Tutorial: I Want a White Dress A.K.A. How to turn a men’s dress shirt into a tween dress/shirt.

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Here it is. This is a big moment in history… my first tutorial. I have been having so much fun making clothes for my daughter that I decided I needed to jump on the bandwagon and write a tutorial. Most tutorials for upcycled clothing are always for cute little toddlers. I get great inspiration from them, but what about the older child who is too young to wear adult upcycled clothing styles, but too old for the upcycled toddler styles? That is where my daughter fits right now. She is in need of tweenage upcycled clothing.

Here we go. She said she really wanted a white dress/top. I grabbed a white shirt that my husband didn’t like for some reason (He can really be as picky as the kids. That must be where they got it from.) and started cutting.

I knew that I wanted this to be better fitting than the tunic that I made last, so I went digging through some patterns and resources for inspiration. I ran across a pattern that I used several years ago and new that was the look I wanted, only six sizes bigger. Plus I definitely wanted it to be quick and simple. None of that lining stuff. (I admit it. I am a lazy seamstress.)

So I used three pattern pieces from the pattern to give me an idea of the shape I wanted. (Don’t ever be embarrassed to use your resources to create something new.)

My daughters chest measured 32 inches. I knew I wanted to add some wiggle room and I also knew that I would want to divide that number by four because most pattern pieces are only 1/4 of the entire dress. So I picked 36 inches to give a little wiggle room/growing room and also because it divides by four evenly.

Before I could do anything with the three pattern pieces, I had to cut up the shirt. Honestly that is the hardest part for me. Cutting that shirt up that was so nicely and professionally done and hoping that I can do something that will be as nice and professional looking. Here it is.. all cut up.

Now I had a front, back and two sleeves. Threw the collar piece away. Who wants to deal with collars anyway? Right?

Because I wanted this shirt/dress to fit more closely than the previous tunic that I had made, I cut the front and back apart rather than keeping them as one piece. I also unpicked the pocket because I was choosing to use the front of the shirt as the back of the girls shirt/dress. (Plus it wasn’t very girly looking.) I also unpicked and saved the little green tree tag on the side of the shirt because I thought I could maybe reuse it in the new item somewhere…

Just be careful when unpicking a pocket. Man they have those things sewn on well. Don’t tear the fabric.

Then I ironed all the pieces again because the back had this tuck that was cut apart when I took off the collar. (Another reason to cut the back from the front.)

Next I cut out the front piece on the fold (which was really the back of the man’s shirt).

I basically had to add 3/4 of an inch all the way around the pattern.

Then I did the same to the back of the dress (which was really the front of the man’s shirt). I actually had to line the center of the pattern on the buttons so I did one side and then the other rather than folding it in half. (Shirts don’t fold well on the buttons… go figure.)

Then I cut the sleeves open and laid them flat and drew the new sleeves using the hem that already existed on the sleeve. (Same for the front and back of the dress. The less sewing the better. Always use a hem that is already there whenever you can!)

So here is a picture of the large sleeve with one of the cut sleeves on top. I did the same thing with the sleeve. Extended the pattern 3/4 of an inch all around. The pencil is just there to help my camera focus. It has issues. A new camera would be nice right about now. 😀

Next step: I sewed the front to the back at the shoulders. Then I pressed out the shoulder seams. Sometimes I serge, but this particular daughter likes soft things and serged seams bother her.

(Please ignore my dirty ironing board. Did I mention that all my children are crafty as well. Thank you dear daughters for the state of my ironing board. One of my son’s says… that looks like an old fashioned picture mom. I said: No hon… that’s just the dirty ironing board cover.)

Next it is sleeve time. No more of that sew up the sleeve, sew up the side seam and then put the sleeve inside the whole and sew it up garbage!! No way! (Sorry Grandma.) Pin the sleeve to the side of the garment where the sleeve belongs and sew. I find it helps if I start at the center and work out and then flip it over and do the same. That way with a few gentle stretches everything matches up nicely.

Here is a picture of what it looked like so far:

Next, sewing up the side seams. Easy Peasy! Oh! Remember that tag? Ya, I added that back in afterall.

Here it is pinned all nicely.

Here is the tag peaking out of the pinned area on the side. I put it up from the bottom hem about 3 inches or so.

Here is what the dress sides look like when finished.


Next comes the most difficult part. Making the tiny hem on the upper edge. I unbuttoned the dress all the way down so I wouldn’t forget and accidentally hem the buttoned edge closed. That would be tragic.

Then I turned under the edge 1/4 inch and then again 1/4 inch. Here it is all pinned and ready to sew.

After sewing I got something that looked like this…

Now for the final embellishment. The pocket. Let’s spruce it up with some lace. Shall we?

Then sew it on the dress front. (The side w/0 the buttons.) Here is the front:

Here is the back:

Here is one happy girl. I am thinking jeggings would look great with this!

Happy Upcycling!

Rebecca Rèe


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