This post is all about showing you how to turn a t-shirt into a dress.
If you’ve got some t-shirts that your kids have outgrown in length but still fit on top, this is a perfect way to get some extra life out of that t-shirt. To do this, I’ll show you how to add a skirt to the bottom of your t-shirt for a new DIY t-shirt dress.
This easy t-shirt dress tutorial will take you about 20 minutes to sew, so it’s perfect for beginners on up.
And because it’s so fast, this is a project you can pick up for last minute gift sewing, a quick seasonal project, a team spirit kind of dress or even for a back to school project.
I also think this is a great t-shirt dress to sew for charity, so I’m including measurements for sizes 2T-14 to give you some guidance so you can make a quick DIY t-shirt dress in a variety of sizes.
So find a cute t-shirt and let’s cut it up and add a skirt.
DIY t-shirt dress supplies
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- Child’s t-shirt (any size)
- measuring tape
- 1/2-1 yard lightweight cotton fabric such as cotton voile, cotton lawn, cotton shirting
- sewing scissors (my favorite sewing scissors for beginners)
- elastic thread
- Quilting ruler
- fabric marker
How to turn a t-shirt into a dress
Cut your t-shirt
First things first, decide where you want to cut the t-shirt. You’ve got a few options here:
- Cut it just above the hem for a drop waist style.
- Go for an empire waist style by cutting just under the armpit straight across.
- Cut just below the graphic or about halfway between the armpit and hem.
Really you can do whatever you want here because we’re going to figure out how long to make the t-shirt dress in the next step.
Whatever you choose, fold up the t-shirt right where you want to cut it and press. Use your scissors to cut right along the pressed line.
Measure for your T-shirt dress skirt length (sizing chart for 2T-14 girls)
From here, fold your t-shirt together along center back and place it flat. You need to figure out how much length to add for the skirt. I measured my daughter for this, but I’ve included a chart for you.
This is assuming that you’re creating a t-shirt dress that’s about knee length. You can always shorten or lengthen your skirt as you’d like for your style or to better fit your child. This includes a 1″ hem allowance.
Total length at center back for your t-shirt dress
Important: Subtract the length of your t-shirt along center back from the number on the chart.
For an example before we go on, my daughter’s t-shirt measures 9.5″ at center back. She’s in a size 6 girls.
So for her, I’ll subtract 9.5″ from 25.5 to get 16″ of length that she needs for her t-shirt dress’s skirt.
P.S. If you’re making a t-shirt dress for yourself, measure your favorite dress at center back and subtract the bodice length of your t-shirt from the total length.
Measure for the width of the skirt
Lay the t-shirt flat and measure across your cut line. (note that this is just half the total circumference).
Multiply this length x3 or x4 .
That means that the total circumference of your skirt needs to be 1 1/2 times or 2 times wider than the total circumference of the t-shirt at the cut line.
Choose the larger measurement if you want a fuller skirt or if you’re sewing for an adult. Both of these have plenty of ease to fit over hips and be comfortable to wear.
Write down both the width and the length you’ll need for your skirt. Next it’s time to cut the fabric.
Cut the skirt fabric
Use your ruler and marker to draw a rectangle that’s the width and length that you need. Make sure that the width runs parallel to the selvage (the finished edges) of the fabric.
If you’re making this DIY t-shirt dress for yourself and your numbers are bigger than your fabric is wide, just divide your width number in half and cut 2 rectangles instead.
Press the hem
I like to press my hems when the fabric is flat because I find it’s much easier than pressing the hem at the end when the skirt is a tube. Feel free to leave this step until then end if that’s your preference.
Use your iron to press up one of the long edges of the fabric by 1″.
Fold the raw edge to the first pressed line, then press again. Fold over the hem on itself to form a double turned hem. Press this again. This will be the bottom of the skirt.
Sew the DIY t-shirt dress skirt
Next, fold the short ends of the skirt piece right sides together. Sew the short ends of the fabric together with a 3/8″ seam.
Press the seam to one side, then finish the edges with a zigzag stitch. The skirt is now ready to go onto the t-shirt.
Prepare the skirt and t-shirt for gathering
To create the most even gathering, you need to mark the t-shirt bottom and the skirt into quarters.
First fold the skirt together along the seam. Mark the opposite end with a pin. Match the pin and the seam together to find the other 1/4 points.
Do the same with the skirt body.
Gather the skirt
Unroll the elastic thread from it’s bobbin. Hold it near the raw edge of the top of your skirt. Carefully zigzag near the top edge of the skirt, sewing over the elastic thread. Leave the pins in place as you sew, but be careful not to nick the needle with a pin.
Cut off the elastic thread, leaving a long tail.
Slip the t-shirt over the skirt so that the right sides are together at the waist.
Pin the skirt to the t-shirt, matching the quarter marks.
Carefully, pull on the elastic to gather the skirt between the pins so that the skirt fabric sits flat against the t-shirt. You might find it’s easier to cut the elastic thread near the quarter marks and pull the thread out between each quarter mark rather than trying to distribute the gathers around the entire waist.
Sew the skirt to the t-shirt
From here, sew the t-shirt to the skirt with a 3/8″ seam allowance.
After that, zigzag stitch all the way around the seam allowance to finish the seam.
Press the seam towards the waist.
Sew the hem
To finish up, sew the pressed hem in place by stitching near the edge of the pressed hem from the inside of the skirt.
And that’s how to turn a t-shirt into a dress. For another take on this idea, check out how to make a DIY t-shirt dress with a circle skirt.
Watch the DIY t-shirt dress tutorial:
- Cotton fabric: lightweight like shirting, voile, lawn
- elastic thread
- Fabric Marker
- Cut off hem on an old t-shirt. You decide how much you want to cut off.
- Measure the bottom of the t-shirt. Multiply this number x4 (this is twice the total circumference of the bottom of the t-shirt as it lies flat). This number is the width of the skirt.
- Measure the center back of the t-shirt by folding the shoulder seams together. Subtract this number from the chart further up in the post to figure out how tall your skirt needs to be.
- Cut rectangle for the skirt the dimensions you calculated in the last two steps. Simply draw the rectangle on your fabric with ruler and fabric marker.
- Sew the skirt together along the short sides with a 3/8" seam allowance. Finish the seam with a zigzag stitch or serger.
- Press up 1" on the bottom of the skirt. Fold the raw edge towards the fold and press again to create a double fold hem. Stitch down the hem close to the inner pressed edge.
- Lay a piece of elastic thread near the top of the skirt. Zigzag stitch OVER the elastic all the way around the top of the skirt. Pull on the elastic to gather the fabric. Distribute the gathers as evenly as you can so that it's not too bunchy in some areas and not gathered at all in others.
- Pin the t-shirt inside the skirt right sides together. Adjust the gathers so that the skirt fits into the t-shirt so that the t-shirt fabric is smooth and without gathers.
- Sew the skirt to the t-shirt with a 3/8" seam allowance and a narrow zigzag stitch (0.5mm width, 2.5mm length).
- Pull out the elastic thread.
- Sew a zigzag stitch all around the waist seam to finish it. Press the seam towards the waist. Enjoy wearing your DIY t-shirt dress!
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Love upcycling t-shirts? Try this DIY tiered dress.
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Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.