Introduction: Sun Dress Made From 3 Mens Shirts

This is a  versatile, comfortable sun dress you can make from 3 recycled men's shirts. It's inexpensive and has more coverage than the 1-shirt dress projects you  may have seen in other websites.
This tutorial will show 2 alternate ways to  make the  top of the dress, to accommodate different sewing skill levels and body types..
Make sure to read the whole tutorial all the way through before starting, so that you can skip the steps for the  bodice style you  are not making.

Step 1: Materials

Materials needed:
First you need 3  men's long-sleeved shirts. You can get these from a thrift store, or recycle your husband or boyfriend's old shirts. It looks best if the 3 shirts are the same colors or patterns. (or very closely similar)
I chose 3 shirts with blue and white stripes,  the bodice has narrower stripes.

The dress uses 1 shirt for the bodice and 2 shirts for the  skirt, so if you want a contrasting skirt, then get 2 shirts in the skirt color and 1 shirt in the bodice color.
For example, if you wanted a dress with blue top and white skirts, you would need 1 blue shirt and 2 white shirts.

The shirt you choose for the bodice should be large on you, it needs to  be loose fitting.

You will also need basic sewing supplies:
scissors, thread, sewing machine, and optional elastic for one of the bodice options.

I have shown the dress accessorized with a purchased belt.

Step 2: Cutting the Skirt Pieces

Begin by laying out the 2 shirts which you chose for the skirt.
Cut across the  chest, just below the armpits.
If there is a button within  an inch of the  cut,  then remove that button.

Set aside the upper part of the shirt with the sleeves. You will use this later.
The torso of the shirt from the armpit down  will become your skirt.
Leave the shirt hem intact, so that your dress will have the curved hem of the original shirts.
Next, cut along one side seam of the torso, and open the torso out flat.
Sew the button plackets closed.

Step 3: Sewing the Skirt

Take your two skirt pieces and place them right sides together.
Line up the bottom hems with eachother.
If the shirts are  different  lengths, trim the longer one to  match the shorter one.
Trim it at the top edge, to leave the hem intact.
(It's OK if they are different widths)

Sew the 2 pieces together at each side. This will create a large tube.

Now set your sewing machine stitch length to a long basting stitch.
Sew all around the top cut edge of the skirt with a long basting stitch.
Now set the skirt aside for now.

Step 4: Cutting Out the Bodice: Option 1- Elastic Style

I'm giving 2 options for the bodice of this dress.
This is directions for Option 1-  elastic style top
This is the easiest option and looks good on  slender women with small-to-medium busts.
NOTE: Before you cut anything, read through  this whole instructable, especially step 6. You may prefer to  use Option 2-  tank style  top if you are  a full-figured or larger busted woman, because option 2 allows you to wear a bra with the dress.

Ok now back to style 1:
Lay out  the  shirt that you chose for the bodice.
Cut across the shirt just below the  armpit, and cut the bottom hem straight across.
If there is a button within  an inch of the  cut,  then remove that button.
Sew the button placket closed.
You will use the straight tube of  fabric as your bodice.

Step 5: Sewing the Bodice: Option 1- Elastic Style

Option 1-  elastic style
The best elastic for this project is from 3/4 to 1" wide.

First, use a tape measure to measure  around your body above your bust, under your armpits (do not measure the fullest part of your bust)
This will be the upper edge of the  bodice where the elastic goes.
Now cut a piece of elastic 2 inches shorter than this measurement. Set elastic aside.

On the top edge of the  tube top,  fold over a hem casing  wide enough to  contain your elastic.
Sew the upper hem, leaving about 2 inches open.
Attach a large safety pin to one end of the elastic, and thread the elastic through the  casing.
Pulls the 2 ends of the elastic through the opening you left and sew them together.
Now finish sewing closed the  opening.

At this point, the top will look more like a skirt, and in fact you can even wear it as a convertible skirt AND as a dress, when it's finished!

Optional straps:
From the sleeves of one shirt, cut 4 long strips,  each strip 2 inches wide.
Take one strip and  fold it in half , the long way.. Sew it into a long tube with a half-inch seam allowance.
Now turn the tube  inside out and press it flat.
repeat with all 4 straps.
Hem the raw edges of the straps, or tie a knot in one end of each strap. (this keeps the  cut edge from unraveling)
Try on the  tube top to  choose the position for the straps.
You will sew 2 straps to the front and 2 straps to the back, and then tie them at the top of the shoulders.
Sew the straps to the inside,  along the top edge.
These are  convertible straps, you can untie them and tuck them into the top to wear a strapless look.

SKIP TO STEP10: Attaching the skirt

Step 6: Cutting the Bodice: Option 2- Tank Style

This is directions for Option 2-  tank style  top
This is a more detailed  option and looks good on  full-figured and larger busted women, and it allows you to wear a bra with the dress.

Lay out the shirt you have chosen for the bodice.
You will  cut the shirt into a v-necked tank-top shape.
You can use a v-necked top that fits you well to determine your neckline and armhole cuts.
Cut straight across the bottom hem, and  cut up the sides of the shirt.
Make sure the  bottom edge of the bodice is wider than your hip measurement.
If there is a button within  an inch of the  cut,  then remove that button.
Sew the button placket closed.

Step 7: Sewing the Bodice: Option 2- Tank Style

Before you sew the bodice, you need to bind the  neck and armhole edges.
You will make some  double-fold bias binding from the sleeves of the shirts.

1. Cut off 2 sleeves from one of the  shirts.
2. Cut off the sleeve cuffs.
3. Cut the sleeve seam open, and open out the sleeve fabric flat.
4. Cut the sleeves on a 45 degree angle to create bias strips. The strips should be 1 1/2 inches wide. (about 4 cm)

Step 8: Sewing the Bodice: Option 2- Tank Style

Sew the bias strips together to create one long piece of bias binding.
Press the seams open.

Make sure  all your seam allowances are on the same side, and keep the stripes running the same direction in all the pieces.
Next, press the long bias strip in half, the long way.
Then, fold the edges in to meet at the center., to create your double-fold bias binding.

Step 9: Sewing the Bodice: Option 2- Tank Style

Take your double-fold bias  binding and  pin it to the neckline edge.
The raw edge of the neckline will be completely  enclosed and covered by the  neck binding.
Sew the neck binding to the neckline.

Now Take your double-fold bias  binding and  pin it to the armhole edge.
The raw edge of the armhole will be completely  enclosed and covered by the  binding.
Sew the binding to the armhole.
Repeat with the other armhole.

Now that  the neckline and both armholes are  finished, you can sew the side seams of the bodice.

Step 10: Attaching the Skirt

This step is the same for both bodice styles.

Earlier in step 3, you  had sewn a long basting stitch around the top edge of the skirt.
Now you will pull on those basting threads, to  create gathers in the skirt ruffle.
Pin the skirt to the bodice, right sides together. Match up the side seams and  distribute the gathers evenly all around the  skirt.
Now sew the bodice to the skirt.
Press the  seam allowance  toward the bodice.

Now you are done! You don't need to hem the bottom because the shirt  hems were left intact.

Step 11: Accessorize!

I like the dress with a belt, you can use a purchased belt or make a tie-belt  from  the remaining sleeves.
Just sew a long tube of fabric, turn it right side out and tie knots at the end.
Now just add a pair of sandals and you are ready for summer!

In the picture below I have the skirt pinned up to  show the fullness, but it does not stick out that way when you wear it.

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