Simple T-shirt Dress

My pretend daughter, Brittany     The button and ruffle detail.

This is a dress design that's been around longer than I can remember. Everyone who makes it, alters it to suit their own tastes, and talents. I made this one for my "pretend daughter", Brittany, the real daughter of my dear friends, Wayne and Mary.

It is a very simple idea, that turns a plain t-shirt into a fun and special garment. I am very proud to say, that Mary liked the dress so much, it ended up as Brittany's Easter dress. Thanks, Mary.

Supplies to make a dress in size 2-3T:

1 t-shirt (Cotton/Poly blends are easiest to work with.)

1 yard of 45" wide fabric

scrap of co-ordinating fabric (for yo-yo's)

scrap of woven iron-on interfacing (to back buttons)

small pre-gathered lace trim, about 3 yards

2 decorative buttons

matching thread


dressmaker's marking pen


Since this dress can be made for any size shirt, I have given basic measuring instructions. The formula works for any size.

  1. Pre-wash t-shirt and fabric. Press.

  2. Lay shirt on a flat surface, smooth out any wrinkles.

  3. Measure 1" down from under arm seams and mark on each side. Draw a line connecting these marks across the shirt.

  4. Cut on line, discard botom of shirt.

  5. Measure the distance across shirt at cut. Double this number. Multiply by 2 1/2. This is the width of fabric needed to make the skirt. (Ex: 14" across, doubled = 28. Multiplied by 2 1/2 = 70)

  6. Divide your width by 45 (the width of your fabric from selvage to selvage). This will give you the number of pieces needed. (Ex: 70 divided by 45 = 1.55) You would need 1 1/2 pieces of 45" wide fabric for the width of the skirt.

  7. For the length, measure the wearer from underarm to knee. This is the length of fabric your 45" wide pieces should be cut.

  8. For ruffle at skirt, take the width measurement (70") and mutiply this by 2 1/2. For a 1" ruffle, you will need a strip of fabric 3 1/4 inches. This allows for the fabric to be doubled, with a 5/8" seam allowance.

  9. To add ruffles to the sleeves, cut the sleeve hem off and then follow the same steps above for measuring, and calculating.

Assembly Instructions:

  1. With right sides together, stitch skirt pieces at selvaged edges.

  2. Gather skirt piece to fit shirt at cut.

  3. With right sides together, attach skirt to shirt. If using a regular sewing machine, stitch a medium zigzag next to the seam to keep fabric from raveling, and clip raw edges to stitching.

  4. Stitch skirt ruffle strips, right sides together, at short ends. Fold in half, wrong sides together and press.

  5. Gather skirt ruffle to fit bottom edge of skirt.

  6. Attach ruffle to skirt. Zigzag, and clip.

  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with sleeve ruffle strips. Attach to sleeves, zigzag and clip.

  8. Press seam allowances away from ruffle (up). Attach lace trim with a narrow zigzag top stitch, catching the seam allowance on the underside.

For Yo-Yo's and Buttons:

  1. Determine button position at center front of shirt, mark.

  2. Cut two 1/2" circles of iron-on interfacing and fuse to wrong side of shirt at marks.

  3. Cut two 3" circles of co-ordinating fabric. Gather around edges. Pull gathering threads tight, knot. Flatten fabric, with gathered area in center.

  4. Place yo-yo on mark, on center of shirt. Place button in center of yo-yo. Stitch in place. Tie off threads securely.

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