Tee Shirt Dress – Upcycle Old Favs
Got a bag full of great old tee shirts headed for the rag bag? Here’s a great way to extend the life of your favorites. Great for girls, this tee shirt dress project works for women, too. Start with your pile of tees and choose the ones you’d like to use for your project. You’ll need a total of 4 shirts. (There’s a version here that was made with only 3 which you may prefer – depends on how full you like your ruffles.) The fun thing about this is that a much loved tee shirt that has a spot of bleach on the sleeve or a dribble of pomegranate juice down the front can be turned into a twirly girly new favorite.
This project took about 3 hours to complete 2 dresses in one session with the help of a patient ten year old. Tasks like pinning and gathering were managed well and the creative part of choosing which tee shirts would go where made for a really great afternoon together. Having matching dresses with a friend was a huge bonus. The smaller dress was made solo in an afternoon. The results were the same. Each girl loved the finished dress; comfy, feminine and nearly indestructible!
1. Gather supplies. You’ll need a sewing machine – threaded. Four tee shirts. Sharp scissors. A measuring tape. And a straight edge – a large metal T-square is really helpful, but you can make due with a yardstick. A Sharpie – or Tailor’s Chalk if you want to go old school.
2. Group your shirts by color/design compatibility.
3. Choose which shirt will be the top of the dress and set aside. (We used tank tops for two summer dresses and a standard tee shirt for a wee one, but this works well with long sleeved shirts and Henleys, too.)
4. Measure 12” up from the hem of each shirt that will become a part of the ruffle and draw a line across the shirt, parallel to the hem.
5. Cut off the tee tops on the three marked shirts and cut off the side seams. If the shirt is fitted, draw a straight line close to the seam and cut on the line.
6. Pin ruffle pieces together in desired pattern. We alternated sections so the front of the skirt from left to right, had tee shirt #2 connected to tee shirt #3. Then tee shirt #4 was connected to #2, forming the right front and left side back panels. Next we sewed #3 to #4 to create center back and right back panels. Sewing the panels into pairs made it easier to keep from ending up with adjacent panels of the same color/pattern. If you make this project using brand new tee shirts that match just go ahead and sew them together! Sew 5/8″ seams with right sides of tee shirts facing each other.
7. Repeat step 6 until all 6 ruffle pieces are connected, forming a 12″ wide giant loop.
8. Use a basting stitch around the unhemmed edge of the loop and gather to create a ruffle. It’s easier if you do this in sections since the ruffle can become a bit unwieldy.
9. Measure from nape of neck to spot where you would like the ruffle to start. On the little girls dress, the ruffle is placed at the waist. On the big girl dresses we wanted a drop waist which was several inches above the hem of the original tank top. Using the straight edge and Sharpy, mark the attachment line parallel to hem of the shirt forming the main part of the dress.
10. Turn ruffle inside out and downside up to attach skirt ruffle to the body of the dress. Sew together.
11. Try on. Make adjustments, if necessary. Trim seams. Make sure you got all the pins out. Knot and trim threads.
12. The dress is ready to wear!
Girls love the twirly factor, so lighthearted, it’s the perfect dress for late summer. Toss it in the swim bag to wear home from the beach or for riding the rides at the boardwalk or entering a restaurant with the rest of the family. This is also really cute if you make it up with the skirt attached on a diagonal. Of course, you can make the skirt with two or even three row of ruffles. Have fun. If you don’t have a sewing machine and want to style up a shirt for yourself, check out this video demonstrating what Adam Saaks does to tee shirts using a pair of scissors!
Our upcycled Tee Shirt Dresses look great with planet friendly flips from Planet Flops.Photos of the orange and pink tee shirt dress project by Kathy Kuzniar. Thanks, Kathy! Great pics! And the dress came out so cute!