I have been following a LOT of crafty blogs lately and one thing that I keep seeing over and over is a shirt-turned-dress makeover for little girls. A men’s dress shirt turned into a little girl’s dress. I think there are about a hundred million of them out there. I definitely want to make one for Amelia so I asked Ben if he had any extra shirts lying around that he didn’t wear for one reason or another. He dug around in his closet and came up with two candidates. Both were gigantic (the reason he didn’t wear them is that they were way too big) which means there was a LOT of fabric. It seemed like a waste to use all of that fabric on just one little bitty dress for Amelia (because come on, she’s tiny and it doesn’t take much fabric to make her a dress). So as I lay in bed, suffering from my crafter’s insomnia, an idea popped into my head – what if I could use those shirts to make dresses… for ME?! I couldn’t sleep and I just kept running over the possibilities in my head. The shirt is big, right? So big it’s almost long enough to be a dress (or tent) while on… surely there must be enough fabric there to make a dress. There just must be, right? And I schemed and tossed and turned and in my imagination the dress started taking shape.
The next night (two nights ago) it was time to start. I had zero plan, zero pattern, but I just started cutting anyway. I knew what I thought the dress should look like and approximately which pieces were going to come from where, and the only way to see if it was going to work was to just try it. I considered taking step by step pictures along the way but Ben and I both agreed that since I’d never tried anything like this before it was probably getting a bit ahead of myself to assume that I would be successful enough to turn it into a tutorial 🙂
My basic idea was to take the whole shirt and scoot it down on my body – basically all the fabric from the shoulders down would be moved down to the bust line to make the top of the dress, which should have added a good three of four inches to the length (right?). I would make a bodice top and then just use all of the rest of the fabric below from the front and back of the shirt to make the skirt, keeping the original hemline. Below that I’d use the sleeves to make ruffles just to add a bit of length. It made sense in my head. Now that I’m typing it out it seems a bit far-fetched 🙂 Here’s the original shirt. Forgive the graininess, horrific lighting and awful color cast.
When I sat down to start sewing I got out a dress that I knew fit me to use as a rough template for how big the bodice should be and I traced around it allowing for a little extra seam allowance. The first problem arose when there wasn’t enough width on the front piece of the shirt to make up half of the bodice (I wanted the buttons from the front to be on the back of the dress). Oops. Hmn. Luckily it turns out that for this particular shirt the back fabric was wider than the front so there was actually enough total but it was a close call. I decided that I’d make the skirt as wide as the fabric would allow and just gather it loosely to attach it to the bodice. The part that I considered to be so clever about this project was that the whole thing could be made entirely snug, close fitting and with no extra seam allowances for zippers or closures since it was already a button-down shirt. I’d just use the original buttons to get the dress on and off. So no elastic waist or other shenanigans for the skirt – just gather and sew, easy peasy. Unfortunately the skirt didn’t end up being as gathered or full as I pictured (once again, the shirt wasn’t *quite* as big as I’d envisioned) but it still worked. It was definitely very very short before I added the ruffles.
After a long night of frantic sewing I had the basic beginnings of the dress… there was definitely wonkiness with the bodice (it didn’t fit properly since the original shirt had two pleats in the back – my front) and I was pretty much out of fabric with no straps yet (and I knew I needed straps to make it a dress I would actually wear) but it was for the most part a dress. Here’s what it looked like at that point
I made a bunch of tweaks to the bodice and actually ended up unstitching the whole top, removing the pleats and resewing the whole thing back together. Now it fits much better. It was kind of weirdly challenging to make a dress that both fits snugly and doesn’t gape on the front (thank you pancake chest) while still leaving enough room in the back not to pull on the buttons. I ended up needing some weird darts that I invented on the side (the whole thing reminded me of an origami project “what if I fold here, what will that look like?”) that sort of broke up the line of the stripes, but at least it improved the fit. I also ended up cheating and using a bit of plain brown cotton as the straps (crossed in the back) and sash for the middle of the dress. Because I was out of the stripes… and I just also think it’s cute 🙂
And voila – two days later… the finished dress!
I always feel horrifically awkward when being photographed (I’m much more comfortable on the other side of the camera) but Ben did his best to make me laugh and not feel like a complete idiot (which is how I felt) I like these ones best
Of course the only time to take the pictures were the 20 minutes or so after he came home from work and before the sun went down, which meant the kids were awake and running around. And not pleased to be left out of the action. First Amelia wanted up, then Paul. And such is life with twin toddlers 🙂
Paul gives it the sniffy face of approval
So there you have it, my very first men’s shirt to women’s dress refashion. I’m quite pleased with it as a first attempt (and yes, oh yes there will be more to come). I’ve actually been thinking about joining the wardrobe refashion pledge – to not buy any new clothing and instead make “new to you” clothing from thrifted goods. I’m at least going to be doing a lot more refashioning in the future, whether or not I can completely give up shopping we shall see. I definitely won’t be going as far as this girl – making a new dress a day for a year (!!) but she’s doing a pretty amazing job. I hope I can be that good at sewing by the time I turn 30 – I’ve got lots of time to practice, right 😉