Easy T-shirt Dress Tutorial

Sew an easy t-shirt dress -perfect to throw on for warm spring and summer days - http://mellysews.com

Hey y’all – today I have a super easy t-shirt dress tutorial for a dress I know I’ll be wearing all summer. Best part? I thrifted this t-shirt so this dress was under $5 to make.

Want to make you own? You’ll need:

  • One or two t-shirts – it depends on how long your shirt is and how long you want your dress to be
  • Wide elastic to go around your waist. I bought this kind locally, but this looks like the same stuff.

To start, try on your t-shirt and mark where it hits your waist with a pin. Take off your shirt and mark a line 2″ below your pin – this gives the top part of the dress that blouse-y effect. Cut the shirt at your line.

Step 1 - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Cut your elastic so it just fits your waist without overlapping. Then overlap it about 1/2 to 1 inch to make a loop. Use a short stitch length and wide zig-zag to sew over each end of the elastic, creating a strong loop.

Step 2 - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Mark the center front, back and sides on your elastic with pins. Mark the same areas on your skirt. Pin the elastic to the skirt, with the wrong side of the elastic against the right side of your skirt. They should overlap about 1/2″.

Step 3 - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Depending on how much difference there is between your elastic and skirt, you may need to add more pins. The way I do this is to fold the skirt and elastic so the pins meet, then mark the folds with pins, then bring them back together so I know my next pin is centered between the two previous ones.

Step 4 -easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Next you’re going to stretch the elastic until it lies flat agains the fabric as you sew. A few tips:

  • Use two hands to stretch
  • When you need to stop and reposition, make sure the needle is down
  • Don’t sew too long a stretch at a time – you run the risk of catching the other side of the skirt up in the stitching the longer you try to go before stopping.

Step 5 -easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Now your skirt should look like this.

Next, I cut the bodice part of my t-shirt down, based on a t-shirt pattern I drafted myself, but I left it a little roomier.  You could also just use a t-shirt that fits you well. If you’ve never done this, check out this post for help on sizing down a t-shirt. Mostly I concerned myself with getting the shoulder width shorter since this shirt was huge on me, and I was fine with the waist being wider than my pattern since I knew the elastic would cinch it in some and I was going for a blouse-y 80s kind of vibe.

Step 6 - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

I also cut new sleeves – I decided I wanted split tulip sleeves.

Tulip sleeves are actually much easier to make than they might look. Basically you take your normal sleeve pattern piece (which will look kind of like the red line) and instead place the opposite side on the fold and round out the sleeve center like in the picture below. The more you extend the top edge around the sleeve cap, the more overlap you’ll have at the top and the less your sleeves will split at the bottom.

How to make a tulip sleeve - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Your cut sleeve will look like the image above when flat, and then you fold it, overlapping the centers. Since t-shirt fabric doesn’t fray, I didn’t hem or anything. If you are using fabric that would fray, you’d want to leave a seam allowance and line the sleeve.

Sew Tulip Sleeves - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Make sure to make both a left and right sleeve, overlapping the opposite way for each. I wanted my sleeves to overlap towards the back, but you can do it the other way as well.

Sew the side seams of your shirt and set the sleeves in. The sleeve is right side out and the shirt is wrong side out. You want the sleeves to have the front section overlapping over the back when you set them in. It’s worth pinning and turning the whole thing right side out before sewing to check.

Step 6 - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Sew in your sleeves and turn the top right side out.

Cute and surprisingly easy tulip sleeve on this t-shirt refahion by http://mellysews.com

Pin the top edge of the elastic over the bottom edge of the shirt the same way you did with the skirt.

Step 7 -easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

To sew, you’ll wad up the skirt so you can get your hands on the elastic and stretch and stitch as you did for the skirt.

And voila – easy and comfy as your favorite t-shirt. I’m thinking this might also make a great swim cover up.

Easy t-shirt upcycle - t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

Simple sew - easy t-shirt dress by http://mellysews.com

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  1. Caroline Bush says

    Could you make this more of an empire waist and still make it look as nice?
    I love your tutorials. I am not great at following patterns right out of the package and you really help me understand and make me feel like I can accomplish something!!

    Thank you

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