If you haven’t gotten into the T-shirt dress game yet, let me tell you, you’re missing out! They are a great way to wear something comfortable but cute and be dressed up or down pretty easily with accessories. It’s actually really easy to turn your favorite T-shirt into a dress to create a unique piece that’s all your own style! I’ll show you how:
-T-shirt of choice (I used our Oui Fresh Brunch Club tee!)*
-2 yards of wide bolt jersey cloth in corresponding color/pattern for the skirt (I used this fabric)
-straight pins and fabric scissors
–fabric measuring tape or yardstick ruler
–cutting mat and rotary cutter (optional)
*You’ll want to use the classic jersey or cotton T-shirt-type material for this project since we are leaving some edges with a raw cut rather than a knit material that will unravel easily when cut.
Wash both your shirt and fabric before use to initiate any shrinking that may occur before you sew them together. Try on your T-shirt and mark with a straight pin about where you want your skirt to start. I did a few inches below the bustline to make a shorter empire waist dress. Lay your T-shirt flat and measure across the T-shirt where you want your skirt to start.
You’ll also want to measure how long you want your skirt to be from that meeting point so you know how long to cut your skirt piece. Depending on how big a skirt your fabric width can make, you may need to make the skirt start lower if the amount of fabric you have won’t give you a long enough hemline.
Use fabric scissors or a ruler and rotary cutter (with a cutting mat underneath) to cut across your shirt 1/2″ down from where you want your skirt to connect.
OK, so here’s where you have to do a little math to get your skirt cut out correctly so the skirt waist hole is the same size as your T-shirt hem. Take the T-shirt width number that you got in step one and double it to give you the measurement of your shirt all the way around (remember, measuring a flat T-shirt is actually measuring a flat circle). Since that’s the circumference of your flat circle, just divide that number by 3.14 to get the diameter that your circle would be if it was a perfect circle instead of a flat one. You’ll cut out a paper circle that is that diameter and that’s how big your waist hole should be in your fabric. So, for example, if your shirt measured 20″ across, your equation would be: 20″ x 2 = 40″ and 40″ ÷ 3.14 = 12.73″. So in that equation you would need to cut out a paper circle that is 12.73″ wide (just guess the best you can if your number isn’t an easy number to measure like 12.5″ or 12″—close is good enough). When unsure, it’s best to cut your hole a little smaller and you can always widen it if needed.
Now that you have your waist measured and your circle template cut out, pin the template in the middle of the largest part of your fabric and measure outwards from the circle edge the length you want your skirt to be plus 1/2″ for the seam allowance where the top and skirt come together. You can either measure that exact number from the edge of the circle all the way around (marking every few inches) or you can add half of your circle width onto that number and measure out from the middle of the circle all the way around (which I think is a lot easier to do actually). So, if you wanted an 18″ skirt, you would do: 18″ + .5″ (that’s your 1/2″ seam allowance) + 6.36″ (that’s half your circle width from the example above) = 24.86″. So you’d mark 24.86″ out from the middle of your paper circle to end up with an 18″ long skirt.
Once you’ve made your skirt edge marks all the way around, you can cut out the inside and outside edge of your circle skirt. If your skirt is a pattern like mine is, make sure you note which part of the pattern you want to be the front so it’s falling in the direction you want it to when you look at the dress straight on. Also, keep in mind when choosing a fabric that if you have a pattern that has an obvious "up" and "down" direction, the back of the skirt will show the print upside down. So your cute kitty face pattern may be facing the correct way on the front but be upside down or sideways on parts of the skirt. Choose a more geometric pattern if you aren’t fine with that happening.
Next, we are going to pin your skirt to your skirt, but here’s a little trick to make sure you are pinning it evenly all the way around: Fold your circle template to divide it into 4 even quarters, put the template back into the hole of the skirt (lining up one of the marks with the part you designated to be the front side of your skirt), and mark with 4 pins where each quarter mark is. Find the corresponding marks on your T-shirt by laying it flat and folding in half (so bring the sleeves towards each other) so you can put a pin at each of the 4 folds and have those quarters evenly divided too.
Pin the right sides of your skirt and T-shirt together by pinning them at the 4 matching quarter marks first and then continuing to pin all the way around.
You can also skip the step of marking off the quarters if you want to and just start pinning them together, but it does help to make sure it’s evenly pinned so you don’t get bunched up in one spot and have to redo it to even it all out.
Sew the skirt to the shirt with a 1/2″ seam allowance and use whatever stitch your sewing machine designates for T-shirt/jersey/knit fabrics so that your seam can stretch a bit without breaking when taking the dress on and off (check your machine guide or ask the company if you don’t know what stitch that is).
Press your seam flat with an iron at the appropriate temperature for your fabric (use a damp dish towel on top if needed to protect a printed design). Since we are using material that doesn’t have to be hemmed, I left the bottom of my skirt raw, but you could fold and hem yours if you want to. Sometimes a jersey lays flat and sometimes it rolls a bit when cut, and I was fine with either happening. If you are lucky enough to have a sewing machine like this, you could always serge the skirt and top together and around the hem as well.
OK, now that’s just plain cute, right??! I love the graphic saying on the Brunch Club tee with the simple pattern below on the skirt (and pairing it with those furry sandals only makes it better!). And since we added a circle skirt onto the bottom, you can guess what’s really fun to do in this dress—twirl! This method would also be great to make dresses for kids with this tee too once a shirt becomes too short for them to wear. Have fun giving your tees a second life! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.