How to Make a T-Shirt Dress

The following is a post from contributing writer Jackie.

I love putting dresses on my baby girl. For everyday wear though, they have to be comfortable. T-shirt dresses are definitely comfortable and are also easy to make when using two upcycled T-shirts.

Today I am going to show you how I made a T-shirt dress for my 16 month old using a thrift store T-shirt and one of my old T-shirts.

You can use the concepts in this tutorial to make any size T-shirt dress you want. Let’s get started.

Supplies

  • 2 T-shirts (Read instructions below to determine sizes.) 
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine
  • Ruler

T-shirt Dress Instructions

1. Choose a T-shirt that fits the person you are making the dress for. The T-shirt can be too short but it needs to fit at the sleeves, neck, and chest areas.

Choose another T-shirt for the skirt portion of the dress. I recommend using a shirt that is larger so that you can make gathers.

To make the dress pictured in this tutorial I used a 2T T-shirt for the top and a women’s X-Large T-shirt for the skirt.

2. Cut the hem off of the T-shirt that will be used as the top of the dress. You can cut off more if you wish for the dress to have a higher waistline.

You will have to determine how long you want the skirt part of the dress to be before you can cut the larger T-shirt. I used the bottom 9 inches of the pink T-shirt for the bottom of the dress.

When cutting the larger T-shirt be sure to leave the hem on the larger T-shirt because that will become the hem of the dress.

3. Next, you are going to sew the gathering stitches on the skirt part of the dress. This will be done on the larger T-shirt.

Sew two rows of stitching using a long stitch. One row should be 1/4 inch from the top and the other should be 3/8 inch from the top. Do not backstitch or clip the threads. Leave long threads so that you can do step 4.

4. Pull on the bobbin threads to gather the skirt portion of the dress. Be very gentle and ease the fabric as you go. Gather the skirt until it is the same width as the bottom of the T-shirt you are using for the top of the dress.

5. Turn the skirt portion inside out and upside down. Slip it over the T-shirt and pin in place. Match the side seams of both T-shirts.

Here is another view of this process.

6. Sew the two T-shirts together using a normal stitch length and a 1/2 inch seam allowance, or as big of a seam allowance as necessary to sew below the gathering stitches.

Alternatively, you can serge around the entire thing. No serger? You can use a triple stretch stitch (or sew around the skirt twice with a single stitch) for durability and then use a zig zag stitch to faux serge the dress.

7. You can call the T-shirt dress finished at this point or, if you find that the seam is not laying flat, you can “stitch in the ditch” while catching the seam.

To “stitch in the ditch” means that you will sew right on the line where the two pieces of fabric were sewn together, but this time you will sew on the front side.

You want to sew slowly and make sure that your needle stays right in the groove or “ditch” that was formed in step 6 when you stitched both pieces together.

Make sure the seam on the back side is going towards the skirt of the dress for this step, or to the right if you are looking at the picture below.

If this isn’t doesn’t make sense please let me know.

Your T-shirt dress is all finished at this point.

I liked the way this dress turned out for my daughter, but I decided it needed a little embellishment. So, I stitched a reverse appliqué heart on it. Here are the instructions.

Supplies

  • T-shirt Scrap Fabric
  • Heart (or other shape) for Tracing
  • Fabric Pen or Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Sewing Machine
  • Pins

Reverse Appliqué Instructions

1. Fold the dress in half lengthwise and then in half right under the sleeves. Mark this point with a fabric pen or pencil.

I have drawn lines on the picture below to help you know where to mark the T-shirt. The mark should be where the two lines intersect.

2. Print out an image to use for the appliqué. I found a simple heart outline, printed it, and cut it out. You can even use a cookie cutter as a template. Just be sure to use something simple if this is your first time appliquéing.

3. Trace around the template using a fabric pen or pencil. I do not recommend using a regular pencil.

4. Pin a piece of the skirt fabric (You should have plenty left over from making the dress since you only used the bottom of the T-shirt.) to the inside of the shirt portion of the dress being sure that the fabric is bigger than the design you traced.

5. Set your sewing machine to a zig zag stitch that is very close together. These are the settings I used on my sewing machine.

Basically, you want the zigs and zags to be close enough together that you can’t see any T-shirt fabric in between them. I recommend doing a little test sewing on some scrap fabric first.

6. Slowly sew around the outline on top of the dress while the contrast fabric is underneath.

7. When you are finished sewing around the shape, trim the contrast fabric on the inside of the dress, outside of the stitching line like in the picture below.

8. On the outside of the dress use a pair of very sharp scissors to trim away the fabric inside the stitching like in the picture below.

When you are finished, the contrast fabric will be showing on the front of the dress.

I think the addition of the reverse appliqué was a nice way to finish my daughter’s dress. What do you think?

Please let me know if you have any questions. I am off to look through our closets for T-shirts I can use to make my daughter some more dresses. :)

More posts from Jackie

About Jackie

Jackie is a wife and mom of 5.  You can find her writing about family life and all things crafty at Blessings Overflowing.  If you are looking for activities to do with young children be sure to stop by her other blog, Pocketful of Posies. All images by Jackie.


This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Super cute!!! Great tutorial as well :)

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