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Re-Purposing: Tshirt into a Dress with Braided Collar


Many times, I like to re-purpose from old clothes in my “donate to the thrift store” pile.  But sometimes, I walk through the store and see an article of clothing on clearance…….and decide that the fabric used would be perfect to re-purpose.  Especially when the piece of clothing is cheaper than buying un-cut fabric.  (And sometimes I wish clothing stores would provide the fabric prints they have, by the yard.  Especially all those great knit fabrics that fabric stores seem to be lacking.)


So, when I saw some little knit shirts at Wal-Mart (on my way to buy cough drops…..anyone else plagued with a cold this summer?)………I knew I wanted to use it to make a little dress.

(And plus, using the bottom hem of the shirt as the hem for the dress, cuts out a step.)


Comfy and light and summery.  Perfect for my littlest one.

Little Felt Flower in her hair,  tutorial here.



No need for buttons/snaps/closures…………because the braided collar stretches nicely, right over her head.



You may recognize this 5 strand braid from here.  Yep, it’s made just like the headband.



And really, jersey knits seem to be the most cozy thing to put on her soft skin.



Oh, did you recognize those ruffly bloomers?  Yep, those are the same ones from this tutorial.




And don’t forget to throw in your tag, making it official.  And one-of-a-kind.  (More on my labels here.)



Nothing beats making a new little dress for a few dollars.  Completely satisfying.



Go on and give it a try. Especially if you have a few items you’re getting rid of anyway.



Want to make your own little dress with a braided collar?


First of all, you’ll need to find a knit Tshirt (mine is jersey knit… it a bit more stretch) that you want to cut up.


However, you can always start from scratch and use some great knit fabric from your fabric stash.   But if you use an old Tshirt, you can use the bottom hem of the shirt as the bottom hem of your dress.  Nice and easy.


***These Tshirts I have been using are the softer, stretchier Tshirts that are usually made for women. You know, the knits shirts that are usually more fitted and snug. A regular old Tshirt (like you would get if you were playing on the city league softball team or something) are a bit stiffer and will still work.  But they aren’t as stretchy and semi-flowy and cozy.  So I really like using these stretchy jersey knits shirts best for re-purposing.   Jersey knit stretches more and is a bit softer.  And when you cut a strip of it (along the stretch of the fabric) and then pull it at each end, it will stretch out a bit and curl along each long edge.  A regular old Tshirt won’t stretch and curl the same way.  Now, go run your hands along the shirts in your closets and drawers and you’ll see what I mean.


Place a dress that already fits your little girl (or granddaughter/niece/friend) on top of the Tshirt and line up the bottom of the dress with the bottom of the shirt.  Make sure you make both layers even, as you will be cutting through both pieces of fabric at once. Now, cut a slight A-line shape for the sides and then rounded holes for the arms.  (Use the dress as a guide.)  Don’t cut the dress straight off at the top…….give it a slight curve so that it will curve with the rounded braided collar.  Make sure that you add some extra width to the dress for seam allowances and also because the dress will be gathered in at the top.

After this picture, I made the dress slightly less of an A-line at the sides, because it made the sides too pointy at the bottom.  My final A-line was just very slight.  You could cut yours with straight lines at the sides and that would work too……..but I liked just a bit of an A-line better.  It gave the dress a bit more shape.


Now, you have a front piece and a back piece to your dress.

Next, place the front piece and back piece together with right sides together and sew along both sides of the dress…….using a zig-zag stitch, a serger, or other knit friendly stitches (like the one here).



Now, cut two 1.5 inch wide strips from your Tshirt scraps……..make them as long as the arm hole opening.  Fold the strips in half lengthwise, then open them up and fold each outer edge in towards that center fold.  Iron flat.  (Just like bias tape)



Now, use these strips and sandwich them around the arm hole openings…..finishing off the raw edges.  Just I did to finish off a quilt (like I did here) or an apron (like I did here).  Sew slowly as you sew around the curve……….lifting your needle and re-adjusting your needle presser foot as needed.  (And be sure you are catching the folded fabric on the bottom side too.



Now, make a basting stitch a 1/4 inch from the top curved edge of the front and back of the dress.  Gather in the fabric until it’s about as wide as your little girl is across her chest, in between her arm pits.  (Need help with gathering?  Click here.)



Now, make 2 more strips of folded fabric, just like you did above…….but cut these strips 2 inches wide.  And make them slightly wider than your gathered front and back.  Sandwich your strips along the top, just like you did with the arm holes…….making sure to hide your basting stitch and gathers.  Pin in place, leaving about an inch at each end to hang off.




Sew each strip into place, making sure to catch all of your layers and folds in your seam.  Then tuck under each end towards the inside and stitch in place.




Now, make a 5 strand braid (or a 3 strand words too), making sure to cut the fabric with the stretch of the fabric, so that the finished braid will stretch and will fit over the child’s head.  Full tutorial on the 5 strand knit braid, found here.  Turn the braid into a circle, finishing it off like the headband tutorial noted.


**Don’t braid super tight, or it won’t allow for enough stretch.


To be sure that your braided circle is large enough, try fitting it over the child’s head.  See if the braid falls onto the chest where you think the neck-line should go……and isn’t too big either.



Now, fold the braided circle in half and attach the center of the front half of the circle to the top edge of the front of the dress, right on top of the strips of fabric that you sewed in place.  Do this step by hand, using a needle and thread.  Curve the braid along the top edge of the dress and it will stay in place and continue to curve nicely.  (Unless you braided too tight, then it will have a hard time curving.)  Now attach the back half of the circle to the outside of the back of the dress, right along the neck line.  (Need help with hand-stitching?  Click here.)



Be sure that there is extra braid at each side, to fit nicely over the shoulders.


Another note, be sure that the back of the circle is lined up with the back of the dress.



And that’s it.


Your little dress is complete.  And ready to be worn.




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. Heidi H says:

    I thought this braid would be difficult, but it was so easy! The pictures were really great! Made it a breeze. The dress was a cinch, too. Thank you!!

  2. Báró Júlia says:

    Very cute. Great idea!

  3. Anne says:

    Looks great! I love creating dress for my daughter. Great tutorial indeed!

  4. Janelle says:

    Thank goodness for PINTEREST (this is how I found you) because I absolutely LOVE your site! Your tutorial’s are some of the best I have seen. Thank you for sharing your craftiness and all the extra steps you throw in along the way. It makes it really easy to follow along!! I just wanted to let you know that you are doing a great job, thanks again! Your fellow pinner and crafter.

  5. moira says:

    This is so cute! (and your kid is cute too!) Does any one have any tips fore making this in a larger (adult/teen) size?

  6. Lucky says:

    I will do this tonight, not for a kid but for my self!

  7. Danielle says:

    I just made my first one and I’m sooooo greatful for your site. I wanted to share a picture of it but I cant figure out how.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the tutorial for this dress and for the braid. I re-fashioned a child’s tshirt into a onesie and added the the braid to the top like this dress.

  9. Ellie says:

    Found an old post I love. Are you sure you’re not a Grandma!? You use my favorite words “soft” and”cozy” a lot and I love that in you! I’m a Grandma and don’t like anything rough or sharp on little kids clothes or skin. My mom taught me well! My kids always say “you’re too fussy mom”, but I’ll have you know I’ve cut out E.V.E.R.Y. razor-blade label out of my kids and grandkids clothes! lol! When they get older and want to wear clothes with sharp labels and plastic thread poking into them, then that’s their choice, right? But right now they’ll be “cozy” :)

  10. Shin eun kyung says:

    I love it.
    I can do it ^^*

  11. люда says:

    Здравствуйте! Ваши работы и мастер-классы просто бесподобны!!! А маленькая дочка ваша и моя просто безумно похожи.

  12. Sarah says:

    I’m going to make this this afternoon for my daughter!! Soooooo cute! I have to ask how did you get that super cute felt flower to stay in your daughters hair? My lil’ lady has little to no hair as well & I would Love to be able to put something in her hair to stop all the strangers from asking how old my “son” is! Lol!!

  13. Mary says:

    Thank you for such a perfectly darling idea! I do have a question though . . . how do you make the bias tape without making yourself nuts? Because the edges curl, I can not get it to iron flat for the life of me . . . Any tips or tricks?

  14. Eva Scott says:

    Ashley, I always love your tutorials! I finally did one for my 8 month old. I’ve only been sewing for almost two years but your tutorials are always so clear and easy to understand. Thank you SO much for your website. You are full of inspiration! Here’s my dress if you’d like to take a peak. :)

  15. Anonymous says:

    That is so cute!

  16. Evelyn says:

    I love y our ideas! I think I’ve bookmarked about 10 projects to try! You’re very inspirational!

  17. Kate says:

    This is so cute! I just included it in my “Top 10 Things to Make Out of T-Shirts” post @ feel free to stop by and grab a “featured” button!

  18. JodieT says:

    YOU ARE THE MOST CREATIVE AND TALENTED PERSON I KNOW, truly you are. Thank you so much for all your gifts.

  19. Hilary says:

    How do you get that flower to stay on your baby’s head? I love it!

  20. Pinky says:

    Pretty dress.. loved it.. I made the same for my little one…
    the link to my blog:

  21. firstalina says:

    Hi Ashley,
    Thank you for the tutorial, it’s so cute. I made one for my little girl and posting it on my blog. I linked the blog to yours, I hope you don’t mind. This is the link to my blog

    Cheers, Ita

  22. Connie says:

    Wow! How inspiring! You did such a beautiful tutorial too! I’m going to share a link to this in the future. Love it.

  23. Rachel says:

    super adorable :)

  24. Emily says:

    I had to laugh when I saw this post because I have 3 XXL walmart shirts in my craft box right now, waiting to be little girl dresses. (I think our baby girls were born within days of each other.) Here’s one of the repurposing dress ideas that worked really well for me. You might like it.

  25. Jennifer says:

    This is so adorable! You are so talented.

    I hope you are saving all the clothes that you make for your munchkins. I have a Christmas dress that my grandmother made for me when I was little. I cherish it because I know it was made with love. Thanks for another great post Ashley! :0)

  26. Rebecca says:

    I made this dress last night and it is such a satisfying little project! Thanks!

  27. Anonymous says:

    So cute! And you little girl is adorable!

    Not that I think you copied the idea, but it’s very similar to Dana’s Warhol dress over at MADE. Both are darling though!

  28. nativemadridian says:

    I REALLY love this one! Thank you so much for your inspiring tutorials and clear tips & tricks! I think I might have to try this one for at least one of my girls sometime very soon!

  29. mindy says:

    I think I’m gonna make these for my girls tomorrow. Thank you so much for taking so much time to inspire the rest of us.

  30. Sara B. says:

    This is such a great and adorable idea! I don’t have any kids (yet), but this gives me a reason to hold on to some of my husband’s shirts that he has grown out of. Thanks!

  31. carolyn says:

    Genial ¡¡¡¡ gracias por todas tus ideas, ademas son hermosas ¡¡¡

  32. Meg says:

    Can I just say that you might just have the cutest baby girl in the WORLD? Oh ya, I love the dress too. :) Thanks for sharing all of your awesomeness with the rest of us! You are on the very top of my list of favorite crafty websites!

  33. Anonymous says:

    CUTE dress!!! I have two boys, but maybe someday I’ll get a chance to dress up a baby girl :) Your little one is so adorable, oh my goodness!

    1. Melissa says:

      haha, didn’t mean to leave it anonymous :)

  34. Julie says:

    SOOO Cute and I love the quilt she is laying on. I have to check that hair barrette too because my little girls never get hair until about 2! LOVE IT!

  35. dawn says:

    You know, I bet this would also work for an older girl, making it into a shirt instead! I’m excited to try! :)

  36. yolanda says:

    I really hate to say I have two boys!! delicius dress! thanks for sharing!

  37. Emily says:

    I say your post about the braid the other day…thought, I remember doing that years ago… when I saw this today, I had to stop what I was doing and try the braid right then since now this dress is heading to the top of my to-do pile! Love it!

  38. delight says:

    how cute! I’m gonna try it. thanks!

    …PS. I like how your babys ears aren’t pierced.

  39. Jenny Richins says:

    oh my heck! she is so cute. i love the chubbiness around her arms.
    great tutorial.thanks.

  40. Becki says:

    That looks really easy and so adorable! I’m so glad you have a cute tutorial for babies with very little hair. Mine has has much as yours does. The dress and the hair clip are perfect to try out for my own little one. I’m off to find a t-shirt to redo! Thank you!

  41. louise says:

    This is adorable!! If I had a little girl, I don’t think I’d ever have to buy clothes. i’d just be making them!! another great dress idea.

  42. Andrea says:

    Too cute!! I just can’t wait to get my new sewing machine!! P.S. Do you ever get tired of making a photo journal of everything you sew?

  43. Mindy says:

    sooo cute!

    What size t-shirt? Adult? Toddler?

    I always look through kids clearance too and think about repurposing, but then it feels counter productive to tear up something perfectly fine :(

  44. Missy says:

    Thanks for this one! I’ve got a couple of my husband’s old polo style shirts I’ve been holding on to but wasn’t sure what I could do with them. Now I know what to do!!!

  45. Heather says:

    This is so cute! I don’t have any adorable baby girls but I love this look and would love to make one for myself. How hard would it be to add some kind of sleeve to it?

  46. anh says:

    fabulous as usual! i love all the ideas you have. and this dress is just ADORABLE and so is she!!! cute!

  47. Stacy Adams says:

    OMG! Adorable. I love her hair bow! How do ya keep it on? Can’t wait to try to make one these cute dresses!!

  48. Sharon Posey says:

    Love your tutorials! They are really well done and simple enough for non-sewers like me. Ha!
    I was curious, though, as I only have boys in my life, do you think this type of dress would transfer well to an adult size?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks, and hugs, Sharon

  49. Anja says:

    Honestly, your homemade stuff looks like such better quality than I can get in stores!
    One day, I will be as good as you!

  50. Brandee says:

    Super cute!! Love it.

  51. Nika says:

    What a beautiful and cozy dress! I will make the same for my doughter :)

  52. Conny's Cottage says:

    thats soooo lovely.
    And whta a sweet girl.

    hugs Conny

  53. Amanda says:

    Your baby is absolutely adorably chubby! I just want to squeeze her cute little rolls. The dress is pretty too.

  54. Tiffany says:

    ADORABLE. I’ve made some felt flowers from one of your previous posts but I can’t seem to keep it in my daughters hair. What do you use?

  55. Beth says:

    Oh my heavens…that dress is almost a good enough reason to have 1 more baby (I said almost! Actually, I perfectly content with the 3 boys I have been blessed with!). Anyways, adorable dress and even cuter baby!!!

  56. Marlene says:

    I totally hear ya with the cold in the summer bit! What is up with that?! But my hubby and the kiddies are all passing it around this week. No fun and so unfair. Must be the air conditioning. By the way, ADORABLE dress and baby (she is standing already?!). You are my go-to blog for sewing and crafty inspiration. You have given me the courage to conquer many an unknown sewing project with great success! Who needs a pattern from the store when I have your tutorials?! Thank you so much!

  57. Alexis T says:

    I love that dress! I want to make little dresses for my daughter, but don’t always know the best way to do it. Thanks for the tutorial! And I love that it’s out of one of your old shirts. Great way to use your old things and make them into something new!

  58. Cari says:

    Okay, so, the dress is so cute but I found myself completely distracted by your amazingly adorable little girl. So, so yummy cute.

  59. Amy says:

    Oh my goodness- your little girl is growing up so fast!! And I just can’t get enough of those cheeks:)

    Old t’s are definitely the way to go- so much cheaper and cuter than knits at the store. I just discovered you can also find knit pillowcases at thrift stores- lots of fun prints:)

  60. Rebecca@This Present Life says:

    I LOVE that little dress! I have several T-shirts that I’ve been holding back to make dresses for my daughter. I LOVE how yours turned out, I am totally going to have to use your tutorial to make them!

  61. Lynne says:

    I love it! I’ve got to try this. Thanks for the tutorial!

  62. Ashlyn says:

    My DD put on an old tank-top I had put in the donation box last night. I spent a few hours looking for a tutorial to make it into a dress for her! This is EXACTLY what I was looking for! Beautiful! Thanks for the wonderful Birthday gift! haha

  63. Kati says:

    So very cute! :) Love it!

  64. Beth says:

    I hope I am carrying a girl just for these adorable girly tutorials, ha ha! And seriously, can your littlest get any cuter? I don’t think its possible.

  65. Jessica at Me Sew Crazy says:

    Love this! I am so with you on buying clearance items sometimes, I feel like I can get the best knits in the XXL sections!

    1. Melanie at Bringing Up Baby Design says:

      I just found this tutorial on pinterest– and just so happens I’d purchased the exact t shirt at old navy for $4 on clearance; but alas I bought the shirt for myself; am going back to get a few different colors for both my 6 year old and 7month old!

  66. Jill L says:

    Could your little girl get any cuter!!! The dress and tutorial are great but she is ADORABLE!!!

  67. laura @ onthelaundryline says:

    Ahh! Girlish screams over here! That is SO ADORABLE! I love it! I want it in my size! I want it in all the sizes! I’ll take the baby too, please, just for a little snug. She’s too cute! She looks like a lot of fun.

  68. Tiffany K says:

    so this may be a really silly question (and you can thank my mommy brain for that), but how do I know if something is jersey knit? I must shop for the wrong clothes because when I cleaned out my closet, nothing felt soft and stretchy like something I would want to repurpose. This is such a cute dress and you make it look easy peasy!

    1. Anja says:

      Jersey knit is what T-shirts (plain old basic Tshirts, like Men’s Hanes or Fruit of the Loom) are made of..

      If you look at a Tshirt the grain or braids run vertically. If you try to stretch the fabric vertically, it doesn’t give much. But if you try to stretch it wider it has a lot more give.

      I hope that make sense!

    2. Tiffany K says:

      thank you!

  69. Nancy says:

    That dress is so adorable and your daughter is absolutely beautiful!!

  70. Dianna says:

    …looking around for a t-shirt to cut up!

  71. Nancy@Nancy's Couture says:

    My 3 year old w!ill be getting this dress tonight. I LOVE the braided collar!!!

  72. Alexis says:

    Seriously, she’s so cute I just want to squish her little cheeks. And I love the dress tutorial. I think I might have to make a few for my little girls. :)

  73. kristina says:

    Oh my goodness that’s cute!

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

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