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Reclaimed Fashion in a 1950s Style Shirt Dress Refashion

Reclaimed Fashion in a 1950s Style Shirt Dress Refashion

I’ve always wanted to try altering a men’s shirt and turning it into a feminine garment and of course I have to go and try a full on 1950s style day dress because I don’t like to do things by halves now do I!

In the beginning I was just going to chop a shirt up and see what happened but then it started going so well and as I really liked the colour I thought I’d extend the original idea of a shirt top into an actual dress and see where that took me creative-wise.

The shirt I chose was a nice sky blue with a white pinstripe through it;  I’d decided if it’s going to be a guy’s shirt refashion then it needed to be obvious rather than some flowery, dotty, girly coloured or stylised business shirt and this really fit the bill.

Sorry there is no before shot but hey all men’s shirts are pretty much the same.


First up I cut around the arms and then from the armpit across to the collar and around the back of the collar leaving a 1cm seam allowance to neaten it all off. At the back I used my bra strap as the guide for how low to cut the back off and cut it with a 4cm allowance just in case I needed to make alterations. If I was going to do it again id make it less as it was a bit wider than I wanted in the end. I then over locked the edges before turning over a cm and sewing flat. The front I cut off 2cm below the bust and lying the whole shirt on the floor I cut off the back at the same level.


To get the shirt to fit nicely under the bust I overlocked the bottom edge using the gathering stitch on the front and normal across the back which would end up fitting when I added the skirt pieces to it. To insert the zip in the back I cut up the centre of the back piece and removed the excess fabric.

I then pinned up three tucks on each side around about halfway between the armpit and the collar to pull the edge in tight as it would gap open otherwise, so depending on the size of your shirt and your bust you may need more or less tucks so just go with what feels right here. To get the halter neck part sitting in a more feminine manner I added in two little bands of the shirt fabric from the sleeves, simply sewn around the shirt near the collar and turned inside to hide the seams, they draw the material together  but if you prefer more skin covered you can leave these off.

Next up I introduced some pattern pieces from McCalls 5094, a favourite pattern of mine as it’s so easy to adjust. I cut out the midriff pieces and the full skirt, using some of the excess shirt material for the midriff and some fresh white cotton for the skirt. This pattern doesn’t have boning but I find it works better with it so I added in four pieces to stabilise the waistband, two in the front and two in the back.

From here it was just a matter of following the pattern instructions and sewing both the top part to the midriff and the skirt section also. I added some elastic across the top to keep it firm and folded the material over to hide it. There wasn’t enough fabric in the shirt to make a full skirt so I used some crisp white cotton I had lying around, All I needed then was a zip and a hook and eye in the back and it was nearly finished.

I really wanted to make it look like it flowed nicely together and match up with the bodice as well as use up the excess material from the shirt sleeves so I cut out little triangles of the shirt fabric using a Post-it note folded in half as a template.

Each piece needed to be ironed with its edges folded over

and then pinned and sewn on individually, this part was really time consuming but worth the effort.

The addition of a matching ribbon under the triangles gave it an extra burst of blue. I also used the ribbon on the back of the shirt collar as when finished it was a little too full in the bust so an inch taken out of the back of the collar was my only mistake to fix and I covered that with the satin ribbon which also makes it nice against the skin.

Here’s the completed garment, I’m really pleased with the result and can’t wait to wear it.

Collette's Shirt Dress

For fullness in the skirt I recommend a crinoline petticoat and you can make your own by following the tutorial on How to Make a Crinoline Petticoat here.


Posted: Wednesday 3 March 2010


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