Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Make a Little Girl's Dress From a T-Shirt

 As you  know, we are planning a family trip to Disneyland.  When you have five young children, keeping track of everyone is a real issue.  My parents took our family to Disneyland when we were young and one of the tactics they used was matching shirts.  If we are all wearing the same shirt, we can train our eye to watch out for that shirt in the sea of people.  I have been on the lookout for matching shirts for several months with no success.  I could find shirts for all of the girls, but none for our teenage son or for my husband and I.  We're also trying to avoid using our entire Disney budget on shirts before we even leave (we're getting the five day pass).

Solution Part A: Vistaprint.  It was hard to beat the $4.50 price tag!  I uploaded a free Mickey picture and had the shirts printed and shipped for free.  To get the deal, I had to order all men's sizes.

Solution Part B:  Make the Men's T-shirt into a little dress (for the small girls) or a tunic (for the big girls).

It was so easy and could be made out of any adult tee.  Here is the tutorial!

Materials needed:  T-Shirt (this is an adult small), 7/8" ribbon, cord, and matching thread.

Lay out your t-shirt and measure a length of 7/8" ribbon--enough to wrap all of the way around the shirt plus a little extra.

To avoid fraying ends, fold over the ends of the ribbon and pin it in place.

Then, pin the whole ribbon on the shirt.  I left a gap between the ends of the ribbon because you will have a draw string tied there.  Make sure that you don't pin the front of the shirt to the back!

View from the back, pinned loosely in place.

Stitch one side in place, being careful to stay close to the edge of the ribbon.

Now, stitch the other side of the ribbon in the same way.  

You've just made a casing for your draw string.  Good job!  

On the ends of each ribbon, I stitched the opening so it was a little smaller.  This way, I can tie a knot on the ends of my draw string and it won't pull out as easily.  

Here is another view from inside the t-shirt.

Next up, pulling the t-shirt inside-out, put it on the cutest little girl you can find.  The neckline of the t-shirt was too big, so I put a couple of simple darts in the back.  Measure and pin . . .

and stitch it.  Try to make them the same.  If they don't end up same, fix her hair down when she wears this dress.

Okay, now that we have a waist and a collar that fits, lets do something about those ginormous sleeves.  Go pick a shirt that fits nicely from your daughter's drawer.  None of the seams are going to be the same.  Don't worry.  Line up the collar as closely as you can.

Here is another view.  Smooth out the two shirts so the tops of the sleeves are flush.

Use a crayon to trace the shirt that fits onto the soon-to-be dress.  Bump the crayon markings out just a bit for a seam allowance.

If your niece bought your daughter Minnie Mouse crayons for Christmas, use one of those.

Now, take a deep breath and cut.  I wanted the fullness of the shirt so the skirt could be full, but I didn't want baggy armpits.  That is so 1995.  I know 'cause that was when I graduated.  We were all about huge t-shirts in those days.  And waistbands that went around our waist.  But, I digress.  My point is that I took off much of the sleeve, then angled the bodice a bit.

Fold the shirt in half and cut it the exact same way on the other side.  Hem the sleeve and sew up the sides.  Do it in that order so you don't have to fight with trying to sew a super small arm hole in knit without stretching it.

This is what your garment should look like at this point.

Does it look like that?  I know there are a few things are aren't exactly perfect, but the waist will be cinched so you won't be able to see the little wobbles.

Finally, thread the cord through your ribbon casing and knot the ends.

Here it is on the little girl.  We will probably add leggings for our trip.

And here it is on the big girl.  The biggest difference between the tunic and the dress is how far down you put your draw string.

I still need a couple more matching shirts for the whole family and I have a couple more ideas on how to alter them.  The Michael's ad that came in Sunday's paper advertised t-shirts for $2.50 each.  I'll post the altered designs soon!


  1. This post reminds me, if you are looking for an inexpensive hotel near Disneyland, let me know. We always stay at a hotel that is within easy walking distance, is clean, has free breakfast, WiFi, a pool and hot tub for about $45/night. (That's with military or AAA discount. I think the regular price is typically around $55/night.) It's not luxurious by any means, but it's cheap and clean and makes it so we can avoid the $20 parking fee at Disneyland. They even allow you to keep your car parked in the parking lot on the day you check out, with permission.

  2. Awesome! You are so creative! Your daughters are such sweet models! I love the expression on the little one's face in the after picture!