This is a surprisingly simple way to turn an old button-down shirt into a fun dress. It requires very little sewing. I wore one of these dresses to my Junior prom, and now I'm making a second one with my mom for this instructable.
Things you need:
- a big, button-down shirt
- 4 or 5 buttons
- needle and thread
- straight pins
- someone to help you, or a dress form
Step 1: Choosing a Shirt
If you don't already have an old shirt you can recycle for this purpose, you should be able to find one at a thrift store. Hold the collar under your arms, and make sure it's long enough that you'll be comfortable wearing it as a dress. Short sleeves are ok, but make sure they're long to reach around your chest and overlap in the back.
Also, try and find a shirt that has darts in the middle of the back. If the darts are at the shoulders, it won't fit as well. It seems like women's shirts mostly have darts in the middle, and men's shirts have darts at the shoulders.
I used a blue polka-dot shirt for my first dress, and a red plaid one for the second. A Hawaiian shirt could also be a lot of fun.
Step 2: The Structure of the Dress
Here's how it works: the collar goes across your chest, the sleeves wrap around to your back, and the buttons now button up your back.
If you're lazy or desperately need a dress in the next 5 minutes, you can tie the sleeves behind your back and you're finished. However, I recommend cutting the sleeves short and securing them with buttons instead.
You can choose to leave the collar sticking out, like in the first picture, or you can cut it off. It's a matter of how the shirt fits, and personal preference.
Step 3: Cutting Off Extra Bits
Now is when you need that friend/parent/child/dressform. I tried making a duct tape dress form a while back, but it came out all weird and lumpy - luckily my mom was happy to help instead. You should be making these adjustments on whoever will be wearing the dress. So from now on when I say "you" I mean whoever's doing the adjusting, and when I say "the person" I mean the dress form or the person the dress is for.
Pin the sleeves together in the back and button up the buttons, so that the dress stays up. Then you'll have to fuss around a bit to make sure everything will fold right. You may need to tuck in little bits of fabric along the side, and tug out other bits so they don't get lumpy. These little adjustments don't have to be permanent yet - just make sure that you'll be able to get the front of the dress to look ok, and you can tack down the folds later if you need to.
You'll have to decide whether you want to keep the collar or not. If you don't want it, now's the time to cut it off.
Now you have to cut the sleeves short. Stretch the sleeves behind the person's back, and mark where to cut them. The ends must overlap by at least a few inches, so there's room for buttons and buttonholes and for hemming the ends.
If you started out with a short sleeved shirt, you probably won't have to cut the sleeves any shorter.
Step 4: Hemming the Sleeves
If you cut the sleeves shorter, you'll have to hem the ends so they don't unravel. First trim the ends so they're straight, and then fold down the edge of the fabric and pin it. If you want, you could make a larger hem on the side that's going to have the button holes, and cut the button holes out of the hem for extra reinforcement.
Make sure the sleeves are still long enough to overlap in the back!
Choose some thread that matches your fabric and sew the hem.
Step 5: Buttonholes and Buttons
First we'll cut the buttonholes, and then add buttons. The buttonholes don't have to be placed all that precisely. Just try to get them in a straight line along the edge of the sleeve that will be on top. Once again, make it overlaps enough with the bottom sleeve to fit buttons.
Pick out some buttons - you'll probably want 4 or 5. Lay them out along the edge of the sleeve, and draw little lines marking the positions and sizes of the buttonholes. Then cut slits along the lines, long enough that you can squeeze the button through.
I hear there's an easy way to sew buttonholes with a sewing machine, but sadly I do not have one, so I'll be doing it by hand. If you're going to do it by hand too, take a few feet of thread, double it over, and start stitching around the edge of the hole. It doesn't have to look pretty (it will be covered by the button) but it should be durable. Try to cover the entire edge with thread, and not leave tufts of fabric sticking out. Take extra care at the ends of the slits, so they don't start ripping farther.
Once the buttonholes are done, it's time to mark where the buttons should be. Have the person put on the dress, and pull the sleeves behind their back. You don't want the dress falling down, so you should pull the sleeves until it's tight but not uncomfortable. If you can't breathe, it's too tight.
Use a pen to draw a mark through each buttonhole, so you know where to attach the button underneath. Take off the dress, and sew the buttons downs at those marks.
Step 6: Done!
You can fuss with it a bit at this point, tucking and tugging the fabric into place. If you need to, you can use a couple stitches to tack down folds.
But really, you're finished. Congratulations! Go enjoy your dress. Or go ahead and make another one.