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DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown

Mini Sewing Machine Review: Are They Any Good?
'80s Dress to One Shoulder Dress Refashion

My friend Katie is a vintage reseller. This means she scours thrift stores for items to sell in her vintage pop-up store at our weekly farmer’s market.

Do I have a problem with resellers? Absolutely not. Not everyone is a thrifter. Some people are willing to pay a premium to have a carefully curated selection presented to them. It’s a good way for folks who have a good eye for what will sell to earn a living in some pretty uncertain times.

Anything that keeps clothing out of the landfill is fine by me. Plus, thrift stores get (literally) tons of clothing donations. There’s enough for everybody. Really.

When lockdowns closed all the thrift stores (a time of great sadness indeed!), she was kind enough to give me first dibs on everything she’d been unable to sell that year. This was a HUGE solid on her part that helped me keep this blog running last year.

One of the items I ended up keeping from her unwanted pile was this sad & dingy nightgown.

Refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown Before
But why? Why did I choose this???

To fully understand, you need to take a closer look at that print.

closeup of print showing makeup supplies
“Vampish”. Lolz.

I know…that print is silly and ridiculously kitschy.

closeup of print showing makeup supplies with text that reads "exquisite"
One might say it’s “exquisite” in its kitschiness.

So sue me…I love it. It’s a late-’80s type print that fills me with nostalgia.

closeup of print showing makeup supplies with text that reads "a scent of heaven"
A scent of heaven????

When I picked it out from Katie’s stash, she said “Oh good! I’m glad you’re going to do something with that one!”

Unfortunately, this nightgown has seen better days and many of them. If you look carefully at the above pics, you can see it’s faded and (I can’t say this enough) dingy.

To the landfill, right?

Not. So. Fast.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission. Thanks!

I was in no need of a nightgown (I’m a jammy pants and T-shirt kind of gal, remember?), but I thought this nightgown would make an excellent drawstring waist T-shirt!

First, I had to address the fabric itself.

Luckily, my nightgown is made of 100% cotton, so I knew it would absorb dye easily.

closeup of fabric label

I decided to dye over the print with a combo of mostly purple dye mixed with a dash of tan dye.

purple and tan dye
My MIL scored a bunch of boxed dye for me for 70% from a grocery store that went out of business!

I mixed the two dyes in my big dye pot.

mixing dye in dye pot
This seems a bit familiar…

This reminds me of my college days when we’d mix grape Kool-Aid with Everclear in huge batches for parties. Wasn’t that a terrible idea?

I shook myself out of my reverie to submerge my nightgown in the dye bath.

putting nightgown in dye bath
In ya go!

When it was fully soaked, it looked like this.

nightgown soaked with dye in dye bath
It’s taking the dye quite nicely!

After 30 minutes in its dye bath, I dumped it into my washing machine for a cold water rinse, and then dried it.

The last time I dyed something, someone asked why I always dye my refashions before sewing them. Their thought was, if the refashion didn’t work the dye would be wasted.

My answer to that is, I dye the clothing first because you can’t always tell how the dye is going to take to the fabric.

Sometimes there are subtle stains that may not be noticeable until the garment is dyed. The odds of this happening are far greater than the odds of me messing up a refashion. And being able to spot these issues early on means I can change course and adapt my refashion plans to work around those stains and other possible irregularities.

When my nightgown was dyed and dried, I was happy to see I could still make out that fun print that made me like it in the first place.

close up of overdyed print
It’s subtle, but it’s there!

Next, it was time to make a big chop!

cutting off bottom of nightgown

I made my chop longer than I expected the eventual length of my shirt to be. This initial chop was just to make the piece easier to work with.

I made a second chop across the top of the bottom piece. This will be my future drawstring!

cutting drawstring out of bottom piece
All you need is a thin strip!

I tugged at this strip to make it curl, and my new drawstring was born!

drawstring on table
Hello little fella!

Then, I pinned each side of my top 1″.

pinning side of shirt
Just a lil bit!

I wanted my shirt to be nice and blousy, so just a small take-in was all I needed.

I ran each side through my sewing machine.

sewing side of shirt
Just sew a gentle curve around the sleeve!

When I was done, I cut off the excess fabric.

I tried my shirt on and marked where I wanted the bottom hem to be. Then I added a couple of inches to that as a hem allowance.

Another small chop followed.

cutting additonal fabric off bottom of shirt
Just a liiiiiil more!

I folded my bottom hem under 1″ and folded it over again, pinning it in place.

pinning bottom of shirt
Measure as you go!
pinned bottom of shirt on table
Looking better already, isn’t it?

Next, I stitched my new hem down.

sewing hem on shirt

When I was done, I pressed my new hem.

pressing bottom hem
It’s easier to do this now than after the drawstring is added!

I folded the front of my shirt in half and snipped a small hole in the center front of my new hem.

cutting hole for drawstring

Using my bodkin, I threaded my drawstring through the hole all the way to the other side.

threading drawstring through casing
In ya go!
bodkin on other side
Break on through to the other side!

Here’s what the bottom of my shirt looked like when I was done.

drawstring T-shirt on table
Neat, huh?

I tried my newly-drawstrung T-shirt on, but still wasn’t happy with the sleeves.

I cuffed each sleeve, clipping them into place.

cuffed sleeve with clips
I think this looks better, don’t you?

You can score your own fabu sewing clips right here.

I carefully sewed down each cuff.

sewing T-shirt cuff
Almost done!

Check out my new DIY drawstring T-shirt!

refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown after
No landfill for you!

I styled my new top with ripped jeans, leather heeled sandals, and thrifted accessories.

refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown after seated
I really like how the color turned out!

My new T-shirt is a great casual Spring staple!

refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown after cropped view
Come closer!
refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown after selfie

If you wanted to make this refashion a full-on crop top, you certainly could as well. This refashion would work great for T-shirts too (not just nightgowns).

refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown after cropped view looking down
I, however, kept my midriff concealed.

That front pocket came in handy as well!

refashionista reaching into pocket
Whatcha hiding there?
refashionista pulling card game out of pocket
What is this?

You’re looking at one of my favorite card games, Skulls of Sedlec! It’s by Buttonshy Games and as you can see it fits easily into just about any pocket.

It’s a game that’s easy to pick up and quick to play.

Mr. Refashionista and I enjoyed a few hands after work!

skulls of sedlec game
Beautifully designed, isn’t it?

I’m quite satisfied by this refashion, mostly due to the dismal state of the original piece I started with.

diy drawstring t-shirt closer view
What a difference some dye makes!

I hope this refashion inspires you to give the pajama section of your local thrift store a second look!


refashionista DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown before and after


I hope you guys like the new look/design of my site! When I talked to my graphic designer, the only guidance I gave was that I wanted my new logo to be evocative of the 1970s, as that’s the decade of fashion I was obsessed with when I started thrifting back in the ’90s!

With the new redesign/brand refresh comes a new weekly newsletter (Lots of new, y’all)!

If you’re already subscribed to get notifications each time I publish a post, you’ll still get those, but you’ll need to opt in to get the newsletter (if that’s something your heart desires).

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Mini Sewing Machine Review: Are They Any Good?
'80s Dress to One Shoulder Dress Refashion

40 thoughts on “DIY Drawstring T-shirt from Nightgown”

  1. Again, I am reading one of your posts and just dying to get out to the thrift store and find something to give it a try with! This is super cute and creative.

  2. Love the new shirt…. especially the sleeve length… I don’t think I’d put a drawstring in mine, however… there is only so much of the 76 year old body I would want to show… LOL! Love the redo!

  3. Refashionista! How I enjoy your great projects, advice, sense of humor, music taste – I now know and love The Pixies! Love the purple dyed top and may be brave and try it myself! I am so happy that you are healthy again, and happy in love, too! THANK YOU, sweet lady artist friend I haven’t met yet!!! Lisa V.

  4. this is adorable! You have several immense gifts: 1) the ability to SEE what something might be. 2) the ability to MAKE that item into your vision. 3) the lack of fear to TRY to transform, regardless of it hits your vision or not. 4). The EXPLANATION via text and photos that walk us through the steps. 5) The HUMOR to take us on your journey. 5) the LOVE for your darling husband. I am so glad I stumbled upon you several years ago as you absolutely make my days better. All the best to you here in this glorious spring season of renewal, new life and color everywhere!

  5. Jillian, after several weeks of binge reading your blog from your very first post, I have finally caught up to the here and now!!! I absolutely love all your refashions and have come to adore your funky and fun personality. I’ve sent many prayers up for your healing and am so grateful that you made it through the most difficult time of your life. You are such an inspiration! As for this refashion, I love it! I just pulled out my sewing machine I’ve had for the last 20 years and am going to try my hand at sewing for the very first time. Wish me luck!

  6. I don’t have any problem with re-sellers (antique dealers fall into this area if you think about it), at all. It is honest and helps people stay that way when they need income. As for landfills, I read a book last year that explained where most of the unsold thrift store clothes went, interesting, but can’t remember the name of the book.
    And the nightshirt looks soft and comfy to me ! Love it also as a cute top, the color is on point for me !

  7. You’ve turned straw into gold yet again! I have several t-shirts that have unique prints and messages, so any and all tips on working with them is of great value and inspiration. Got my sewing clips stockpiled, and now, how about a link to where I can buy that lipstick color? It is tremendous. Ready to buy all the lipstick now that we can socialize with limited groups without a mask. Seeing the color on you is so helpful. (Also maybe a little influenced by the print theme on that one.)

  8. Jillian, I have learned SO much from you on your blog posts! Especially re dyeing. I’m not nearly so scared out of my mind to try dyeing something I’ve picked up at one of our local thrifts. Thanks so much — and this nightgown-too-a-tee is such a keeper. What a great look!

  9. The thing that makes me especially love this one is that it’s so practical for every-day-wear. You don’t need to have a special place to wear it. And it truly looks like something you’d buy in a store today.

  10. Great job, Jillian! You’ve got me thinking I might alter a couple of my (sleep) T-Shirts so there’s more skin available to the fan on those hot, hot summer nights. šŸ˜‰ Love it!

  11. Well I’ll be darned! I love this refashion so much!! Even I could do this. I need to jump onboard and try this this weekend. I have dye sitting around, thanks to you, to use too. Love it!!

  12. You are SO creative! I have no idea how you visualize a cute top like the one you made after looking at that nightgown! It ended up so nice! Wish I had your eye!

  13. Your “new” tee shirt looks great. BTW, you’re looking wonderful and the blog redesign is much easier to navigate. Signed up for your newsletter and looking forward to reading it.

  14. I have been dyeing vintage beaded sweaters for many years. It is interesting because although the fabric content is roughly the same, you never know how much something will or won’t shrink. I did an experiment a while back. I put 3 clothing items, all different fabric contents, in the same forest green dye bath. As you can imagine, being “a dyer” yourself, the results were drastically different. The white cotton dress that someone had given me was horrible. All of the stains just popped out and there were a lot. My cut silk/rayon velvet scarf looked beautiful, but I certainly wouldn’t call it forest green. But my favorite was my vintage damasky(my new word)dress. It ended up having a taupe green background with with darker green flowers/accents? Whatever you want to call the other part of the damask fabric. I love seeing what colors you combine and then seeing the end result.

  15. Wonderful refashion! So practical and easy. I’m going to try it on a super large tee shirt as you suggested. Thanks, Jillian…you’re beautiful and an inspiration on so many levels!! Hugs from AZ.

  16. I so enjoy all of your posts and gather great ideas from watching you!! So happy that you are looking so well, keep getting stronger!!

  17. No, bad is mixing Everclear w/ Mr. Misty floats from the DQ & enjoying our drinks up in Troy Schroeder’s massive tree house (nicknamed “the keebler” becuz of the cookies) that had wall to wall carpeting (stolen) & cable tv (spliced into from his parents house so also stolen). Bombed out of our teenage minds 30′ up in a tree house. It’s a wonder none of us fell out. But this shirt? Absolutely fab!

  18. I love this refashion. Who would have thought that a dowdy nightgown could turn out to be so fashionable. You are amazingly creative and I just love your posts. Looking forward to reading the newsletter.

  19. LOVE it! Also, is Mr. Refashion slimming down? If he is, kudos to him. Every time I read your posts, I’m still just so happy you found each other and are sharing your lives with the world. If we lived closer, I’d want to hang out and share creativity.

  20. You continue to amaze me! And the lipstick matches, too! You are looking so healthy. I look forward to every transformation! Greetings from southern Colorado!

  21. I love it! Cute make over. Could you do or have you done a makeover into a peasant top? Gathered puffy sleeves and gathered neckline. I would like to make one but I get stuck at the neck line. Thanks for everyting you do.

  22. So in love with how this turned out!
    And I love re-sellers ā¤ļø
    Iā€™m such an eco-warrior,
    But thrift stores overwhelm me.

  23. All I can say is that you are soooo cute and creative. I had no idea what you were talking about with the title and I love the end result.


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