Refashioning a men’s shirt into a girl’s dress seems like a project that is as old as time. And yet, making something old, new again, never seems to get well…old! 😉
For this men’s shirt refashion, I wanted to retain the key identifying factors of the men’s shirt, like the pocket and the sleeve cuffs, so that its origins are somewhat obvious. Not only does it simplify the sewing, but it gives it fun eco-friendly, menswear-inspired details.
This project uses an existing dress pattern, which both simplifies and narrows down your men’s shirt options. So, let’s start there…
Choosing your shirt:
- Dress pattern: I used the Tully Dress Pattern from Sewing In NoMan’s Land (I also posted a floral version here) as the basis for this dress, but you can really use any dress pattern you like. UPDATE: The Tully Pattern has unfortunately been discontinued. I recommend the Geranium Dress from Made By Rae or the Bohemian Dress Pattern from Elegance and Elephants which has a similar pull on, no closure design.
- Sizing: About a size 5T is probably the largest dress you can make from most men’s shirts. Of course, I’m sure you could find some exceptions if the shirt is large enough and the dress pattern pieces fit just right. This shirt is sized men’s large and this dress is a size 4T bodice with a 5T length skirt.
- Make sure your shirt is the right fit for your dress: Sizing can vary between shirt styles and shirt details can affect how useable each section of the shirt is. I highly recommend bringing the pattern pieces with you to the thrift store, or wherever you are getting your shirt. That way you can easily determine which shirts are a good fit for your pattern.
Cut and sew:
- Bodice: I used the upper portion of the long sleeves of my shirt for the outer bodice pieces. I used some scrap linen fabric from THIS skirt for the bodice lining.
- Sleeves: I used the sleeve cuffs as the hem detail on my sleeves. The original dress pattern calls for a ruffled hem. I omitted that and simply made the sleeve several inches longer. You will notice that the shirt sleeve is wider than the dress sleeve pattern. I aligned the bottom of the dress sleeve pattern up with the bottom of the shirt sleeve and then extended the top (shoulder) of the sleeve straight out. I then sewed a basting stitch at the shoulder of the sleeve (maybe about 2-3 inches) to gather the sleeve to fit the pattern.
Note: The sleeve cuff of your shirt may be too wide for your dress sleeve pattern. You may need to alter the sleeve cuff width. Try to avoid this if you can, and choose a shirt with a cuff close to your dress sleeve size.
- Skirt: I cut off the bottom for the skirt of the dress and I cut it longer than I needed because I knew that I wanted to have a straight hem, rather than the curvy hem that comes with the original shirt. To do this, I had to cut above the arm holes and lose the original side seams. I kept as much shirt width as possible though, and just evened out the sides before re-sewing them. I gathered the skirt in the back and on either side of the original shirt button placket before attaching it to the bodice. I left hemming the skirt as the last step, so that I could try it on my daughter to get just the right length and shape.
Note: The bodice pieces of the dress pattern I used are curved, and will give a straight skirt a hi-lo hem effect. Waiting until the end to determine skirt length, allowed me to adjust the shape of the skirt for an even, straight hem.
I’m in love with the finished dress! The thicker cotton shirting makes it an easy summer dress that can easily transition to autumn with some tights and a cardigan.
I created this dress for Melly Sew’s Sundressing Series. It may not look like a traditional warm weather sundress, but it’s perfect for our mild, relatively cool summer weather. To check out more sundress dress inspiration, Melissa is featuring LOADS of tutorials and ideas!
Happy summer sewing!