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How-to D.I.Y. T-Shirt Dress: From shirt to dress, the humble tee does it all

March 6th, 2011     by Kaytee Trudeau     Comments

You’re in Value Village, going through the men’s t-shirt section, hoping to come across the perfect shirt for a “middle-aged dad” theme party, and like a beacon from heaven above, you see it: the perfect Misfits shirt. The problem is, the Crimson Ghost logo is staring at you from an XXL t-shirt with a moth-bitten collar. Not wanting to let a gem such as this go to waste, you grab it, pay the $4.99 for it and throw it in the closet, never to pull it out to see the light of day until you move out of your parents’ basement.

Sound familiar?

This sad tale need no longer be perpetuated – there is hope. What if, instead of letting your adorable cat squeeze out her litter on that fabulous (yet useless) shirt of yours, you could be wearing it the same day you bought it?

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to turn that awesome yet huge t-shirt into a rad dress. There’s no need to relegate it to pyjama status anymore.

Please be aware that there are many ways in which one can alter a dress. This tube dress just happens to be the easiest one.

What you’ll need:

  • a huge shirt you love
  • thread matching the colour of said huge shirt
  • 6” zipper of the same colour
  • pins
  • sewing machine
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • sewing chalk or fabric marker for marking on fabric

If you feel like being super DIY, you could do this by hand, but it is more efficient to use a sewing machine. If you do choose to sew by hand, you’ll have to make sure your stitches are super tight and follow the types of stitches mentioned.

Before you begin, wash and dry the shirt in question, especially if it’s new. You don’t want to make a shirt to your specifications, only to shrink it in the wash and throw it on the closet floor after altering it.

  1. Begin by cutting the sleeves off. Then cut the collar, as close to the top of the shirt as possible. Turn it inside out and put it on. You will want to keep trying on the shirt throughout to make sure the sizing is right on you. Make sure that the print is where you would want it to be when finished. With the material on you, take your pins in one hand, pull in one side to your comfort, and pin. Repeat with the other side.

  2. Take the shirt off, flip it back inside out and start sewing along the side seams. You’ll want to use a loose straight stitch. This is the stitch on your machine that looks like the traffic lines. Choose the number 4 from the wheel that is above your stitch indicators. A loose straight stitch means there will be more space (and give) between the stitches . A tight stitch, say a 1 or a 2 has a shorter distance between stitches, and therefore less stretch. Loose means that it will be easier to pull out if you have made mistakes. Sew up along both side seams. Don’t forget to pull out the pins after you sew.

  3. Try the dress back on, right side out, and if you’re satisfied with the way it fits, cut the excess material from the inside and follow with a zigzag stitch (what literally looks like a zigzag on that same stitch wheel, keeping the looseness) to reinforce the seams.

  4. For those gals endowed with larger breasts, before making the first straight stitch, you’ll want to take in a dart at the boob area, then do the straight stitch, cut the excess and zigzag stitch. A dart is when you gather up excess fabric either in the shape of a triangle, if it is taken at an edge. If taken within broad fabric, the dart will have a pointy egg shape. Darts can be used to compensate for curves. In this case, since it’s an edge, you will be making a triangle-shaped one.

  5. On the back, measure out where the middle is, make a mark with your chalk, then cut down the fabric to about two-thirds of the length of the zipper.

  6. To make the top seam, zigzag stitch all around the top of the dress, starting from one end where the zipper will be to the other. Then fold the top over about an inch, pin it down and straight stitch it all around.

  7. Mid-way between the zipper and the side seams, make a mark and pull in a pointy egg-shaped dart, measuring one centimeter in on both sides. (See the photo at the top for the darts diagram).

  8. Installing a zipper is a bit tricky. You will want to make your zigzag stitch tighter, approximately a length of 2 or so, then go along the edges of the cuts you made for that zipper. Turn the dress right side out, fold the edge in just to cover the zigzag, and pin it to the zipper. Keep the tight length but make it a straight stitch and go over the seam onto the zipper. When you get to the bottom, make sure you move the zipper tab up, so as to avoid having difficulties with the foot pedal going over it, and reinforce the bottom, going back and forth over that bottom with your straight stitch forward and in reverse a few times.

In the end, make sure you don’t have any extra threads hanging out or excess fabric. If there is excess fabric, cut it, zigzag and straight stitch it.

Et voilà! You have just made yourself a sweet tube-dress out of a shirt you very easily could have left to the moths!


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