Introduction: Gathered Summer Dress

About: I make things. DIY author and blogger at Studs & Pearls: 30 Creative Projects for Customized Fashion available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and!

The best thing about dresses is that you can easily make one from almost any shirt. By now I think it's pretty obvious that I love repurposing old clothes, & this dress is just that. I used a thrifted shirt that's bigger than my usual size, and some floral jersey fabric (which I'll talk more about in a bit)

It's so so so easy to make. Perfect for beginner level seamstresses, & doesn't need crazy cutting & measuring. As long as you know some basic sewing, my general run through should be enough to guide you.

Step 1: Supplies


- Thrifted tank top, loose fitting. Mine was about $5.
- Jersey knit fabric of your choice. I started with 2 yards & had a ton leftover. *
- Coordinating thread. I used maroon thread + a shiny rayon mustard yellow thread.
- Sewing machine
- Scissors, pins, tailor's chalk

*I used a special kind of jersey knit fabric, called ITY knit (interlocking twist yarn). It stretches like a normal jersey t-shirt but has an amazing, high quality & smooth feel to it. You can even use the fabric from an old oversized shirt - I'm sure you can find some crazy printed jersey t-shirts at the thrift store - and don't forget to look in the mens' and maternity section. As long as it's big enough to give you enough fabric, then go for it.

Step 2: Measuring

I tried on the top & marked the spot where I wanted the bottom half to start. I decided to make it high waisted but that's totally up to you!

The measurements of my huge rectangle of jersey was 60 inches wide & 31 inches long. This will obviously be different depending on your top/preferences, but the next step explains how I determined this.

Step 3: More Measuring

Width -
Laying flat, I measured the shirt at its widest, which was at the bottom. I didn't do this where I marked the line, since I wanted extra fabric for that gathering effect. It was 20 inches at its widest point, or 40 inches all around. SO, I measured 40 inches of jersey knit, then added half of that - so 60 inches wide, total. Or x1.5 the 40 inches. I also added 2 extra inches for extra sewing space.

Length -
I put on the shirt again & measured from the chalk mark to where I wanted to the skirt to hit - about 26 inches, right above my knees. I tacked on an extra 5 or so inches just to be safe, since it's better to start with too much and trim it down later on. Again, this will be different for you depending on your shirt, preference & obviously height.

Step 4: Start Sewing!

Along the top/width of the fabric, I sewed it up to give it a clean edge. This is the part of the fabric that will be attached to the top.

Step 5: Cut the Shirt

I cut off the bottom of the shirt, about 2 inches below the chalk mark...

Step 6: Sew the Shirt

...then hemmed the bottom.

Step 7: Pin the Two Pieces Together

With right sides facing each other, I lined up the jersey fabric with the side seam of the shirt. Then, I pinned the two pieces together & pleated at random intervals. To create a pleat, simply fold over the edge of the fabric as you pin. Since I had an extra 20+ inches width wise, I was able to pleat all the way around.

Step 8: Pleating

How the pleats look from the inside

Step 9: Attach the Two Pieces

I then sewed the top and bottom together, right sides facing each other.

Step 10: Pleats

See those pleats?

Step 11: More Sewing

I sewed up the side of the skirt portion to close it up, since it had only been sewed along the top so far.

After trying on the dress yet again & figuring out the definite length that I wanted, I trimmed a good 4 or so inches off of the bottom. A dress form would be really useful at this point, but a hanger can work as well. I sewed up the bottom edge with the shiny mustard yellow thread.

Step 12: Don't Forget...

Reminder: don't forget to adjust your thread tension! Tighter, smaller stitches worked best with both of my fabrics.

Step 13: Trim the Loose Threads

Trim down all of the loose threads and you're finished! Not so flattering on the hanger, but add in my favorite leather waist belt?

Step 14: Wear It

And you have a gathered dress. So easy to make, and a great way to repurpose an old tank top, whether it's from your closet or the thrift store.

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