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Bursting at the Seams

How to Upcycle a Men's Shirt into a Dress
Muumuu to Art Show Dress Refashion

I’m a fairly scrawny gal, so it’s rare that I encounter this problem.

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This dress is literally bursting at the seams!

This dress is too small.  See how it puckers out at my hips?  Not attractive.  I could practically hear the seams groaning in protest.  It fit perfectly up top (my usual problem with dresses), though.  I liked the lines of the dress, and was sad that I would have to change the whole thing drastically to make it work.  I couldn’t take the skirt out any, as there was no seam allowance.  Grrrrrr!

I was going to have to make this lovely dress into a top.  My original plan was to turn it into a tunic, so I could at least keep the pockets.

First, I removed these bits of stuffy frumpiness.

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Unneeded accoutrements

Then, I cut off some of the length.

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Choppy Choppy!

I ripped the seams up the sides of the dress with my trusty seam ripper.

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Let 'er rip!

At this point, I tried my tunic on and hated it.  Absolutely hated it.  You could tell that I had simply slit the seams because it didn’t fit around my hips.  I temporarily abandoned the project.

The next morning, I felt refreshed and knew what I needed to do to save this!  It needed to be shorter, meaning that I would have to give up the pockets in order to save the garment…a noble sacrifice!

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Chopping a bit more off to make it work
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I'll miss you, pockets! *sniffle*

Now, I just needed to finish the raw edges.

I took the seams on the sides and turned them under twice to keep them from fraying, and pinned them.

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pinning those side seams!

Then, under the needle they went!

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NO! Dexter, you put that down this instant!!!!
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Don't worry, Dex! Your secret is safe with me! 😉

 Don’t worry, folks!  It’s not that kind of needle!

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I'm sewin'! Yes indeed! I'm sewin'!

The last thing I needed to do was finish up my twice-shortened hem at the bottom.  This involved a bit more pinning…

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On pins and needles!

And a quick run through my machine.  I pressed my new hems/seams and was all done!  As the dress closed via a zipper that ran all the way down the front, I just left it unzipped a little.  I added the sash from another dress, and ready to go to work!

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A cute lil top!

I’m not gonna lie.  I wasn’t thrilled about this one.  And here’s why:

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Not digging the sides.

The sides were just too gap-y and weird.  I’m really not the kind of gal who wants to showcase her muffin top (My muffin top is all that…whole-grain and low-fat!), and I thought the end result looked a bit clumsy.    What do you think?  Any ideas of other directions I could have taken with this dress? 


How to Upcycle a Men's Shirt into a Dress
Muumuu to Art Show Dress Refashion

26 thoughts on “Bursting at the Seams”

  1. Great fun, this blog of yours! Hmm. If the dress were mine, and still in the original condition, I think I’d have 1) determined the final length, 2) cut it off at the waist, taken the trimmed off skirt and cut it horizontally into 2 or 3 sections, depending on how much I wanted to add on for final length, and how full around I wanted it and 3) fashioned the “skirt” of the tunic from the skirt sections and finally 4) joined the “skirt” of the tunic to the “bodice” of the tunic, self belting over the resulting seam with a fabric remnant or contrasting belt. If you still have the skirt left, you can simply trim it even as low as possible and then make the bottom half of the tunic from the remnants — gathered, inverted pleats, box pleats, gussets or godets — whatever floats your boat! By the way, reading your blog is leading me into temptation to run away from my family, children, and business, to a permanent vacation on Someday Isle, where I intend to do nothing but sew, read, and quaff margaritas! You go, girl!

  2. I think you need to update us on this one; I’m curious to see how it turned out after it’s “re-refashion”.

    Personally I would have added fabric to the sides (fm the cutaway piece), and made it a slitted side view vs the current upside down U design. I’m not certain adding lace to the side would have done it justice …

  3. Well, due to the fit of the dress it would be impossible to do this without totally deconstructing and reconstructing the whole dress. But looking at the adorable little peplum you could have considered cutting right below the peplum. Then cut the top to a strapless, after that shape it into a pretty sweetheart. I love your creativity, and I am a huge fan.Because I am 13 which basically means I’m bankrupt, I really appreciate that you don’t buy expensive clothes to redo, i think it is absolutely amazing what you do! Also thank you so much for being so inspirational. Bye!!! 🙂

  4. Boy, I’d sure like to know what you ended up doing, because from the front, you ROCK this top!! Seriously, one of my faves so far. {Plus, this is the first pic i’ve seen of you in pants that are not blue denim, or leggings. 😉 } For those who said to “just shorten it”: BOO HISS!!!!!!! For those who suggest adding the panels {what did they call them?}, THAT is what you should do/have done, but not in the back, instead in the sides, like Cindy B. suggested. I hope you didn’t just give up on it though; it looks great on you!! …well, you know…from the front. 😎

  5. One thing you could have done, or could do in the future, would be to use what you cut off of the bottom as a panel to make the skirt fit a bit better, or found a fabric in your scrap pile that worked well with it to keep it as a dress

  6. I know this in an old post, but I just saw it and I agree that it does not work as is. Along with the theme of many other suggestions, I would find some white lace-type fabrice to fill in the sides maybe. I think a solid color would look strange unless it was a PERFECT red, and another pattern would add way too much chaos. If not, then I would agree with shortening it even more, making the sleeves cap sleeved and wearing it over a tank top like you have in the picture or something. PS- I just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it. You are an innovator and have definitely motivated me to spend less on clothes and spend a little more time making old clothes into something new! So thank you 🙂 Leslie

  7. I would have left the garment at waist length, create a wide band for the waist so that you can tie it and forget about the tunic. I love the top, lovely colors and the neck work.

  8. I’m loving the suggestions! I was just going to donate this top (Hey…if I get $1 a wear out of a garment, that’s okay with me), but now I think this calls for a RE-Refashion! You haven’t seen the last of this! 🙂 Thanks for the great ideas!

  9. Oh sigh. I was eager to see what your super-creative mind did with this one since I am definitely not scrawny, and find this to be my problem more often than not. I do like the gusset idea with the fabric scraps. Keep up the great work. I don’t often comment, but I check your site out every week.

  10. I originally thought you should go shorter (yes, away with the tunics!) and make it like a cute little 50s fitted blouse, but you’ve got the zip to think about so, yes I like Deanna’s and Flasun’s ideas. It’s good to see the ones that don’t work out how you planned, though, because it happens to me too! x

  11. I say give up on the tunic idea completely. Shorten the top to just below the bosom and add a solid color slim skirt (khaki or chocolate perhaps?), turning it into a nice empire waisted dress. Maybe even use extra material for a bit of flair on the skirt.

  12. A gusset!! Yes, Terri, that’s it. And (what a doofus!!) of course, I forgot there is leftover fabric from that very dress and that could be used. Great idea!! (and thanks so much to Flasun for the tutorial link…that’s great to have as I expect when I start taking the plunge into refashioning it could be very handy to have).

  13. You can insert a gusset using some of the leftover material. A gusset is actually a fabric piece that you add to increase the size of the garment.

    Please follow the link below to view a gusset insertion tutorial; it begins on page 2. (The pages are from “Sewing 911: Practical and Creative Rescues for Sewing Emergencies” by Barbara Deckert. This is a wonderful book and has helped me out of many sewing jams. I refer to it quite often.) .


    You can make the gusset the shape and length that you prefer; football shape, rectangular, tapered rectangular, etc.

  14. @ Wendy in Portland maybe you’re thinking of a peblum or gusset? Anyway, I was thinking along the lines of taking the cut off fabric then adding it back in at the sides, as in a gusset on both sides. It could be flat, I’m sure you could blend the fabric so it’s not noticeable or you could make them look like inverted pleats.
    Then again, maybe I shouldn’t say this…but sometimes some things just don’t work out. Make it into a little girls’ or doll dress. The fabric is nice. 🙂
    Muffin top? What muffin top? You crazy little thing.

    • I definitely should have gone the gusset route with this. I was afraid everyone would be able to tell why I had to add one…which is silly. As long as I was careful about it, it would have worked. 🙂 Ah…the joys of trial and error!

  15. I don’t like it at all – it doesn’t work. The only thing I can suggest is hemming up the bottom and putting in some elastic so you’ll have a shorter top with an elasticized bottom. I love your posts but would LOVE to see you stretch a bit beyond the usual tunic/dress into pants/jackets etc.! I can only wonder what you could do with a serger! Kepp up the good work.

    • Are you a mind-reader? Seriously, because I completely agree with you on the top, and I actually have a serger (one of my mom’s friends sold it to me for super-cheap)that I keep wrestling with trying to figure out how to use. Youtube has nooooo videos on how to thread this model, and it’s instruction book it pretty awful. The last time I thought I had it all set up and tried to use it, the needles broke off and hit me in the face!!!! I am persistent though…and it shall not stump me for much longer!

      So yeah…I definitely have a few learning curves that need to happen. 🙂

  16. I guess I agree, sides are sort of “odd”. I’m not sure you had many options with this dress. It would be a real challenge to refashion something that is too small. The only thought I have is adding a panel of some sort in the back (there’s a name for it–can’t remember), maybe pulled from leftover fabric from another dress in a complementary color scheme. That would increase the waist size you you wouldn’t have to split the sides. Otherwise, I say make a cushion cover out of it!! 🙂

  17. What if you take off the sleeves? I think then with the gap on your shoulders it’ll look more even and give the top an extra funness factor. I really like the fabric of this one, though! (First time commenter, but have been following you for months! Love your gumption!)


What do you think?