Introduction: Make a Toddler Dress From a T-shirt.

Picture of Make a Toddler Dress From a T-shirt.

This Instructable will show you how to easily make a long sleeved toddler sized dress from an adult sized t-shirt.

I have a hard time finding winter dresses for my girls, that are not too fancy, and not too expensive. I have a lot of t-shirts, none of which fit me well, so here is a great way to use them. 

These dresses go great with leggings, are nice and warm, and the kids love to wear them.

You will need:
A toddler.
A t-shirt that currently fits your toddler.
An adult sized shirt to make into your dress.
A sewing machine.

Step 1: Try the T-shirt on the Kid.

Picture of Try the T-shirt on the Kid.

Have your kid try on the t-shirt. Make sure they are not scared of the logo, or think it's ugly or itchy, or what have you. This is also your chance to check the length, collar and sleeves. The length will be about an inch shorter than it is now. You can make it as short as you want, but you can't make it any longer. The sleeves will be the same length they are now. If the collar is too big, see the last step on this instructable, but it does make the project a lot harder. My advice is to pick a different t-shirt, or find a bigger kid.

Step 2: Cut the Pieces.

Picture of Cut the Pieces.

Now take the t-shirt, lay it flat, and smooth it out. Take a shirt that already fits your kid, and lay it on top, lining up the top seams of the shirts. If the shirt you are using as a pattern flares out at the bottom, adjust it so it goes straight down. Now cut straight across, about 1/2 inch down from the bottom of the pattern shirt. This piece will be your skirt. You can make it shorter if you want, but leave the finished edge on the bottom alone. Cut along the rest of the shirt, leaving about 1/2 for seam allowance.

Step 3: Sew the Top of the Dress.

Picture of Sew the Top of the Dress.

Turn the top of the dress inside out. I'm going to refer to the top of the dress as the shirt now.  Line up the seams. Sew from the bottom up to the arm pit, then turn and go down the sleeve. Do the same on the other side. Leave the bottom of the shirt open.

Use about a half inch seam allowance. Make sure you back stich at the beginning and end of each seam.

Step 4: Prepare the Skirt.

Picture of Prepare the Skirt.

If you want the skirt to be shorter, cut it now. Leave the finished edge alone. If your shirt doesn't have side seams, mark each side of the skirt with a dot. This helps to make sure the skirt attatched to the dress evenly.

Now baste along the top of the skirt. (don't backstich, use a long stitch length.)

Pull the top thread to gather the skirt.

Step 5: Attatch the Skirt.

Picture of Attatch the Skirt.

Turn the skirt inside out. Turn the shirt right side out. Put the shirt inside the skirt, and line up the raw edges. (Right sides are facing each other.)

Now line up the dots you drew on the skirt with the seams sewn on the shirt.
Now line up the shirt with the gathered skirt, spreading the gathered skirt evenly, and pin in place.

Now sew the shirt to the skirt. Make sure you stay to the left of the gathered stitching so that it doesn't show. If your kids are rough to their clothes, sew around twice.

Turn it right side out and you're done.

Step 6: Try It On, and Go Play.

Picture of Try It On, and Go Play.

Make sure all the pins are out. Trim any loose threads, and put it on your kid. They will love it.
Here they are playing Super Hero Girl, and her trusty sidekick Robot Girl.

Both were size Meduim men's shirts. The blue is about a size 6 girls, and the grey is about a 2T/3T.

Step 7: If Your T-shirt Is REALLY BIG.

Picture of If Your T-shirt Is REALLY BIG.

If your t-shirt is really big, (aka, the collar droops over the kid's shoulder), you can still make the dress, it just takes a few more steps. Lay the pattern shirt over the tshirt, but below the collar.
then cut out the shirt, including cutting across the top.
You'll have to cut out the ribbing for the collar on the t-shirt, and sew it in place on the new smaller top.

It takes a lot of monkeying around with it, but you can do it!


IevaS3 made it! (author)2017-01-11

Love the idea. I use it also for long-sleeve tops.

MissyR16 (author)2017-01-08

I just tried this pattern and it came out adorable! :) My only
misstep was not trying the shirt on my daughter first. It came out too
long for her, but it is cute all the same. In reality, I am an AWFUL
seamstress so I doubted my ability to make it work at all. Thank you
for making it seem so easy that I wasn't afraid to try. Next time, I
will measure it to her first.

MissyR16 made it! (author)MissyR162017-01-08

It is a little bulky on her too, but it is warm and we need that in Vermont. :) But it should fit her next winter as well.

WendyP58 (author)2017-01-06

Hi! Just found this. It is awesome.But what if the neck opening is too big? Should I put a tuck in the back or shoulders? Thanks for your help.

AnkitR37 (author)2016-06-01

Wow.. Its
really great.

But you can also sell your
kids cloths online. I use some sites like and others to sell
my kids designer cloths. Benefit is that designer cloths are costly and
obviously no one wants to waste it. So its better to sell it so other kids
can use it.

KristinM5 (author)2016-01-19

This is a brilliant idea! Thanks for the great ible!

SarahM113 made it! (author)2015-11-06

My first ever completed sewing project! And it was so fun and simple, I turned around and made 2 more after my 3yo went to bed! Wild Thing dress was a Men's 2X and the color block dresses were Women's 2X. Instead of rejiggering to get the too big collars to work, I went with a boat neck rolled collar on 2 of them and used a bit of scrap to fill in the too deep v-neck.

I've got a few more shirts that I'm excited to try this with and I'm thinking I may attempt a similar method with a button up shirt!

TiffanyL7 (author)2015-09-18

I don't know what I love more, your essay to follow instructions, or the sense of humor mixed in :-) looking forward to giving this a try this weekend with some of hubby's old shirts!

Flipper Clarke (author)2015-07-18

Here's my attempt on my daughter Mia who's 19 months old today and already has a break eye for a dangling thread! Thank you for such a brilliant idea.

That should read hawk eye!

Emberlily made it! (author)2015-07-17

Great directions! The dress came together really quick.

MichelleA7 made it! (author)2015-06-05

Super easy-to-follow instructions! Thanks!

jensky13 made it! (author)2015-03-16

great idea! Mine turned out great! Didn't have any green gear for my daughter for st. Pattys day and I took a tee I meant to wear last year that I picked up at a second hand for a buck... and created my doll baby a one of a kind dress in no time! Thank you for the great idea! Sorry its a bit blury but you get the idea!

christina.v.hendrix (author)2014-12-19

Brillant! Thanks so much.

CraftyHarleyX (author)2014-08-13

I love the idea of doing this....and I wish I would have seen this when my little girl was a toddler. Do you think that your instructable would work as beautifully if I took a XL shirt and followed your directions to make it fit my 8 year old string bean? She's as tall as an average 10 year old, but as skinny as a 6 year old. Her dad gave me a bunch of his XL "concert" tees to "do whatever" with, and I would love to repurpose them for her in someway.......

HollyMann (author)2013-05-04

wow i love it so much - way adorable!!!

cs701 (author)2013-02-20

Have been looking at this for a while now and was like, "just do it, lady!" and I did. I took one of my (ahem) smaller shirts, like a women's S and cut it for my 5T/6 daughter. It is a mini-dress, she wears it with leggings and it looks adorable! Only took about 45 minutes, which part of was dawdling. The sleeves were a bit skinny and had to go and the head hole was a bit small, but it looks great! Such a good idea! Repurposing and fashion unite!

julieernak (author)2012-06-09

I made this t-shirt dress out of an old t-shirt that I was going to throw away. I know it is a super dark color. She is extremely fair skinned and has hot pink shoes and an electric blue head band (same blue that is in the shirt) to go with it. I made some modifications because I wanted an inside out seam at first but one area I felt didn't look 'perfect' (I am a perfectionist if my daughter is wearing it) so I added a belt and a cute bow with a button. She loves the skirt. She is super petite so I had to redo the neck hole, sleeves and take in the waist a second time because it hung off of her too much. All in all it took me about 2 hours. It was a lot of fun. I cannot wait to make another one!

julieernak (author)julieernak2012-06-09

Here are the pics.

chachookwaus (author)2012-01-19

i love it

goingon (author)2011-10-10

so impressed, love your ideas and your little girl


lizzyanthus (author)2011-09-21

Thank you for a great tutorial! I'm going to send your link to my daughter in law, who we just gave a new sewing machine to, for her birthday. Shes new to sewing, but I think this will be a great project for her, that will be easy and help build her sewing confidence! Oh, and I was looking at the t-shirt in Step 2, and thought, Why not use the left over sleeves and body fabric to make a dress for a dolly? You could just sew the two halves together, and finish off the neck and hem?

cute idea. dress for a dolly. or maybe a scrunchie

jujulie_f (author)2011-08-24

Wow! Such a good idea!! And great instructions too!

busy_as_a_bri (author)2011-08-24

I love this! Thanks so much for posting clear and concise directions :) -I'm a novice at sewing still.

mary candy (author)2011-08-24

I love this awesome ible!

soldiergirl83 (author)2011-08-16

This has become my go to dress for my daughter. She has about 10 of them with different embellishments, lace, buttons, ruffles, ect. Thank you!

cheeriokate (author)2011-08-07

I love this idea! I'm thinking now how I can use this design for adults... thanks for a great instructable!

if you had 2 t-shirts, you could keep one as is, and make a skirt out of the second one, and attatch it. it would work well if the 2nd t-shirt was really big, and a coordinating or same color.

That's what I was thinking. I'll have to try it :)

bluenebe (author)2010-06-16

What a wonderful idea. Thank you! It was fun to make and the result made both me and my little one happy.

wicked cool!

missesbozo (author)2010-08-09

absolutely awesome instructable! i got 5 awesome t-shirts for 25c each at a garage sale, and made this one in 20 minutes...just like everyone else said! it is great as my daughter is tall and slender, and if things fit lengthwise, they don't fit around, and vicea versa. thank you, thank you, thank you for makin' it simple! i've posted this pic on my FB and put a link to your instructable so all my other crafty mommy friends can check it out as well. now on the hunt for good condition Journey or Metallica t-shirts! ;)


Noymira (author)2010-10-05

Thanks for the instructable! This is the first thing I've sewn in years, it was really easy!

love it!!!

xstitcher66 (author)2011-08-02

i was just about to donate a bunch of clothes, including a huge # of t's when I came across your Instructable completely by accident. Needless to say, those t's are no longer in the donation box and my Granddaughter is getting a bunch of "new" dresses.

Thanks for the great (and funny) instructions. As per #1 on your needed items list, I do not have a toddler myself, but I am going to borrow one. :)

aleena09 (author)2011-07-10

Love this I will start making my daughter one Tomorrow morning this is an amazing idea and also great instructions thank you fo sharing: D

cathyellowboutique (author)2010-12-20

This is a wonderful idea. I've been throwing so many old t shirts, not knowing it would make this cutie Little Girls Dresses Now i know what to do with them.

Adhoss (author)2010-12-13

Thank you for the wonderful idea. My daughter told me that Santa was brining her doll clothes. I had seen this pattern a week ago and just tweaked it to make a toddler shirt into a doll dress. It only takes about 10 minutes to make the dress from start to finish. The neck is a little big for the 18" dolls, but it looks great on Cabbage Patch Kids. Happy Sewing!

hollyml (author)2010-08-04

It occurs to me that if you want the dress to be longer, all you need is a second shirt! Use the top part of one t-shirt, and the bottom part of a second t-shirt (in a coordinating color, natch) and you can pretty easily adjust the length of both parts. I have to think about these things because my daughter is TALL. But I can't wait to try this, thanks!

juci55 (author)2010-02-12

 this really is the greatest.  i just bought a t-shirt at marshalls for $.50 and whipped this up in 20 minutes.  i could have gathered the skirt better, but the shirt was a small and fitted t-shirt and didn't know how much material i had for the skirt.  i barely know how to sew and this project was fun, fun, fun.  thank you so much.  can't wait to make more.

domestic_engineer (author)juci552010-02-15

that is really cute.
I  <3 Smurfs too!

i love the smurfs too, lol, sorry, completely unrelated comment. these are really cute dresses, and a good idea. i've been looking for a way to do that.

laughingmyopic (author)2010-06-27

She looks so agonized. :) Awesome instructable! The little sister will soon have a sweet dinosaur dress.

porcupinemamma (author)2010-04-03

Exxxxxxxxxcellent!  where did you get the Instructables logo?

that's the t-shirt you get if you win a contest. the purple shirt was grey, but i dyed it.

You are brilliant-I will sit here in awe

awe, thanks. :)   (blush)

KnittingNellie (author)2010-03-06

Rockin' idea--I was just looking at my too-full t-shirt drawer this morning and shaking my head.....

I just posted a kid-leggings-out-of-adult-sweater instructable that would really compliment these t-shirt dresses.  Very cool, and so much fun to remake unused adult clothes into useful (and cute!) kid clothes.  Cheers!

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a domestic engineer, aka. a stay at home Mom. A former science geek, scenic carpenter, and quilter.
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