Style

How to Turn a T-Shirt Into a Dress

A mod look to make Peggy Moffitt proud.

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.

You’ll need:

  • 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.
  • Scissors
  • 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. ♦

60 Comments

  • MissKnowItAll April 3rd, 2012 7:05 PM

    Oh, Marlena. You’re like a DIY godess!
    Ps- You look gorgeous in that pic!

  • Moxx April 3rd, 2012 7:06 PM

    eeeeeee checkerboard dresssss

  • suburban grrrl April 3rd, 2012 7:12 PM

    I LOVE THIS. I can’t wait to try it, it looks great!

    http://sub-urbangrrrl.blogspot.com/

  • nutellacube April 3rd, 2012 7:13 PM

    marlena is the shit

    • Franny Glass April 3rd, 2012 7:41 PM

      Marlena is definitely the shit.

  • Limey April 3rd, 2012 7:27 PM

    This is GREAT!! I can’t wait to make one and wear it with my DIY collar and saddle shoes…

    goodbye-ponytails.blogspot.com

  • VintageAddict April 3rd, 2012 7:33 PM

    OMG I NEED THIS! I saw a similar one in this super-corny fashion book, Posuer. This one is a way better tutorial and looks way better though! And I love you Marlena! Your hair gives me life.

  • Thepunkrocker April 3rd, 2012 7:38 PM

    WOAAH did you paint your room yellow?

    THAT IS AN AMAZING DIY> YoU ALWAYS AMAZE ME!

  • VintageAddict April 3rd, 2012 7:39 PM

    Just decided that I am going to spend Spring Break playing Marlena. DIY’s, Come at me bro!!! :)

  • violetfairydust April 3rd, 2012 7:44 PM

    wow nice
    looks really good

  • mariaantoniavs April 3rd, 2012 7:55 PM

    OMG! I MUST TRY THIS NOOOWW!!! It looks amazing!!! Mine probably won’t look as great…

  • Lily April 3rd, 2012 8:06 PM

    so doing this when i get home!

  • celloyen April 3rd, 2012 8:29 PM

    Woah that’s so cool! What shoes are those?!

  • gossipgonzesse April 3rd, 2012 9:17 PM

    I love every single diy in rookie! unfortunatley I’ve only dicovered the site about 2 weeks ago and now I gotta catch up :) by spending evenings browsing through the site <3

  • Maddy April 3rd, 2012 9:22 PM

    looks very nice on you! I may use this sometime. I need to justify buying 4 tee shirts though.

    • Marlena April 4th, 2012 12:54 AM

      4 t-shirts can make *two dresses*! Have I convinced you yet?

  • KinuKinu April 3rd, 2012 9:25 PM

    Omygoodness.I’m gonna make this this weekend.Oh how I love Marlena ♥♥ I’ve grown out my(pixie cut-ish)and looking at you makes me want to shave it ALLLLL offfffff.AH.what…….do………..I…..do?…..?….?
    Oh well, greatness and I’m so doing this.Thanks Marlena,girl.♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♦

  • Ben April 3rd, 2012 9:29 PM

    I love Rudi Gernerich and Peggy Mofit! they’re awesome! Here is like the best video ever!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ojaofcXmS8
    It’s Peggy mofit modeling Rudi’s designs and It’s amazing! I love it! One of my favorite videos ever!

    http://bensstylecorner.blogspot.com/

    • Marlena April 4th, 2012 1:04 AM

      Watch this video guys! It’s seriously the best thing ever! <3

  • Yellie April 3rd, 2012 9:35 PM

    I wish i had a sewing machine!

  • missblack April 3rd, 2012 9:57 PM

    okay THIS is awesome. Marlena you are my hero!! not just for this sweeeet tutorial but also for explaining it so well; as an experienced seamstress who once tried to make a tutorial and found that it was not as easy as it seemed, you have my highest respect.

    Little&Trivial

    • Marlena April 4th, 2012 1:07 AM

      gaaah, really?! Thank you so much! *.*

  • Yellie April 3rd, 2012 10:07 PM

    this might be the stupidest question in all creation, but…could you hand sew this??

    • Marlena April 4th, 2012 12:52 AM

      Not a stupid question! If you’re confident in your hand sewing skills, I say go for it! Just keep in mind that hand sewn garments tend to be a bit on the ~delicate~ side and should be treated as such. This means not wearing the dress while doing any sorts of activities where extra stress may be put on the seams and washing it by hand rather than throwing it in the washer/dryer.

  • Katie April 3rd, 2012 10:11 PM

    Wow, that’s super cute!

  • Adrienne April 3rd, 2012 10:23 PM

    This is genius! I love it. :) I’ll defnitely try this out later. Thanks Marlena!

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • starcollector April 3rd, 2012 10:57 PM

    OH DUDE. DUDE. That dress is so flipping cool. I hate sewing but I will most definitely try this one. SO COOL. UGH.

    http://china-lily.blogspot.com/

  • Dylan April 3rd, 2012 11:14 PM

    FAVORITE DIY SO FAR YAAAY

  • Arabelle April 4th, 2012 12:20 AM

    you always make it look so easy ;__; so talented

  • cheerine April 4th, 2012 12:22 AM

    This is really good. I have to learn to sew…!

  • Felicia Ubbesen April 4th, 2012 1:11 AM

    I’ve been wanting a dress like this for ages! Thanks Marlena!! :)

  • Susann April 4th, 2012 3:29 AM

    The dress and the tutorial are amazing… if I could only sew!

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • mayaautumn April 4th, 2012 7:09 AM

    STOP BEING SO AMAZING!!!!!! this is just too good (and clever and creative and fantastic etc..)!

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.co.uk

  • julalondon April 4th, 2012 7:33 AM

    Wow wow wow wow wow. This is my favourite DIY so far. I love this dress soo much and you look so beautiful in it!! xx

  • ivoire April 4th, 2012 9:13 AM

    MARLENA YOU DIY MAGICIAN.

  • Leeann April 4th, 2012 10:58 AM

    Marlena, I love this SO MUCH, and your little Chelsea girl haircut too!! xo

  • alix April 4th, 2012 11:15 AM

    This is amazing I really want to try it. I was just wondering why the bottom half has to be 2 sizes bigger?

  • nickz April 4th, 2012 12:22 PM

    This is one of my favourite type of dresses and its so hard to find them in shops these days so I m defo going to try to replicate it :).

  • Libby April 4th, 2012 1:05 PM

    This is beautiful. Charity shops, here I come!

  • whodatgal April 4th, 2012 1:11 PM

    omigod you’re gorgeous. This looks amazing. I’m crap at sewing though :? YOU ARE AMAZING.

    http://www.opheliahorton.wordpress.com

  • purplebabaushka April 4th, 2012 3:58 PM

    I love Marlena!! All the DIY’s she makes are so incredibly awesome! I’m definetly adding this to my long list of Rookie DIY’s I have to do!!

    http://purplebabaushka.wordpress.com/

  • Stephanie April 4th, 2012 6:40 PM

    Marlena you are my heroine!!! DIY Goddess!!!! I love making things with t-shirts and cannot wait to try this!

  • girlgerm April 4th, 2012 7:11 PM

    marlena<3
    an idea: make a b&w one and a black & tie-dye one?

  • KinuKinu April 5th, 2012 6:18 PM

    I’m going to make a red and purple one to match my red jelly shoes I bought from the thrift store a little while ago.I think it looks cool when it matches and such :)

  • thunderbolts April 6th, 2012 10:07 AM

    I just hope you made the DIY articles twice or trice in a month :| Marlena you go girl! ;)

  • CamilleKasia April 6th, 2012 11:29 AM

    Oooohhh! Nice! I really want more tuto like this! I go to try it! This shirt-dress is fantastic! Thank youuu

  • dinnah_ April 6th, 2012 9:46 PM

    o.m.g i found it really fun and easy! i should’ve seen this before i purchased the h&m dress for a wedding occasion. (Indonesia has the most casual wed party too).

    Hi hi from Indonesia.

    oh and if you like collage artwork maybe you’ll love my work here:
    http://www.enigmaticallymagnetica.blogspot.com

    thanks :)

  • TheDemoiselle April 9th, 2012 8:49 PM

    so SO CLEVER!

  • meels April 11th, 2012 9:46 AM

    just bought my four t shirts!!

  • boxofrox April 12th, 2012 10:13 AM

    Hey Marlena! A local band called Double Run is hosting a t-shirt cutting contest on their facebook page using one of their shirts. You should check it out you’d be good at it! http://www.doublerunmusic.com/doublerunband

  • myy April 12th, 2012 7:54 PM

    My wish for creating the BEST DIY project EVER just came true!!! This is so brilliant . . . Marlena you are a goddess!

  • clady April 16th, 2012 3:38 AM

    SO BRILLIANT MARLENA :3
    it’s so cool dress :) thanks for ur tip

    theculunlady.blogspot.com
    happy blogging!

  • VintageAddict April 19th, 2012 8:37 PM

    pretty please do a tutorial on how u do ur brows!!! i love them. thanks marlena!

  • Ellie April 25th, 2012 1:54 PM

    This is ADORABLE! Looks like so much fun, and totally GROOOOOVY.

  • sweeterthanyourface May 27th, 2012 3:57 AM

    This is so great! I am deeply impressed. :-)

  • chyerry June 5th, 2012 6:22 AM

    CUTE!

  • music_is_love June 10th, 2012 6:08 AM

    two friends and I actually did this for “last day of school”. We also made beehives, it was so awesome, and a lot of fun! THANKS ROOKIE

    up-tops from Denmark :))

  • nattydubbz June 18th, 2012 8:00 PM

    i’m dying to make this.
    i just finished my pillow case skirt (with the help of my grandma) and plan on making this next. once i brush up on my sewing machine skills…

  • Pixie June 27th, 2012 3:47 PM

    that’s so cool! I guess I’m gonna do that myself :)

    http://neverending-fashion.blogspot.com/

  • evemarietou July 28th, 2012 5:28 PM

    This DIY project is pretty incredible. Certainly not for inexperienced sewers, unfortunately, such as myself — but a girl can dream!

    xx

    http://www.evemarietou.tumblr.com
    http://www.old-daze.blogspot.com