How to Turn an Old Dress into a Shirt in 30 Minutes

By Brittni • Updated on 08/30/2023

Oh, Make Me Over: How to Turn an Old Dress into a Shirt in 30 Minutes

Soooo…I’ve had this dress for over a year now and have never worn it. All because while I love the pattern and the buttons in the back, it totally looks like a hospital gown on me.

Which isn’t quite the look I was going for – and I didn’t come to that realization until it was too late to return it, unfortunately.

It actually looks worse in person, the photos make it look cuter than it is.

Anyway, in an attempt to salvage the situation (there are some redeeming qualities), I had it turned into a shirt!

And am sharing the tutorial for how it was done today, just in case you have an old dress in the closet that could use a similar treatment.

Oh, Make Me Over: How to Turn an Old Dress into a Shirt in 30 Minutes

I took a quick pic of the before and after on me, but Sara was kind enough to model the more glam after version.

I styled her exactly as I would wear it…with black jeans (of course)…I

‘m not even sure I own jeans in a color that isn’t black at this point.

And while we are different body types, it does look similar on me… It’s a boxy style, that kind of works on anyone and is really comfy / carefree.

How to Turn an Old Dress into a Shirt in 30 Minutes

How to Convert a Dress into a Shirt

1. The first thing I would recommend doing is trying the dress on and deciding on a length that you like for the shirt.

I’m 5’3 and decided I wanted my shirt to hit around 18 inches from the neckline, but depending on whether you’re taller or shorter, you may want to alter that measurement.

And you’ll also lose 1/2 inch when sewing, so keep that in mind.

AND I wanted to add a unique detail to the shirt as well, so I decided to make the back of the shirt slightly longer than the front and create a side vent in the process, similar to the original style of the dress (which was one of my favorite parts of the original).

I decided the back of the shirt would be 19.5 inches (and again, I knew I would lose 1/2 inch in sewing).

2. Once I had the overall design and measurements down, we made a few marks on the dress and everything was cut down to size.

For the side vents…there were pockets in the original dress, so those were cut out and that formed a slit on the sides of the shirt.

But you can also just cut the slits yourself from the side seam (or use a seam ripper) and then tidy up the edges with some sewing which I’ll explain in step 3.

3. The next step is sewing. Super simple – just a few straight lines to tidy up all of the raw edges and you’re done.

You may want to pin the fabric down to give yourself a guide.

We folded the shirt in at the bottom about a half inch and hemmed a straight stitch across the front of the shirt, then the back of the shirt, and the side vents.

Then cut any long pieces of thread, etc and it’s ready to wear.

DIY shirt in 30 minutes

There’s a little part of me that’s always wanted to design clothes (it was one of my dreams in high school – like everyone else, I imagine).

So, this was a fun little project to put together.

It’s not exactly a clothing line (haha), but it’s nice to get some use out of an old piece of clothing again.

Button back blouse

How to Turn an Old Dress into a Shirt in 30 Minutes

DIY shirt in 30 minutes (from an old dress)

Sewing Liz Scoper
Modeling Sara Karr

Do you have an old dress like mine that could use an upgrade? And more importantly…are there any other DIY sewing projects you’d like to see in the future? I’m all ears.

18 comments | Click here to reply

Thank you for the suggestion of cutting off the bottom of the dress and making a blouse out of it. I had two dresses that I bought online during the pandemic. They looked great on the models but horrible on me. They looked like sacks! I had tried to sell them without success and it had been too long since I bought them to return them. I started with one this afternoon and made a really cute blouse out of it making it longer in the back than the front. Now I can wear it without a problem!!

Joy Wolfe

I just bought a $8 dress that I thought I would like, but it’s just a little odd. It would make for a great tunic length shirt though. I don’t want to cut it and then have the material be shredded and unravel. Any suggestions on the best way to hem a stretchy (ployester/spandex) material?


Hi MM. I guess that would depend on a few things, but here are some general ideas…if the length of top you’re hoping to create is longer than where the start of the zipper is, it would be a pretty straight forward approach. Otherwise, if there is enough room to remove the zipper all together, you could remove it and sew up the back OR add buttons instead. OR remove the old zipper and add a new one that is the proper length for the new top you’re creating. Hope that’s helpful. Sorry I ain’t be more specific than that, since I don’t know any details of the dress you’re working with.


What suggestions would you have for a dress that has a zipper down the back and converting that into a shirt?


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it is so beautiful love your style !
I know that are looking for people who know how to DIY etc…
recommend you to check it out 🙂


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Thanks Michelle. I was a little nervous to chop up the dress. But I figured since I wasn’t wearing it anyway, I didn’t have anything to lose. Glad it worked out. 🙂


As as shirt it looks super cool, good decision!


Thanks Pink Pineapple. 🙂


I love the top, fabulous idea
The Pink Pineapple
New post:

The pink pineapple

Thanks What Mum Loves.


awesome! it was a beautiful dress but I think I like the shirt better <3

What Mum Loves

Glad to hear that Helen. Love repurposing old clothing pieces for something new.


This is such a great idea! I love recycling and repurposing old clothes. I definitely have a few dresses that I might turn into shirts now that you’ve inspired me to do so. 😀


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