Upcycling: Make a Girl’s Dress from a Men’s Dress Shirt

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I have the Martha Stewart Sewing Crafts book and one of the first projects I wanted to try was making a dress for girls from a man’s dress shirt. You can also find the instructions for this project on the Martha Stewart website. That is one thing I like about Martha Stewart projects is that you can buy the book collection of crafts and recipes, but you can find the same projects on the site.

I used the Martha pattern on a first try at this dress.

I didn’t like the way the sleeves and body were all one piece. I also found that the pattern was sized small, the dress according to the description is for size 4-8. When you download the pattern it is a one size pattern. When I finished the dress it was more like a size 3 not great for my 5 nearly 6 year old. I finished the neck and collar with a contrasting bias tape and embroidered a G on the dress (a la Laverne and Shirley), to hide a small hole made when removing the pocket. I think it was cute, just to small.

So I decided to give the dress another try changing some of the problems from the first attempt. First I made the pattern larger. I had traced the pattern on to Swedish tracing paper and added an inch to the body. I also wanted to sew the sleeves on seperately so I marked a cutting line along the sleeves. I cut the shirt apart along the seams removing the arms and separating front from back.

I then made a a pattern for the sleeve and cut them out of the sleeves.

I began putting the dress together starting by placing right sides of the body together and stitching along the shoulders and sides. Don’t forget to iron the seams.

I wanted to gather the sleeves that I wanted to attach. So I adjusted the serger and did the gathering on the machine. I adjusted the tension on the needles and changed the settings on the differential feed. You can also do quick gathering on a regular sewing machine by increasing the thread tension to the highest number. It is so much easier than sewing to rows of stitches and pulling the threads to get the gather.

Match the seams on the side and the bottom of the sleeve and match the top of the sleeve with the seam at the shoulders with sleeve inside armhole, right sides together. I serged the raw edges of the sleeve and neck, and then I then folded, ironed and sewed the stitch under to finish the neck and sleeve.

To finish the hem I could have done the same as at the neck and sleeve, but I wanted to make the dress a little longer and add a little extra style. I thought about adding a piece of gathered white fabric a couple of inches long. I remembered I had some ribbon that went well with the pink of the dress so I added it. I gathered it in a tighter gather than the sleeves by increasing the tension the thread tension more than I had on the sleeve.

I attached the ribbon to the bottom of the dress with right sides together and then I turned it right side out and top stitched close to the ribbon to keep the hem in place.

Here is the finished dress.

The shirt cost $3.35 at the local second hand shop. I already had the ribbon and it took about 2 hours to make a new spring dress. My daughter was happy with the dress as you can tell from the modelling of the dress.


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