SHIRT TO DRESS REFASHION (TUTORIAL)

A couple of years ago I made this striped maternity dress from two t-shirts sewn together. Since then I’ve had a lot of requests for a step by step tutorials, and when I pinned this dress, I knew it was a perfect one to make with several tees. The ruching down the front of it hides the seams perfectly, just like the stripes did on the other dress. 
dress: made by me (tees from forever 21) // sunglasses: c/o aupie // bag: c/o oasap // shoes: target (similar & similar) // bracelet: c/o hello fab // watch: michael kors
Materials:
  • 3 t-shirts (mine are forever 21 and I used one medium for the top, and two larges for the bottom, although I ended up taking it in so much to make the dress fitted that I should have probably gone with a small and 2 mediums)
  • matching thread
  • 1/8″ wide elastic
Step 1. Starting with three t-shirts, cut the tops off of two of them right at the armpit, as seen below. 

Step 2. Take the top tee (the one that isn’t cut up), and just slice off the bottom hem. Then with right sides together, sew the middle and top tee together, as seen below.

Step 3. Cut off the bottom hem of the middle shirt and then attach it to the bottom shirt, with right sides together. Your dress should now look like this:

Step 4 (optional). Take in the sides of your dress so it is very fitted. The ruching is very forgiving, so don’t worry too much about it being super tight, and if it’s too loose the ruching will sag. Finish your raw edges with a serged or zigzagged seam if desired. The inside of your dress should now look like this (my dress here came to about 2 inches above my ankle):

Step 5. Measure from your natural waist down to your knee and cut a piece of 1/8″ wide elastic in that length. Pin one end of the elastic to the natural waist area on the side seam allowance of your dress, as seen below, and then pin the other end of the elastic to the hem of your dress. Sew a straight stitch down the elastic, attaching it to the seam allowance, pulling evenly as you sew. Repeat on the other side of the dress.

Step 6 (optional). If you want a pocket, cut a piece of fabric in this shape below. Fold the top edge down and sew a straight seam across.

Fold the remaining sides in and press into place, then pin to your shirt and sew around the three sides.

And you’re done! As always, comment with any questions and I’ll be happy to clarify!

55 Comments

  1. Jenni says:

    So, so cute! I think even I may be able to do this! I am a little confused still about how the elastic creates the ruching. You said pin it at the natural waist, and then do you pull it tight and pin it at the bottom or just let it fall naturally? Sorry, I am not a seamstress at all!! =)

  2. Marianne T says:

    Wow! Amazing! I think i can actually do this lol. Just worried if i can manage the ruching part and make it as even as you did.

  3. Marianne T says:

    Question, did you buy 3 shirts in all same sizes or did you size up on the bottom 2?

  4. Leanne says:

    I love this Mer! It turned out fantastic!

  5. Leanne says:

    I love this Mer! It turned out fantastic!

  6. you are so darn crafty! so awesome

  7. Omg, I hate you (and by hate I mean adore) for making a dress out of cheap-o Forever 21 shirts. Ones I OWN! I need to learn to sew.

  8. Kylie says:

    Love this tutorial!

  9. Wow- this turned out amazing! I really want one…

  10. This has jumped to the top of my to do list. You are so creative and it turned out great!

  11. Madeline says:

    This is such a fantastic idea ! It looks awesome ~!

    Madeline | Its a Mads Mads World

  12. Lauren says:

    Definitely want to try this! Great idea!

  13. katd says:

    It looks fantastic! Victoria Beckham style!

  14. I llllooove this! making it this weekend for sure!

  15. Erin Hartman says:

    so creative and classic!

    xoxo
    Erin at Hart of Style

  16. Ridiculously cute. I have a t-shirt dress pattern that I like, but I'm going to add extra length next time and try adding the ruching.

  17. JJ81 says:

    You are awesome! And inspiring me to want to sew… I might just try this – thanks 🙂

  18. Mary says:

    Thanks for posting this! I found your maternity dress post a couple of days ago and loved the dress but wasn't sure how you made it… Perfect timing for this post – and a super cute dress!

  19. Tracy says:

    So in step 4 when you fitted your dress how far down your dress did you go? Or did you just make the bodice fitted?

  20. Jenn says:

    Oh my gosh! That is so cute!!!

  21. So creative, I love this dress! 🙂
    xoxo Renee

  22. Stephers says:

    This is genius!! I can't wait to pop out my baby in 6 weeks and make/wear this. It'll be perfect for the 4th trimester.

  23. Kotkedei says:

    This is a great tutorial…i'm going 't-shirt hunting' this weekend! 🙂

  24. CE says:

    That is amazing and I totally wish I could sew.

  25. Love this with the ruching! Plus it looks so easy. Putting this in the to do list for post baby 🙂

  26. My mind is blow. Well done! I need to try this!

  27. Such a great post!!! I am a novice sewer and I made this in 1 hour. I got soooo many compliments on it.

  28. this is amazing! ive been saving some old f21 tees, now I know what to do with them!!

    carisa
    Bunnies and Pearls

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  30. Alicia says:

    Great love your blog and tutorial
    Alicia
    http://trendandcut.com/

  31. Carmen says:

    Hello to everyone, I did this with a minor defect ! I need your help! I found $1 tshirt at walmart, so I got 3, one medium and 2 large. The large ones were too big so I had to take them in, so I fixed that. My problem is at the bottom where the ruching ends, I don't like how it pulls the sides higher . What did I do wrong, how to fix it ! I am new and for my first time ever sawing I think I did an incredible job! lol

    • Carmen says:

      I fixed it ! I realized that the elastic was too short! Hey I give myself a 9 now lol! I just want to thank you Merrick for for such a great tutorial and easy for me as a beginner. May God continue to Bless your hands to create more beautiful things! Good job on your blog!

  32. Kimberley says:

    Hi Merrick, I love your blog and the inspiration it provides a novice blogger like me!
    I had some trouble with the ruching last night – I cut the elastic waist to knee and then sewed it waist to hem of the last t-shirt – but it only ruched up to mid-calf length rather than to knee length. Any ideas? I realised I used a fairly small stich lengh so I am wondering whether than stretched the elastic too much – would I be better with a longer stich?
    Thanks again for the great tutorials!
    Kimberley

  33. Cute cute! I used to have trouble with elastics; I pulled as I stitched and the elastic just stayed stretched out…! I think the problem was too thin elastic at first, but now I just zigzag every time I have to do elastic and I don't have any more problems. Necessity is the mother of invention, am I right??!

  34. T Silva says:

    Made this for my daughter to wear for Christmas. She paired it up with some leggings and boots. She loved it. Thank you for such an easy tutorial.

  35. Thank you for inspiring me to continue sewing! Love your blog! Wonderful designs!!

  36. Krista says:

    Just made this dress in about 30mins, I'm almost 34 wks preggers and I am loving this dress, I am going to make myself a bunch more, and make my 3 yr old daughter a couple (how adorable), mine will wait till after baby is here so they will fit without the belly…hehe. thank you for such an awesome easy tutorial

  37. Mrs Rice says:

    I had to come back to this tutorial to thank you… I went around our local flea markets and found pretty t-shirts I liked, and followed your tutorial making 3 contrasting bands. I did have trouble getting a stitch in the circumference of the dress that would stretch with my movements and am still looking for a solution for that… (hint hint – straight stitch and zig-zag both tend to crack, what's that about?) but it's a dress that has got me SO many positive comments every time I wear it. Mostly my husband and he doesn't like me leaving the house in it, haha. I don't have a perfect body but somehow this dress is so flattering it makes me feel a million dollars (thank you ruched-up belly area). Bottom line? I'm now working on a second version of the same thing. You may be my new favourite person. How shallow is that?

  38. Rachael Salisbury says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but I am a beginner at sewing (got my first machine this month!). I followed this tutorial and couldn’t be happier! Took me MUCH longer than the 30 min some commenters are saying, but still looks perfect! Thank you so much, Merrick! Can’t wait to try some of your other tutorials!

  39. HeatherRae says:

    Do you flatten out the side seam, with it in the middle and fabric on either side, to sew on the elastic, or do you sew the elastic to the side seam with the dress to the side and the seam on the outside edge? I hope that question makes sense. It would be so much easier if I could show you! 🙂 THANK YOU!

  40. Lori Corradetti says:

    Hi – Love this idea – I wonder if you would tell me what you think of alternating sections of the elastic. for example have the elastic sewn in 3-4 inch pieces on the sides alternating with un-ruched, so that the corresponding side is without elastic so that there are layers of left ruching & right plain and vice versa for the next 3-4 inches with some overlap???? Just a thought!!

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