Spring Shirt Dress (tutorial)

This project has been on the cards for some time now. It was all the way back in July when I posted a list of planned projects. Due to study and now business commitments, this is the first project I can tick off that list – and it will probably be the last for a while seeing as the cold times have passed and I’m not really in the need for a woolly cardigan right now!

I decided to post this as a tutorial. I haven’t done one in a while and a lot of the shirt dress refashion tutorials out there use a single large shirt which usually results in a pretty short dress. This tutorial uses two, allowing a bit more flexibility with length and skirt shape. So without further ado, I’ll get on with it!

What You’ll Need:

  • Two shirts. Depending on your hip size and desired skirt shape, at least one will need to be larger than your usual size.
  • Fabric scraps.
  • Dress form is a helpful time saver, but you could just do your fitting on yourself with your garment inside out.
  • Pins, thread, seam ripper, measuring tape, sewing machine etc.

What You’ll Need to Do:

  1. If you’re using old work shirts like I am, you’re going to want to remove any company logos and pockets. Don’t worry if the logo doesn’t come off, we can cover that up later with a more reasonably-sized pocket.
  2. The other option you have at the start is to remove your sleeves. If you’re starting with a reasonably fitted shirt, you may not have to do this. If you plan on putting bust darts in the sides or reducing the width of your sleeves then you will need to remove them.
  3. Does your shirt have a back pleat? If not you can skip ahead. Mine did though and I wanted to get rid of that extra bulk in the back. Lightly iron in a centre back fold to guide the inside of your pleats. Pin, iron and sew into place as shown below.
    back pleat
  4. Next you’re probably going to want to do some fitting. Place your shirt inside out on your dress form, add a few pins so that side seams and button facings are (and stay) vertical. Then you’ll need to add darts so shape to your body. I’ve used under-bust darts at the front and some crazy diagonal thingies in the back. FYI – the top left pic shows what your back pleats should look like on the inside. I love the look of the top in the bottom right pick, looks like the makings of an easy peplum top!
  5. Sleeves aside, that’s the bodice pretty much done. Time to mark in a waist line and get cutting. I just used the waist line on my dress form for this. Don’t forget about seam allowance! This ended up higher than I had anticipated as I’m long in the body and I forgot to adjust my dress form :S
  6. Now it’s time to get to work on the skirt. Take your second shirt and cut off the sleeves, the collar and the back facing. You should have a back piece and the two front pieces that button together. If you keep the side seams intact, you could run some gathering stitches along the top and simply join this to your bodice matching the side seams and buttons.
  7. If you’re like me and want a bit more skirt for your bang use the removed sleeves to add a bit of extra flare. After removing the cuffs, you might need to add a little length as I did. I also had some damage from past violent pegging/unpegging procedure which needed to be cut out.
  8. I cut out the little piece shown and replaced it with some floral cotton left over from another WIP. If you’re doing this, make sure to allow for seam allowances of both pieces. i.e. the new piece needs to have 2xseam allowance.
  9. Then you just need to join your new piece to the end of the sleeve. You can see in the above picture that I’ve kept the placket facing from the cuff for embellishment. All I had to do was iron the placket flat before sewing it closed into place.
  10. Lay your skirt pieces out to make sure a) they fit around your hips and b) the seams will line up with the bodice.


    the old sleeve pieces aren’t lined up properly in this picture

  11. Now it’s attachment time! I cut down the centre back of my skirt, so I needed to sew this back together before attaching the back of my skirt.

    attaching the skirt back

    attaching the skirt front pieces

    attaching the skirt front pieces

  12. By now it should be looking almost dress like. Just need to add the extra side pieces now.
    side seams
  13. Next step is to sew the sleeves back on. Sew long gathering stitches in the sleeve and pull the threads so that the sleeve fits comfortably with the armhole. Attach the sleeve.
  14. If you’re like me and going into the warmer months, you probably aren’t going to want those long sleeves! Cut them off at an appropriate length for you and make a band to finish the edges. The length of the bands should be at least the width of your biceps + ease + seam allowances. The width is whatever you desire, knowing that the final width will be half x (initial width – seam allowances). Fold the band in half  to make a loops. Gather the ends of the sleeves to fit the loop (my gathers are just in the top part as you can see in the last photo on the right). Sew with right sides of sleeve and band together. Fold the band in half to the inside of the sleeve and top stitch down. Don’t forget to pull out any gathering stitches that may be visible!
  15. Now, because I’ve used old work shirts, I’ve got some very large pockets and embroidered logos to remove. My logos were sewn on good and proper and (despite my best efforts) I couldn’t remove them! So I unpicked the pockets, made some new ones a little smaller using some scraps and attached them to hide the unmoveable logo. The logo is under the top right of the pocket pictured. The top logo is hidden under a fabric flower. I didn’t want to fill this post with too many pics, so I’ll do a separate tutorial for the flower and link back when it’s up.
  16. Now all that needs to be done is the hem and we’re finished. I didn’t take any progress pictures of the hem as it was pretty straight forward.
  17. Last step is to find an appropriate occasion to wear your new dress, a suitable photo spot and a husband to take photos!This is me before an after dinner coffee date with some friends.

Dress good, company great, conversation delightful…coffee dreadful!

And the most exciting thing about this dress? I still have two more chambray shirts to make another one! Now, I don’t really want to have two dresses that look really similar so I’m going to dye the next one. I need your help in deciding which colour(s) to make my next shirt dress! The two colours I’m tossing up between are Kelly Green and Purple.

I’ve made up some samples with the scraps of this dress and taken a picture for you to help me decide:

Dye choices

(the colours are a little more vibrant than they appear here)


20 thoughts on “Spring Shirt Dress (tutorial)

  1. I think you’d look lovely with either color. And we don’t see enough of you- you’re beautiful! Not to mention, brilliant! Love how you eliminated the back pleat thing and added a point of interest. Great tut!

    • I disagree, but thank you:) I love this dress! I had a shirt dress that I wore to death. I put it on about to go to a function and noticed that there were rips on either side near the armholes! Devastated, until now 🙂

    • Thank you! I wrote a reply out for this ages ago, not sure why it didn’t work :/ The side panel fabric is left over from a maxi-dress I made. I was just about finished and the zip broke so I haven’t been able to finish/wear it yet!

  2. I love the idea of using what is already available and pulling it into something wearable, unique, and chic. If I were a better sewist I would make some skirts like that. Great job! Thanks for the possibilities.

  3. This is fantastic !!!!!
    last summer i made a dress from 2 skirts, and a jacket from a shirt +skirt. seeing your reasonable and innovative way of making this dress, i am inspired to go on with my own changes of my older clothes.
    thank you mirjam

  4. This dress is great. I love the look of the shirt with just the darts, looking like a peplum, too. A very masculine style made totally feminine!
    I jumped over from Refashion Co-op, a fellow First Friday poster.

What Do You Think? (I love feedback!)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s