How to make a T-shirt dress

Like any die-hard baseball nut, occasionally I come to terms with the idea that there are other sports and people enjoy watching them.

Take football, for instance.

Apparently it's a big deal.

Especially now that our hometown team, the 49ers, have made the playoffs.

Or as the kid says, "Only one win away until they reach the World Series!"

That is how much of a baseball house we are. Every sport apparently vies for the World Series.

That said, her school is holding a Spirit Day today and we've packed all of our instruments to jump on the bandwagon, rooting around in closets for something red and gold to wear.

Here's what you do when you only have an adult's large T-shirt and just hours until your school celebrates some sport that helps you kill time until pitchers and catchers report ….

1. First, you find an old T-shirt. The idea for a T-shirt dress came about last year when I received an enormous Angry Birds shirt that was far too big for anyone. I made a simple T-shirt dress for the kid and she still wears it around. (These things make great pajamas, by the way.)



2. Turn the T-shirt inside out and, using your child's measurements, trace a dress shape onto it, going from the sleeve, curving under the arm, and then billowing down the side in a general dress shape.



4. At this point, you can cut the dress along your outline. If you're going to embellish the shirt in any way, it's so much easier to cut it first, do all the embellishments, and then pin back together for the sewing part.

If, however, you don't need to add anything, I recommend skipping the cutting part and just running the T-shirt through the sewing machine as is, stitching along your dress line. Once done, then cut and finish the seams as you see fit.

If you have one, a serger works miracles during this step, as it not only provides a perfectly finished seam, but it also cuts the fabric as you go. All you have to do is contend with a machine that reminds me a cross between angry porcupine and Edward Scissorhands. I don't know why, but the serger freaks me the hell out, what with its razor blades and billions of spools and pistons. But that's a personal issue I'm working through. You may be weird and love your serger.

So there you go. That's a quick and dirty how-to on making a simple dress out of an old T-shirt.

Now all you have to do is go outside and play catch until your arm is sore and your child runs wild-eyed through the streets, a football tucked under her arm, shouting, "She wins! She wins! She wins it in the bottom of the ninth!"


  1. This is a GREAT idea. I have a dozen or so t-shirts that I'm loathe to get rid of, because I love them, but I don't wear anymore, and given that both my girls do love traipsing around in "play dresses"... oooh, PROJECT!

  2. It is soooo easy. I imagine I'll have to do something with the sleeves at some point, as the kid keeps growing, but for now? Such a simple way to create great play clothes. Have fun!

  3. I'm just going to throw this out there, but perhaps the reason the serger freaks you the hell out is because you stitched through your finger once... don't I remember that story? One impromptu table runner? It would probably be worse to run your finger through the serger.

    Adorable dress.

  4. And that is exactly the reason ...

    I swear I'm going to serge a finger someday ...

  5. Cute!!
    I'm just learning to sew (or re-learn what my mom showed me when I was ten) and your projects are so inspirational. Can't wait to try this out someday. For now, my daughter is only 4 months and lives in her fleece sleepers - it's 10 degrees this morning.

  6. Sara, if I may be so bold as to offer unrequested advice: sewing clothes gets much more gratifying when they're walking. Their rate of growth slows drastically and you don't have the problem of crawling on the dress! Once you start, though, it's so fun. Even if you screw up, it doesn't matter, because little kids look cute in anything, no matter how crooked the seam.

  7. Plus, kids don't even notice or care about mistakes. They just love the outfits.

  8. What I meant to tell you on FB but forgot is that this place in Berkeley with drop-in sewing hours has servers galore for you to use when you need one.

    Okay back to searching for the perfect Wonder Woman Tshirt.

  9. OH MY GOD! I want fewer sergers, not a roomful of them! I'd probably lose an arm or a toe or something ...

    Seriously, thanks. I need to check that place out!

  10. Two dresses done in under one hour! Woo! Of course, I soon realized that my collection of old t-shirts are not entirely appropriate (Tease o Rama? Cock-Ts? Peaches Christ? Well, maybe that last one...) but the souvenir tee is perfect, as is the Madeline-printed tee. Thanks so much for the tip!