Monday, January 24, 2011


I made my daughter a fairy (that really looked more angel) costume for Halloween out of a very large men's t-shirt, and I thought that with a few small alterations she would have a cute dress to wear to church or just around.  (She LOVES to wear a dress while she is climbing on the furniture!)  Well, a few snips here and a few seams there and I had  a cute little dress for her with a distinctly Jane Austen vibe working for it.  The dress is still just a little too big for her to wear while climbing the furniture, but that will change soon enough.

Here are the materials you need and the instructions for completing this project:

  • A large men's t-shirt (This shirt is size 4X with long sleeves.)
  • 1 package 1/4" elastic
  • Satin ribbon 2" width about 3 yards
  • Matching thread

Measure across the top of the shirt to determine your cutting line.  Do not measure more than 1" past the armhole seams of the t-shirt or you will have big bunches of fabric in the armpits of you finished dress.  My cutting line is 3 1/2" down from the top of the front collar, 5 1/2" down from the top of the back collar, and 1" past each of the shoulder seams.

Cut the new neckline and set aside the extra fabric.   

 Fold over the newly cut neckline and pin to make a casing.  The casing will not be smooth in spots because you are making a larger edge of fabric match a smaller edge.  You will need to do the best you can to ease the edges together.  The finished piece will be tightly gathered so the easing will not be noticeable.  Leave a gap (about 2") while you are pinning to allow for feeding the elastic.  I always pin this gap with a large "X" so I don't accidentally sew over my opening (Before you ask, YES, I have done that before). 

Sew around your casing leaving the gap open to thread elastic.

Let me take the opportunity to introduce you all to my sewing machine.  My parents bought it literally at a fire sale held by the local school district nearly thirty years ago. 

It was old as dirt back then and decorated with various bits of graffiti proclaiming the undying love of faceless youth throughout the ages.
BUT  This machine is a BERNINA and as such is a total workhorse.  It gets a tune up every now and again and just keeps on sewing.  AWESOME!

Thread your elastic through the opening left in the casing.  I always attach a large safety pin to the end of the elastic to aid in the threading.  I attach the opposite end of the elastic to the piece with another smaller safety pin to keep that end from being pulled into the casing while I am working (Before you ask YES I have done that too).

 Adjust the neck opening so that the gathers are even and the opening is well fitted around the neck of the intended wearer of the dress.

Trim the extra elastic and sew the ends of the elastic together.  Then sew the hole in the casing closed. 
Put the dress back on your model and measure for the sleeve length.  The closer you cut to the wrist band the longer or potentially puffier your finished sleeves will be.

Once the sleeves are cut, fold, pin, and sew sleeve casings following the above directions.  The sleeves are not as difficult to pin as the neckline because the taper in the sleeves is not as drastic.  I chose to make a long-sleeved dress, but it works just as well with shorter sleeves. Feed the elastic through the casing, adjust, and secure. 

Lastly, attach the ribbon to the dress under the arms of the dress.  There is no need to hem the dress because the bottom hem of the t-shirt becomes the bottom hem of the dress. 

Step back and admire your handiwork.  Add  some sassy accessories to complete the look.  Look out furniture, here she comes!


back view

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If you enjoyed this sewing post you might enjoy these other posts about sewing...Make Your Own Snuggle Blanket, Upcycled Easter Outfit, and Sleep Shorts from Old Sheets.

Thanks for visiting!


Kristie said...

I hadn't seen this one before, TOTALLY cute!!!!! Love it!!!!! You are awesome, my dear!!

Jenn Erickson said...

What a beautiful little dress! Great tutorial and excellent upcycle of a men's shirt -- from big and masculine to sweet and feminine!

Love your sewing machine too! Great history, character and construction. Everything these days is plastic. It's always validating to see older items (that were made better) outlasting all of the new junk!

So great to have you link-up again at Rook No. 17!


LV said...

What will they think of next. You did a great job making this little dress.