The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Free Sewing Tutorial: Refashion a T-shirt into a Sexy Dress

I just love a fancy jersey t-shirt.  They are so versatile and manage to be both comfy and flattering.  I collect images of the simple little details that can be added to jersey tops to make them special. 

A couple of years ago I splurged on a Velvet top that I had been eyeing at Garnet Hill.  The color was perfect for a pair of Boden shoes that make me feel fabulous (see here) and I loved the neck detail.  This was before I learned to sew with jersey, so it wasn't something I could make for myself at the time.  Even on sale, it still cost something like $48, but I had some birthday money so I decided to be extravagant (after all, my motto is, "Moderation is all things, including moderation.").

If you are as frugal as I normally am, you can imagine my disgust when the top developed small holes near the front hem after only a dozen washes. 

This top was supposed to last at least a decade!  I held onto it, partially because I paid so much and partially because I hoped to have the skills to do something with it someday.

And now I do!  Keep reading for my tutorial on how to turn a ruined t-shirt into a sexy new dress.

You will need:
*Jersey top/t-shirt
*Jersey fabric for skirt, approximately 1 yard
*3-inch knit elastic (I bought navy elastic from the Etsy shop AC After Glow)
*Coordinating or nicely contrasting serger thread
*2-3 hours of time

Step 1: Cut top to size
Try the top on and hold the elastic around your waist to figure out where you want the waist of the dress to go.  Put a mark on the shirt at the mid-point on the elastic band (you ultimately want the top/skirt seam to hit about halfway down the elastic).  Measure from the bottom of the top to this point and then mark all the way around the top.  I usually do this as a series of small dots:

Cut off the bottom portion of the top.  Good bye holes!

You could make a runched flower with the scraps or use them for embellishment on the skirt or top.

Step 2:  Make skirt
I used a pattern from Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin.  I cut out the size small skirt but graded up to a size medium for the waist (since I don't really have a waist).  I like this skirt base because it's quite straight and I didn't want a flared bottom.  I decided to go with a fabric with horizontal stripes because with my figure issues (I'm an inverted triangle), I thought it would help balance out my broad shoulders.

I wanted the skirt to be fitted so I choose to go with this pattern. If you want a more flared skirt you could cut out two rectangles and just sew up the side seams or go with an a-line shape.

If you don't have a pattern for a jersey skirt, you could also follow the steps that Rita from Suburbs Mama has listed in her knit pencil skirt tutorial - just don't add the elastic.

Cut fabric and sew side seams.  I used a serger for sewing the side seams but you could also use a regular sewing machine.  For a regular sewing machine, use a long stitch (4mm) or a long zig-zag stitch.  I recommend practicing on a scrap of fabric until you get good results.

Press side seam towards the back.  Use a press cloth to protect the fabric if you are using a rayon jersey.

Step 3: Sew skirt to bodice
With the bodice on top and right sides together, pin and sew the bodice to the skirt.  You may need to stretch either the bodice or the skirt to get the two to fit together.  Don't worry about this - jersey is very forgiving!  Just make sure to distribute the stretch around the circumference of the seam.  I do this by marking the mid-point on the front and back skirt pieces and the front and back bodice pieces.  I then pin at the side seams and at this marked mid-point and stretch as I sew from pin to pin.

Step 4: Cut and sew elastic waistband
Try on the dress and wrap 3-inch elastic around your waist.  Pull the elastic so that it is a little snug and cut 1/2" bigger than this.  Sew the elastic together with a 1/2" seam allowance.  Press open and serge or zig-zag stitch the raw edges.  Turn elastic band to right side and stitch down seam allowance.

If you want to add a label to your dress, add it to the right side of the center back of the elastic.

Step 4: Place, pin and sew elastic
Try the dress on again and wiggle yourself into the elastic waistband.  Place it where you want it on the dress and use a couple of safety pins to pin the elastic in place at the side seams.  Try not to pin the waistband to yourself.

Gently wiggle your way back out of the dress.  Pin the rest of the waistband in place (using regular pins), taking care to distribute the excess fabric evenly. 

Now edgestitch the top of the waistband to the dress, stretching the elastic waistband as you go so that you don't end up with pleats in the fabric.

This was the hardest part for me.  I had to un-pick and re-sew about half of the elastic because the jersey bunched up and moved around under the elastic while I was sewing.  Check frequently as you sew to make sure that the jersey is nice and flat under the elastic and that you are sewing an even distance from the bodice/skirt seam.  I did not sew the bottom of the elastic to the dress because I was worried that the jersey would bunch again.  This has not been an issue as I've worn and washed the dress.

Whew, done!  Good work!

Step 5: Finish hem
Finish the hem by simply serging the raw edges or by serging, turning up, and top-stitching.  I serged the raw edges and did not hem it.

The dress will look pretty blah just laying on the floor so make sure you try it on before you give in to disappointment.  A jersey dress really needs someone in it to look good!


Please let me know if you have questions or notice errors.  I hope you enjoy the results!

5 comments on "Free Sewing Tutorial: Refashion a T-shirt into a Sexy Dress"
  1. Nice job! Your dress turned out great, and very professional! How fun for you to get more use out of that fav (but ruined) jersey top!

  2. Thanks, Mo Sews! And I just took a look at your blog - nice stuff!

  3. i love velvets too.. and nice to see that you refashioned an expensive velvet top so beautifully :)

  4. Nice refashion! I've always wondered where people find that wide elastic in other colors than black. And I love the label on the back. That's a nice touch!

  5. Thanks, Liza Jane! I'm so excited you visited my blog - I've been reading yours for a while now! I tried dying some white elastic following a tutorial over at Made ( but mine did not turn out well. I'm going to try again with different elastic because I would sure like to have more colors available to me (w/o having to pay for it).