Thursday, 16 October 2008

Refashioning adult shirts into girls' dresses.

Posted by Julie
Towards Sustainability

One of my most popular posts was about refashioning an adult shirt into a dress for my daughter. It's not an idea that I came up with, I pinched the original concept from a great tutorial in a forum, which you can find here. I am NOT an experienced sewer by any stretch of the imagination, and I had only used my new-ish sewing machine a few times before having a go at these, but fortunately they require straight-line sewing only. Trust me, if I can turn out half-decent looking dresses, then pretty much anyone can!

I've made several variations of this dress now for my daughters; none of them look the same and none of them look like they used to be shirts (at least no one has commented if they have noticed ;-). I thought someone might be interested so I have reposted a couple of them here, with apologies to those in the northern hemisphere going into winter right now :-)

With the first dress, I started with this pretty women's button-up shirt I found at an Op-shop:

The tutorial is based around using a men's shirt, which has a yoke at the back. The shirt I decided to use was a women's shirt though, and had no yoke at the back, darts down the front and back and under the bust, and was made from a stretch fabric! Nevertheless, I didn't have much to lose if it didn't turn out, so I unpicked all the seams with a seam ripper, including all the darts, and I ended up with these bits and pieces:

I ironed the front and back of the shirt to even out where the darts had been, then folded them both in half. I measured around Miss 6's chest and got 58.5cm (23 inches). The tutorial's author added 3" for ease, divided it by four, and then added a seam allowance, so that's what I did and ended up with a final measurement of 18cm (about 7 inches). Then I measured from under her arm to her waist and got 15cm (6"), plus a seam allowance. Those two measurements gave me a rectangle for the bodice which I marked on the wrong side of the back of the shirt with a pencil and ruler, and then I just drew a straight line from the bottom corner of the bodice to the bottom corner of the shirt (you might need to click on the pic to see the pencil lines):

I cut it out, and pinned it to the front of the shirt, which I had also folded in half, and got these:

When I sewed the side seams together, I ended up with this (below), which I tried on Miss 6 and it was way too big! I ended up taking in the side seams another 3cm along the bodice, so maybe I shouldn't have allowed for so much ease when using a stretch fabric? Anyway, I just left the extra side seams inside the dress as I figured it might be useful for letting out when she inevitably grows over winter so we can get next summer out of it as well.

Note that because it was a women's shirt, the bottom hem has that nice rounded finish. Unlike the tutorial, which cut the shirt straight across, I decided to incorporate the bottom hem because a) it looked nice, b) it was one less hem I had to sew and c) Miss 6 seems to grow about an inch a day so she needs all the length she can get.

To finish, I folded over the top edge of the bodice twice (about 1/4" each time) and hemmed it, by just machine sewing around it. I then decided that the bodice was pretty boring and definitely needed some definition - plus my hem sewing is *really* wonky - so I grabbed some narrow pink ric rac leftover from a craft project and sewed some around the top edge and again around the waist. I didn't even pin it first, 'cause I am the impatient type ;-)

Then I looked at the tutorial to see how the sleeves were done and decided that the sleeves from my shirt were way too deep (you can see them in the second pic, above) to get the same effect as those in the tutorial, so I ended up just cutting a couple of narrow strips from one of the sleeves, folded them in half and sewed around two edges, then turned them inside out using a knitting needle. I measured them on Miss 6 and machine sewed them onto the inside of the bodice seam - I didn't bother shortening them either as I now have a couple of inches extra to let them out as Miss 6 gets taller.

And this is the final result! The back:

Here you can see how the buttons from the front of the original shirt now go down the back of the dress:

And here's the front:

Not bad for around 4 hours work sewing, and I have NO prior experience other than a few high school sewing classes over 20 years ago. I'm sure if I knew what I was doing I could whip one up in a couple of hours?

This second dress also started as another women's op-shop shirt (the one in the rear of this photo).

And ended up as this dress, using the same tutorial.

As you can see, I tried to do the straps the same as in the tutorial, but a) I accidentally cut them way too wide, and b) since the fabric was soft they don't stand up stiffly like the ones in the tutorial, but having said that, because they are so wide, if they had stood out stiffly they would look really odd I think?

As they are they almost look a bit like cap sleeves, so I left them as they were. Ignore the fact that they look lopsided in the photo below, they aren't really, it was that Miss 4 had flipped her shoulder up as I took the photo.

The thing I love the most about these dresses (apart from the fact that they are repurposed) is that they are all originals, and since they don't use a pattern as such - providing I get the measurements right and the basic seams sewn in the right place - the final product can't be "wrong". I've seen some dresses made from old, stained shirts with beautiful patches or embroidery to cover the stains, and they look fabulous.

If you're scared of sewing and can find an old shirt or two, have a go! You've got nothing to lose :-)