How to Refashion Clothes: Make a Dress

You can easily learn how to refashion clothes with this DIY sewing tutorial for making a dress from a shirt and skirt.

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by Diane Pedersen and Nissa Brehmer

Beth Huntington offers tips and techniques for how to refashion clothes to suit your style in The Refashion Handbook (Stash Books, 2014). With clear instructions and lots of photos showing the steps from thrifted clothing to finished article, even beginning crafters will have no difficulty learning to redefine their fashion by creating their own clothes. The following project demonstrates how to make this stylish dress from a shirt and skirt.

Refashion Techniques:

• Shorten a skirt
• Redesign a shirt to make a bodice
• Alter a skirt lining
• Attach a bodice to a skirt
• Attach a sewn-in elastic waistband

white shirt folded sitting on a wood table

How to Refashion the Dress

1. Measure from your waistline to your desired hem length. Add 1/2 inch for a seam allowance and mark this distance, from the bottom of the skirt up, all across the skirt. Cut on the line. If your skirt is lined, cut the lining at the same time as the outer skirt and keep them together.

black and white skirt with the top portion cut off

2. Measure from your shoulder to your waistline. Add 1/2 inch for a seam allowance, mark this distance all across the bottom of the shirt, and cut on the line.

white shirt with the bottom portion cut off

3. Pin the top of the skirt and lining together.
black and white skirt with pins around the waist

4. Use the longest stitch on your machine to baste across the top of the skirt and the lining.

5. Fold the shirt in half, lining up the side seams, and mark the center front and center back at the bottom. Repeat with the skirt.

black and white skirt being sewn in a sewing machine

6. Tuck the shirt down inside the skirt, with right sides together. Line up the raw edges, matching the side seams, the center fronts, and the center backs. Adjust the skirt to fit the top by pulling the bobbin thread of the basting stitches as needed to gather it. Pin in place all around.

inside out skirt with white fabric on the inside pinned together

7. Stitch all 3 layers together using a zigzag stitch and a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

8. Cut a piece of 1/4-inch wide elastic to your waist size minus 3 inches.

inside out skirt being sewn on a sewing machine

9. Use a washable marking pen to mark the elastic in half and then in quarters.

fabric pen, elastic, and inside out skirt laying together

10. With the cut ends at the center back, and matching the quarter marks to the center front and side seams, pin the elastic to the waistline seam allowance.

inside out skirt with elastic pinned to the waist

11. Using a zigzag stitch and keeping the marks lined up, stretch the elastic slightly as you sew it to the waistline so the waistline of the dress stays flat.

elastic being sewn on to an inside out skirt

book cover with a woman holding fabric next to a sewing machine

Reprinted with permission from The Refashion Handbook: Refit, Redesign, Remake for Every Body by Beth Huntington and published by Stash Books, 2014.