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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tutorial: Recontruction Dress, From $1 Thrift Store Shirt to Toddler Dress

I've been going to Savers, our local thrift store. They have $1 Mondays, which I love. I try not to go every week. Heaven knows I already have enough stuff crammed into our space. I have so many projects, that I'm trying to clear the backlog. Today I finally got around to doing a tutorial on how to reconstruct a woman's dress shirt into a shirt dress for my little toddler. This one was a size small, which gave me just enough fabric to make a 2T dress.

This is fairly simple, but I'm assuming a basic knowledge of sewing. I have a lot of links to tutorials at the bottom if you need them.

Tips for choosing a shirt:
  • One where the fabric is not too worn. It will be much harder to sew.
  • No rips, tears or stains.
  • Enough fabric. Really, I haven't run into much of a problem with this, but if you are making a 4 or 5T dress, it could be an issue.
  • Check the buttons. You want it to button all the way to the top. This one didn't and I ran into problems and had to add a button to the top.

On to the tutorial. First, choose a pattern. Most simple dress patterns can be adapted. It really helps if you first choose your pattern and read through it and figure out exactly where the changes need to be made. You can also use a similar shaped dress that already fits your little girl. I choose this pattern, which I picked up at Saver's, for fifty cents (sweet!).
Place your pattern on the front. You want to make sure it's set in a bit. I did not do this and then had to rework the neck shape a bit. You want to have the curve level out horizontally at the bottom of the neckline. Also, notice where the buttons are. You need to leave about an inch seam allowance above the button. If you are using a dress for your pattern, use newspaper (I use the glossy ads) to make a pattern. Add about 3/8" seam allowance all the way around. You can cut it in one piece as well as opposed to the way I did it which was one side at a time. Just keep your buttons done up and lay the pattern right over them.
Carefully cut out the pattern. Make sure to not nick the back of the shirt. You may also want to cut the shirt apart at the side, collar and sleeve seams before you cut, but don't do this before you figure out where your pattern needs to be. Flip your pattern over and do the same for the other side, making sure to line up your first cuts. STEP 3:
If you haven't cut your shirt apart, do it now. Cut the sleeves off and set them aside. Cut the side seams and the collar off.
Fold the back piece of your shirt in half. Place your back pattern, being aware of where the yoke falls if there is one. You want the line to be at the lower part of your sleeve opening. My pattern had buttons in the back and so had extra seam allowance. I compensated by putting the fold line on my pattern past the fold line of my fabric. Cut out.
Cut your sleeve down the seam. It should look like this:
Cut out your sleeves. Gathered sleeve patterns are super simple to get right, so if you don't have a pattern, don't panic. This is a great tutorial for sleeves that will fit into standard arm holes: Princess Cap Sleeves. Just make sure to match the top.
Here's all the pieces cut out and ready to go:

Sew according to pattern directions. If you're not using a pattern, follow these steps:
  1. Sew shoulders together.
  2. Sew sides together.
  3. Sew double fold bias tape to wrong side of collar. Flip over, top stitch around front. Tutorial here.
  4. Sew in sleeves.
  5. Hem bottom, by turning under or double fold bias tape.
  6. Add any other details, such as lace, pockets or belt.
I didn't really have enough of a whole piece of fabric for my belt, so pieced together some of my left-over fabric. I think it turned out just right for this dress. I also couldn't find a tutorial online showing how to do it, so here's how I did it.

First, cut out 4" wide strips from your leftover fabric. Sew them together to make one long strip (enough to wrap around your dress and tie). Then, trim the ends, either in a curve like I've done here or at an angle. Sew starting from middle and ending at the tip of the belt. Sew other side, leaving an opening for turning. I leave really long strings on the end, so I can thread that with a needle and draw it back through to the middle opening. Makes it so much easier to turn. Once it's turned, iron it. Then top-stitch along sewn side. This will close up your opening and make it look nice. See diagram.For the best loops, cut a 1 1/4" inch wide strip of fabric. Fold over and sew long sides. Cut apart, make them about 1 1/2" longer than the width of your belt. Fold them over twice and sew. See diagram.And finally, my finished dress! That hanger is now too large and the dress is protesting by hanging all crooked.
Here she is wearing it. She likes it!
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  1. You do an amazing the dresses!

  2. You are freaking amazing! One day I will try this!!!!!!! :) TFS

  3. OMG, that is adorable. If I were to buy that over here it would cost lots of $$. Very cute!


  4. You are so talented - that's awesome!

  5. WOW, that is amazing Kara! Such a cute dress!

  6. Anonymous7:17 AM

    Amazing idea to get great fabric for cheap! And the dress turned out so cute and professional.

  7. So cute! Will make me look at thrift store clothes in a whole new light!

  8. What wonderful inspiration! I look at the shirt and go "ehh." I look at the pattern and go "eww" (based on the dated look & color, not the silhouette of the dress - I have a hard time separating those things). But I look at the finished dress and go "oh my GOSH I want one for MYSELF!!" I love the black trim! Would not have thought of using such a bold trim!

  9. oh, and, neener neener neener, we have 50 cent thrift store days. And the store is walking distance. Now if I could only make beautiful things out of the stuff I see.

  10. Love your tutorial and the idea of doing this kind of reconstruction. Can't wait to try it for my little girl. I'm so glad you were feature on One Pretty Thing!

  11. Love that dress, so cute and you make it look so easy to make. I have no sewing skills but I think I can do that... great possibilities with diffent trims and patterns... wonderful thank you

  12. Anonymous5:08 AM

    Wow, what a cute makeover! I used to have that exact shirt, so it's funny to see it in a thrift store in a different country! It has long since been re-used in several projects because I loved the stripy fabric long after I stopped loving the shirt on me!

  13. This is a great dress and a terrific tutorial!

  14. Oh wow!! Great job, and that is way too cute!! :)


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