Turn a Men’s Dress Shirt into a Girl’s Summer Dress! It’s fun, easy, and a great way to reuse one of Dad’s old shirts. A few of the versions we’ve done…..
Desert Beauty, Shirred Shirt Dress:
(more shirt dress versions at the end of this tutorial)
Skill Level: Easy
Men’s Dress Shirt
Fabric for waistband
1/4 inch elastic
Average Sewing Time: 2-3 hours
This Dress is very easy to make and holds sentiment, knowing it originated from a tired-out shirt in Dad’s closet. If you don’t have any dress shirts to spare, check your local thrift stores and garage sales. An old shirt comes to life as a bouncy summer dress.
Now let’s get started!
1. Create a Pattern.
I know this may sound difficult but it’s really an easy pattern, with two pieces. I have provided sketches here of the pattern I created for myself. These measurements work for a SKINNY 2T-3T (my daughter is a skinny 3 year old who fits both 2T and 3T). If your daughter is average size or larger, you MUST extend the length where noted. You can also adjust it to fit your own child by using one of their current shirts or dresses as a measurement guideline. Or if you already have a pattern you love, use that!
Draw this image (using a clothing item of your child’s as the guideline) onto a junk piece of fabric or a large piece of paper. You can buy fabric pens for marking your pattern but I always just use a Sharpie marker to draw directly on my fabric.
Next, cut out your two pattern pieces and make sure they’re what you want. You can even hold the pieces up to your child to see if it will fit around her ribcage, waist, shoulders, etc. Make sure you allow for about 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side. If the pattern pieces don’t work, draw it out again on another piece of junk fabric or paper, making adjustments.
FOR ADDITIONAL PATTERN DETAILS, SEE MY NOTES HERE.
Here are the two pattern pieces:2. Start with a Men’s Dress shirt (or if you’re going to make an infant size dress, use a boy’s dress shirt). The larger the shirt, the better because you will have more fabric to work with.
FOR ADDITIONAL DETAILS ON PICKING THE RIGHT SHIRT, SEE MY NOTES HERE.
First, carefully remove the front pocket (if there is one) with a seam-ripper. Then cut off the sleeves and collar:
Cut the sleeves in half. In this tutorial, we will use the top portion of the sleeve. But if you’d like to create to a sleeve like this, you will use the bottom portion (not discussed in this tutorial).
3. Cut out your Dress.
Lay your pattern pieces down on your dress shirt (which you created on a junk piece of fabric or paper). You will cut the front and back of the dress at the same time; they are the same pattern piece:
With a sharpie or fabric pen, trace around your pattern and draw directly on to the dress shirt:
Cut out the Dress front and back. Leave the length of the dress un-cut until the very end, when you can try it on for size:
Trace and cut out your sleeves. Make sure you cut TWO of these:
4. Start Sewing.
With right sides of the fabric together, pin the diagonal portion of one sleeve to the diagonal shoulder area of the dress:
and sew (using a 3/8 or 1/2 inch seam guideline on your machine. Make sure you use the same seam allowance on the entire project):
It will look like this when you turn it right-side out:
Repeat with the other sleeve:
And then sew both sleeves to the back of the dress in the same manner. When you’re done, it will look similar to a painting smock, like this:
If you have a serger, finish off all your seams, by serging down each one.
* If you don’t have a serger, you can zigzag your seams (to give strength to the seam and avoid frayed edges when the dress is washed) or you can just leave them as is:
5. Create a casing for the neck.
Serge all the way around the entire neck area to finish of the edge and prepare for the neck casing:
When you’re done, it will look like this:
* If you don’t have a serger, you will need to double-fold iron…meaning….
You will need to fold the fabric over 1/4 inch all the way around the neck area and iron, and then fold it over again and iron to create a casing for the elastic (so there are no raw edges):
You will be stringing elastic through the neck casing with a safety pin. So, before you iron the fabric over to create the casing, lay the pin on top as a guideline, to make sure you make the casing big enough for the safety pin to get through (otherwise this will become a very frustrating project)
Create the neck casing by ironing over:
(note: Because the neck area curves around, the casing won’t lay entirely flat in some spots when you iron it down. This is normal. Also, if the casing bunches up a bit when sewing that’s okay too. It will be on the inside and won’t be seen by others. And since this area will eventually be gathered with elastic, it won’t matter anyway!)
Pin the neck all the way around, making sure when you sew it down that you leave an opening for the elastic to go in and to come out. To help me remember this, I do double-pins at the beginning and end (as Start and Stop points). If you’re going to add a personalized clothing label, make your opening large enough to accommodate the label (sewn in later):
For great ADDITIONAL tips on sewing the neck casing see Sarah’s notes HERE on Presser Foot.
Start at the first double pins and sew all the way around the neck line and end at the other double pins:
Just FYI, you will be sewing the top front of the dress closed by doing this (so that the dress does not open all the way in front with the buttons). The dress front is more of a facade:
6. Sew the sleeves and dress sides.
Serge the edges of both sleeves:
* If you don’t have a serger, you will later do the double-fold iron method mentioned above with the neck line.
With right sides of the dress front and back together, pin the dress together on both sides, from the end of each sleeve all the way down the sides of the dress:
If you are going to add a small label to the side of the dress, insert it now about 2/3 of the way down the side of the dress:
and pin it in:
Start at the end of the sleeve and sew all the way down, curving and turning at the armpit area and continuing down the side of the dress:
Serge and finish off your seams and iron out your side seams. (It took me years to realize that you clothes will look FAR more professional if you iron all your seams and hems well)
7. Create the sleeve casing.
Iron each sleeve cuff over (using your safety pin as a measurement guideline).
* If you did not serge your sleeve edges (in Step #6 above), first iron over the sleeve 1/4 inch and then iron it over again the size of your safety pin:
Pin down the sleeve casing, leaving an opening for the elastic to be strung through, and mark the Start and Stop points with double pins:
Start with the first double pins and sew all the way around to the second set of double pins:
8. Create a waistband (optional but adds fun spice to the dress).
Decide where you want the waistband to be (best if it’s between buttons) and measure the width of the dress, adding two inches to each side of that measurement (if the dress is 15 inches across, you will cut your waistband 19 inches across, to allow for the A-line cut of the dress)
There are various ways to create the band but this is the method I used this time around. Your waist band will be about 2 inches wide and your fabric will be folded/doubled over.
So, you’re going to create two rectangles that measure 5 inches by 19 inches (or whatever the width of your dress was, plus 2 inches on each side). These measurements include room for a 1/2 inch seam:
Taking one of the rectangles, pin both sides together, lengthwise:
and sew the rectangle closed, creating a long tube. Repeat this step with the other rectangle too:
To turn each tube/band right-side out, attach a safety pin to one end:
Stuff the pin down into the fabric tube:
and continue to push it through:
Till it comes out the other end:
Do this to both waist band pieces and iron them flat:
Lay them on top of each other and on top of the dress, in the position you want them in:
Using a pen, draw a diagonal line down each side of the waist band as a guideline, so the band will fit exactly on top of the dress:
Using the drawn guidelines, sew the two waist band pieces together (sewing right on top of that line) and cut off the excess seam (no serging is needed here):
Turn the entire band right-side out and pull it over the dress and into position on the dress (with one part the band on the dress front and one part on the dress back):
This is not the easiest step, but slip your hand under the dress and carefully pin the band down, all the way around the dress, marking Start and Stop points for the the elastic to be strung through:
Your dress should look something like this:
First sew one side of the band down (again, leaving a small opening for elastic to go through):
Then sew the other side of the band:
And now you’re going to create three small casings in the waistband. I usually eyeball the width of these casings and sew a line 1/3 of the way in from each edge. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, use a fabric marker (one that will WASH out later) and mark a few guidelines all the way around to help you sew the lines.
*NOTE: if you’d like to leave the waist un-gathered like this, you can simply sew the waist band down on both edges and skip down to the next step.
(make sure you leave openings in each of these casings):
Your waist band should look something like this:
9. String the Elastic
Using 1/4 inch wide elastic, you will need to cut 5 pieces of elastic to finish off the entire dress. Lengths will vary, depending on the measurements of your child. So, use a current shirt of theirs or measure around their arms and waist, so you don’t make anything too tight.
The measurements I used are this:
Arms: 9 inches (2 pieces)
Waist: 20 inches (2 pieces)
Neck: 19 inches
Attach a safety pin the end of your elastic. I double-pin, to avoid the skinny elastic ripping free half-way through the project:
We will start with the waistband, pulling elastic through the two outer casings (there will not be elastic in the middle casing). Push the pin through the opening:
And pin the other end of the elastic to the end of the opening:
Push the safety pin and elastic all the way around the dress, till it comes out the other end. It can be hard to push through the seams and button front but wiggle and push the pin till it continues through:
Pin the beginning and end of the elastic pieces together to hold them till you’re ready to sew the elastic together:
When you’re done with the first casing, it should look like this:
Repeat this step with the other waist band casing:
Shift the gathered fabric around so it’s evenly distributed and at your desired width. Pull both elastic pieces together:
And sew them together using a zig-zag stitch for strength:
Then finish off your casings by stretching the fabric straight and sewing all the waist band casings closed:
When you’re done, it should look like this:
In the same manner, string the elastic through the sleeve and the neck casings. Sew the elastic closed with a zigzag stitch:
If you’re going to add a personalized label, pin it in to the neck opening and sew the casing closed with the label inside:
Pull the fabric straight and sew another line across the top of the label (sewing over the elastic inside) to keep the elastic and fabric from gathering in this part and warping the label:
When you’re done, it should look like this:
10. Create the Hem.
Try the dress on your little one and find a desired dress length. I prefer chunky 1 or 2 inch hems, so allow accordingly for the fabric to be folded over and ironed before cutting the length.
Starting at one end of the button front, serge all the way around the bottom of the dress (do NOT serge the dress closed. Leaving the bottom portion open makes it easier for playtime).
* If you do not have a serger, double-iron the hem by ironing over 1/4 inch first and then ironing over the desired hem length:
Pin down your hem and sew all the way around:
Sew off the small side opening near the button front:
I also prefer a double-stitch hem (looks more professional). This can be done with a double needle but I’m lazy and don’t want to change needles. So I use my machine foot as a guideline, putting the first line right next to the number 1 below. I then sew a second hemline all the way around:
So it looks something like this:
Iron your hem down one more time (it will look more professional):
AND…..You’re done! Congratulations!