Monday, June 6, 2011

diy: Gathered Summer Dress

My favorite part of summer (besides iced coffee, warm nights & beach volleyball):

Summer dresses.

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.

- 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. I bought mine from, but you can find ITY knits all over the web & at fabric supply stores. I'm personally in love with this fabric - and - and just recently placed another order. I definitely recommend them!

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.


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 here's how I determined this:

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.

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.

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

...then hemmed the bottom.

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.

I sewed the bottom & top half together...

...which ended up looking like this. See those pleats?

I then sewed up the side of the bottom portion, since it had only been sewn 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.

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

Not so flattering on the hanger, but add in my favorite leather waist belt?

And it looks like this. This matches perfectly with the Studded Wedges I made back in March! (bordeaux suede wedges studded with furniture nails)

This is what I was drinking earlier today, while writing this up. Strawberry champagne punch: champagne, ginger ale, frozen strawberries. Or just strawberries. Either way, I totally recommend it.

This is S&P's first ever sewing project, so if you have any questions, ask away. There's definitely going to be more summer dresses coming up, so stay tuned for those.

  After these last 2 big clothing DIY's, I'll be back later this week with a simpler jewelry project!



  1. This is fantastic, you always come up with the most amazing things!! Great job Kirsten!!

  2. This is a really cute idea and very low cost. I always have trouble finding cute dresses like this that seem to fit me right. Defiantly going to try this since I got my lovely sewing machine back!

  3. wow, the dress looks so great!

    xo Grace

  4. Your ideas are always amazing! I love the dress. I will defo be trying that drink too! Looks delicious =)

  5. great job! i need to start doing stuff like this! i just bought some crushed green velvet and made a maxi skirt...didn't turn out completely as I hoped but it came out kind of wonderful! I think this will be my next project..thanks for always sharing great DIY's! :) - Lo

  6. So simple and SO perfect for summer. THANK YOU! I can't wait to try it!

  7. Cool! I think it worked out very well. I do a lot of sewing too, I wrote up a blog entry on some sewing tips if you ever want to check it out. Love the color combo too!

  8. I love the colors and images. Clothes are very original.


  9. That's brilliant, so pretty. You are really talented. I will definitly be checking back for more tips like this.

    All the best,

  10. Great job ! :) It's a very good idea.

    & love strawberry <3

  11. Wow- what an awesome DIY! That dress looks fabulous on you! I love the fabric you picked out! Also, thanks for stopping by my blog today! Looking forward to more of your fun projects in the future!

  12. amazing work! love the skirt <3

  13. love this soooooo much ! & same with the studded trench coat before !


  14. I love your work!
    Unfortunately some of the things you're using in you DIY's is hard to find i Denmark. but i really love DIY and you are so good at it! :D

    love from Denmark!

  15. this is super cute!!! you've inspired me to attempt this. i'm used to sewing with my hands, but i guess learning how to use the machine will help with projects like this. now i can save my old clothes and money. plus, it's original work and there will be no copies when i walk around :) thanks!!

  16. this trench turned out amazing! love it!

  17. Love love love your blog! Where is your belt from?

  18. This is a great DIY, I need to break out my sewing machine pronto!


  19. This is a really cute idea and very low cost. I always have trouble finding cute dresses like this that seem to fit me right. Defiantly going to try this since I got my lovely sewing machine back!


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