a pleasure to practice deception.  The old adage “Dazle them with brillance and baffle them with bull shirt”  

    Stay well ans have fun, Dr. Doodle

    • Nia Lorre

      I had a similar thought. Bits of fabrics too small for anything else but too nice to toss need to be repurposed for this.

  • Colfar

    love it!

  • perfect fit!!!! looking perfectly awesome dear… beautiful.. 

  • perfect fit!!!! looking perfectly awesome dear… beautiful.. 

  • Sister P

    You are awesome! Love this! Pinned it!

  • kaththee

    You see dickies in expensive designer clothes all the time but of course they come with the sweater and button in and out. I think it is a great idea. I cannot stand wearing a shirt under a sweater. I feel like I am in a straight jackets, though I love the look. I have tons of beautiful blouses to convert. I think I will consult a professional though and let a seamstress do the measuring and cutting. I think matching cuffs would be cute too (very Japanese street fashion) as long as you don’t try to hard to make it look like they are real cuffs it would be adorable and modern. I think I will wear a matching stretch knit undergarment so I don’t end up with Cousin Eddies issue. Thank you! I had this idea floating in my head but I need someone to give me permission! :))

  • BB

    I will be having shoulder replacement surgery soon and just “remembered” dickeys. I will be repurposing some blouses to use with cardigan sweaters, and will be going to Goodwill this week for extras. Since I will not be able to wear a bra, I’m going to line the fronts for extra modesty, just a hint for others in the same circumstances.

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