This T-shirt dress was inspired by all those lovely jersey knit, color-blocked dresses from the ’60s, primarily designed by Rudi Gernreich and Mary Quant. While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get our hands on an original, there’s no reason why we can’t make our own! The silhouettes of this era are typically pretty forgiving and way easy to replicate. My take on this look requires just a few T-shirts and a couple of straight seams—no fancy sewing or garment-fitting skills required! If you can sew a straight line, then you can definitely make this dress.
- Four T-shirts—two of each color. Please keep in mind that non-fitted T-shirts would be ideal for this project. Snug ones won’t be able to accommodate all of the extra seams that we’ll be adding. For the top half of the dress, you’ll need two shirts, one in each color, in the size that you normally wear (in my case, this is a small). For the bottom half, you’ll need two shirts, one in each color, that are at least two sizes larger.
- Tailors chalk
- Sewing pins
- Sewing machine
- Measuring tape & a ruler
Making the top of the dress
1. Start by folding one of your smaller T-shirts in half. Using measuring tape, measure the length from the shoulder to where your waistline would be. If you’re not sure, try it on, and place a pin or two where you think the measurement should end to get a rough estimate.
2. Once you’ve determined your shoulder-to-waist measurement, mark this point on the T-shirt with your chalk.
3. Using the ruler as a guide, draw a straight line across from the measurement mark that you just made. Then cut along this line through both layers of the T-shirt.
4. In this step, we’ll be cutting up the shirt even more! So pay close attention. The four main places we’ll be cutting are the sleeves, the collar, the shoulders, and up the front. To cut the collar, trim below its original seam. To cut off the sleeves, start at the armpit and work your way in to create a kind of swoop. (If you wanted, you could also use a favorite sleeveless top as a template for the armholes.) Then cut the shoulder seams and along the fold. See below:
5. Now we’re going to use our newly modified shirt as a template for cutting our second. Fold the other T-shirt (same size, different color) in half and place your modified one on top, lining up the sides and shoulder seams as best you can. Cut along the neckline, sleeves, and hem as you did in the previous step. Don’t forget to cut open the front fold and shoulder seams on this one, too!
6. Here’s what your dress pieces should look like after cutting them out.
We’ll only need one half of each T-shirt to make the top. Once we get around to putting the two together with the skirt pieces, they’ll need to be unfolded and laid flat like this:
Making the bottom of the dress
To make the bottom half of the dress, we’ll basically repeat the same procedure, except this time, there’ll be fewer things to cut.
1. In order to get the bottom half of our dress to be the correct length, we’ll need to transfer the same measurement from step one (our shoulder-to-waist measurement) to the T-shirts that we’ll be using for the skirt of the dress. Start by folding one of the larger T-shirts in half. With your measuring tape, measure up from the hem to where your shoulder-to-waist measurement hits. Mark this measurement with your chalk and draw a line straight across from it. Cut the bottom of the T-shirt following this line. Repeat this with the second shirt.
2. Here’s what your two skirt panels should look like when you’re done. They’re still folded in half. We’ll need to cut up the fold on these like we did with the tops.
Putting it all together
1. Take one of your dress tops and open it up so it lies flat. Do the same with a dress bottom of a different color. Find the middle point on both of these pieces—the easiest way to do this would be to fold both panels in half lengthwise, and mark the fold with a pin. Match these two pins up.
2. Line up your dress top with the skirt bottom and sew a straight stitch about a half-inch away from the raw edges. Repeat this step and the one before it with the remaining pieces.
3. Once you have both of your tops sewn to their skirts we can start putting the dress together! But before we can start sewing, we must make sure that both halves of the dress are aligned correctly. The three points you’ll want to check before you do any sewing are: the neckline, the waistline seams, and the hemline. Once you have all three of these points matched up with each other on either side of the dress, you can pin the two halves together.
4. Once pinned, sew a straight stitch about a half-inch away from the raw edges on both sides of the dress, starting at the neckline and going straight down to the hem.
5. Cut away any excess fabric you might have on the skirt, again staying a half-inch from the seams.
6. To make the dress look a bit cleaner, you can finish the armholes and neckline with a hem. To do this, you’ll need to fold the raw edges around the neckline and armholes, and pin the edges in place. Then sew around them with a straight stitch.
7. After finishing the armholes and neckline, the very last thing you’ll need to do is rotate the dress so that the neckline is facing you, and then re-stitch the tops of the shoulders shut.
Ta-da! You’ve now got yourself a groovy little mod dress. ♦