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Re-Purposing: T-Shirt into Dress

Does your little girl have an old T-shirt?
One that is too short?
Stained on the belly?
Has a rip right through the fabric?
No worries……turn it into a sweet pleated dress.

With a nice big pleated waist line…
And a nice chunky bow to cinch it all in.
And yes, this dress is perfect for dancing…
and flapping like a bird…
Or just plain ‘ol being a kid…
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If interested, I bought this fabric at ‘The Fabric Store‘.
(Riley Blake Designs Umbrella Tops in White here.)

Perfect for this time of year.
Ready to make your own?
First, grab an old knit Tshirt and decide where you want the top of the waist line to hit your little girl.  Place a pin there and measure down about 2 inches.  Then cut the shirt off there.
***Don’t throw the rest of the shirt away….I’ll show you how to use it on a different project.
Then cut two large rectangles for the skirt section of the dress.  My two pieces were 33 inches wide x 25 inches long.  The front of my shirt was 11 inches across, so I tripled that and cut a piece that was 33 inches wide.  For the length, I decided that I needed the bottom part of the dress to be 21 inches long from the top of the pleats, down to the bottom of the dress.  And then I needed an extra 2 inches at the top and 2 inches at the bottom……so that’s 25 inches long all together.
Make sure to cut 2 of these pieces.
I decided to make french seams on this dress for the side seams.  (But you can always just do a side seam and then zig-zag on the inside, to keep it from fraying.  French seams always look nicer though.)
To do this, place your two pieces together with wrong sides together, then sew these two pieces together along the side (25 inch side in my case) using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Then flip the fabric the other way and enclose the raw edges of that seam (iron first to help it lay flat) and sew a 1/2 inch seam allowance with the right sides together.
Then open it back up.  Those raw edges are nice and enclosed……no loose strings or edges.  Do the same thing with the other side…..attaching the other side pieces together with a nice french seam.  Iron both side seams open and flat.
Now turn the skirt section inside out and then fold over the top of the skirt section a 1/4 inch, then another 1/4 inch and sew into place.  Then fold the top down 1 1/2 inches and iron flat.
Then, turn it right side out and start making pleats along the front piece of the skirt.  Use pins to keep the pleats in place.  And keep the top edge of the fabric (where the fold is) lined up and even.
Here’s the top view of those pleats.
Here is the view from the back side.  Nice and neat.
You’re going to have to play around with the size of your pleats.  But by cutting out a piece of fabric that was 3 times as wide as the final width, that should give you enough fabric to play with and make the skirt kind of full.   Once the front section (from side seam to side seam) is the same width as your shirt, you’re done.
And once the front matches up, do the same to the back.
Then make a seam 3/4 of an inch from the top of the pleats…..securing all of the pleats in place.
Then pin the bottom section of the dress to the shirt, 2 inches from the bottom of the shirt (because earlier you made sure to keep an extra 2 inches to the length of the tshirt, right?)  Pin all the way around the shirt, attaching the pleated section to the shirt.
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Then sew right on top of that seam, attaching the pleated section to the dress.
Now you’re going to make a tube that will be used for you tie.  The dress I made fits about a 4T size and I wanted the tie to be about 1 3/4 inches wide………..then ended up being about 73 inches long.  So I cut a piece of fabric that was 4 x 74 inches (and had to actually sew two pieces of fabric together to get a piece that was that long).  Then I made the tube just like this tutorial here.  Then I ironed it flat.
Next, I placed the center of the tie right on top of that seam that attached the pleat section to the shirt.
And I pinned the tie in place and sewed right along the top of the tie, very close to the edge.  I only sewed from one side seam of the dress to the other side seam.
Then I made sure the pleats were laying flat and pinned the bottom of the tie down to the dress.  Make sure to include the bottom of the shirt (that’s in the inside) while you pin, so that it will be included in your seam.
Then I sewed along the sides and the bottom of the tie, securing the tie to the dress.
Then I tucked in the raw edges of the ends of the ties towards the inside, about a 1/4 inch……..and sewed them shut.  Nice and simple. 

Lastly, I folded the bottom edge under a 1/2 inch and then another inch, sewed it in place, then ironed it flat.  (But make sure to try it on your little girl to see how long you’d like it…..then hem the dress.)

And that’s it.
A new look for that old wrecked Tshirt.
One that is perfect for hopping and dancing……
Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. linda R says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I made this for my 4 yr old granddtr. I miscalculated the yardage I would need for the skirt and only got 2/3 yard. :( So I had to improvise and just gather instead of pleat the skirt. I used a summer t shirt from last yr that I had embellished to wear with shorts. What a great way to get more wear out of kids clothes. My lil grand wore her dress to school the very next day. I’ll be making another version of this for the summer! Thanks again…:)

  2. Kirsty says:

    Fantastic tutorial, I have made my daughter a lovely dress for Christmas day :) really clear instructions – thank you :)

  3. jillian says:

    what did you do with the remainder of the tshirt fabric? I cant find it :(

  4. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for the fabulous tutorial! I stumbled across it on Pinterest the day before my daughters birthday and was able to whip up a quick just-like-me dress to match the American Girl doll “Josephina” that her great aunt bought her. (Josephina comes dressed in a high waisted/short sleeved white blouse with a long red pleated skirt and brown sash–perfect!!!) I don’t blog so I can’t link you to it but I just wanted to thank you for your part in making my little girls birthday extra special!

  5. Naomi says:

    Hi there. How would you finish the ends of the belt? I have been looking through your archives and other belts and headband projects and am not sure how you make a nice edge once you have put the tube right-side out…do you fold inward then top stitch? Thanks! I am seriously obsessed with your site and sewing projects!

  6. Barb Fandrick says:

    Thanks so much for the great tutorial! I love the size 3 I just finished with a white T that had some bling and purple polka dot tuti-fruiti fabric.

  7. KathScraps says:

    I just made 2 of these – matching – for my granddaughters and everyone LOVES them – the girls love to twirl in them. Than you so much for the tutorial!

  8. Emma Fields says:

    I’m 15 and I made this is less than 4 hours! :) It’s easy and cute!

  9. Bek @ Just For Daisy says:

    Can’t remember if I showed you the ones that we made! :) But I love love love this dress pattern and linked to you from my blog post! :) Thanks for your fab tutorials once again! x

    1. Ashley says:

      Turned out darling…….glad it worked out so well for you! :)

  10. MICHELLE KELLY says:

    Really cute and super versatile! Thank you for the thorough tuturial.. the pics really help! :)

  11. Anand Mistry says:

    You have asked 4 questions in beginning of post! I’m yes with all question and can’t wait to drill down more on this sewing tutorial. I will draft at my own and eager to re-publish on my blog with new photographs. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Kim @ seven thirty three says:

    Thank you for this! I fell in love with it and had to make one for my daughter. It was very easy and turned out PERFECT. You can see mine here:

  13. Kim @ seven thirty three says:

    I absolutely LOVE this dress and will definitely be making one for my three year old! Thanks so much! :)

  14. Jennifer says:

    Just finished blogging about my version of this dress – – just thought I’d share. Thanks for the tutorial!! And all the other lovely tuts on your wonderful blog :-)

  15. Chelsea! says:

    I just finished this as my first project on my first sewing machine ever! It’s so cute I made it for my 3 month old. I woke her from her slumber just to put it on her and now shes a very grumpy baby in a very cute dress =] Thanks for the great tutorial Ashley!!!

  16. Michaela says:

    Thanks so much for the wonderful tutorial! I wanted to share with you the dress I made with it. Thanks so much for sharing!

  17. Alison says:

    Hi! I LOVE this tutorial! Do you mind if I “pin” it to Pinterest? I’m sure others would love to see it, too! Thanks! :)

  18. heatherUVA says:

    Love this! Making it for my sister for her birthday! What kind of fabric should I use? Like 100% cotton? She is turning 18 and I don’t want the dress to be see-through-ish.
    Thanks!! :o)

  19. Katie says:

    So stinkin’ adorable! Found you through pinterest and I just put together this gorgeous little dress for my daughter (6yrs) using a .50 thrift store shirt and some fabric I had hanging around the house! Put it together in an evening (and i’n not really a sewer!)
    Thanks for the great tutorial!
    (She’s spinning around making her skirt poof out as I speak!)

  20. Amy says:

    Hi, I LOVE this cute little dress and tutorial! I’m going to make one for my adopted sister and probably one for me! I just found your site, can you link to the project you referred to for the rest of the t-shirt, please?

  21. Tiffany Brassard says:

    You are awesome….Just saying!

  22. Sudha says:

    Hi there,

    I am Sudha all the way from India. I have been following your blog forever now, silently. You inspired me a whole lot. And this dress was mind-blowing. I dont know whether the outfit is great or ur sugarball better. I was so in love with this pattern and had it bookemarked for ever. i finally got to make it for my girl, and i love it. Do have a look at it and let me know if i did justice to ur tute.

    Keep making, keep inspiring.


  23. Alexis says:

    I love it!!! I will have to try this!!!

  24. Amy says:

    I am in the process…..well, just beginning the process of making this dress for my daughter to wear for her birthday party. I have a question about the 1/4 inch and 1/4 inch seam at the top of the skirt. Could I just serge that seam instead of doing the double 1/4 inch seam and then fold it 1 1/2 inches down? Also, where did you combine the two strips of fabric for the sash to make the seam less noticable? Thanks for you help!!!

  25. izzy says:

    so so so so so cute and so easy i

    ps. i love your blog

  26. Kristin says:

    I’m pretty sure my daughter needs one of these dresses. I was recently remarking on the fact that I don’t think she has even ONE unstained shirt. Maybe they all need to be turned into dresses?!

  27. Lucy says:

    I followed your tutorial and made one of my own! Thanks for the excellent tutorial. I used cupcake fabric in mine for a 2 year-old on her birthday.

  28. Jenny Richins says:

    This is so cute! Thanks again for a great tutorial. I am wondering if you would be interested in making an adult version. I think they call them Paper Bag skirts? Anyway, I would love one for myself. Just a thought.

  29. Lindsay says:

    You just gave me a way to save the Gymbo Smart Kitties shirt that I though my daughter had ruined with an ink pad. Thanks!

  30. Ashley says:

    Ha…..I completely forgot about the bottom half of the shirt. I had an idea for it but then hopped onto the next project. I'll have to pull that out and show you what you can do with it!

    Thanks for he reminder!

  31. Katie Meadows says:

    Just finished making this dress today and it is awesome! I can't wait for my daughter to wear it, she's in love with it. However, my friend and I wondered the whole time we were making this…what is going to be done with the bottom half of the t-shirt?? Do you have a use for it yet?

  32. Melinda says:

    Stumbling onto your blog has been inspiring!! Being a beginner at this whole sewing thing, I was excited and nervous to try this out. I did though, and it turned out wonderfully!!!! Thank you! Thank you!

  33. Amie says:

    I'm planning on making a special christmas day dress formy daughter using this tutorial. perfectly perfect.

    love love love your blog

  34. Sharon says:

    this is really cute and seems easy… hope to try it out.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I love this dress!!! I made two of them today. One for my 3 year old and one for my 4 year old. They love them!! They picked the fabric they wanted to use. It was very easy to follow your directions, thanks for sharing this.

  36. AAmores Crafts&Stuff says:

    I love it! Love the fabric,the model! I can't wait to make it! Thank you so much.

  37. AAmores Crafts&Stuff says:

    I love it! The fabric is sooo nice! I can't wait to make it !

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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