refashion: men's polo shirt to baby dress

Want to go from this:

to this?

Start with a polo shirt.  I always use a men's shirt because they are bigger... the bigger the shirt is, the more material you have to work with, and the more you have leftover for additional projects, embellishments, etc.  I've never used anything less than a men's medium, but I try for XL or larger.  You can use an old one passed down from a man in your life (baby girl has dresses made from her daddy's shirts and her uncle's shirts) or one you found at the thrift store for fifty cents.  If you are getting your shirt from the thrift store, I have a few words of advice:  1. Don't overpay.  Goodwill and "chain" thrift stores usually charge between $3 and $5 per shirt.  Don't pay that!  If you have to go to goodwill, wait until their dollar days, when you can find them for a dollar and stock up.  If you can, go to a "mom and pop" thrift store.  The shirts there are almost always $1, and I've found a few on sale for $.50... and they usually have a better selection.  2.  Check the armpits.  That sounds disgusting, I know... but do you really want to dress a little girl in sweat stains?  I only buy shirts with the tags still attached or that show little to no signs of wear... otherwise it's not worth it to me.

Now that you've got your shirt, wash it in hot water and dry it.  Then, break it down by cutting along all the joining seams... no need to use your seam ripper, just clip right beside the seam.  IMPORTANT: Do NOT take out the hem or the sleeve hem.  Just the joining seams.  I like to cut out the placket as well, because it's porportionally too large to use on a little dress, and is otherwise useless... I do save the buttons and the collar, though this is completely optional.  When you finish breaking your shirt down, you should have something that resembles this:

Set it aside, and start on your pattern pieces.  You'll need a onesie or dress in the size you are wanting to make.  This isn't an exact science... there's a little bit of guess work involved (especially if your babe is still in your belly!), but it's pretty simple.  Take your onesie or dress and fold in half longways.  Place the fold along the edge of your paper and trace around the collar (Make sure you trace the different openings for the front collar and back collar) to the seam of the top of the sleeve, then from the seam at the bottom of the sleeve to the point you want the bodice to end.  I stop about an inch below the bottom of the sleeve, but you can adjust that according to the size you are making and your personal preference.

Remove the onesie and connect from the top of the sleeve to the bottom of the sleeve.  I just eyeball it based on the way the sleeve is connected on the onesie.  Use a grid to add a 1/4 inch seam allowance to joining seams.  Make sure you don't add to the collar or to the sleeve.  You're now finished with your bodice pattern!

Now, place your folded onesie on the edge of another piece of paper.  Make a mark at place you stopped for the bodice piece. Decide how wide you want your skirt to open at the bottom and half it.  I like for mine to be twelve inches, so I measure out six inches.  Make a mark somewhere near the bottom of your paper, and use a ruler to diagonally connnect the top mark to the bottom mark.  Now decide how long you want your skirt.  This is completely up to you, but I like to go three inches below the bottom of the onesie... shorten or lengthen based on size and personal preference.  Using a ruler, draw a straight line from the edge (where the fold was) out to the width mark.  That's your hem.  Now, use your ruler to add a 1/4 inch seam allowance to the side seam as well as the top seam.  Do NOT add to the hem... and your skirt pattern is finished!

Now for the sleeve pattern.  You'll need the same piece of paper you drew your bodice pattern on.  Place the seam of the sleeve of your onesie along the sleeve seam you drew on your pattern.  Trace the sleeve.  Add a 1/4 inch seam allowance to the joining seam of the sleeve... and your sleeve pattern is finished!

 Now cut out your pattern pieces and you should have three pieces that resemble this:

The hardest part is over!  Now use your pattern pieces to cut out your fabric (you'll need two of each piece).  I like to start with the skirt first.  Fold the body of a shirt piece in half and place the fold edge of your pattern along the fold and the hem edge of your pattern along the hem.  Pin in place and cut.  Repeat.

I like to cut the bodice piece along the same fold right above the skirt, so that I don't have to unfold and refold.  Make sure that when you are cutting the bodice piece, you cut a piece with a front collar and a back collar. 

Now grab the sleeve you cut from the shirt and the sleeve pattern piece.  Fold the sleeve piece of the shirt in half (making sure to line up the sleeve hem) and place the fold part of the sleeve pattern piece along the fold and the hem part of the sleeve pattern piece along the hem of the sleeve.  Pin in place and cut.  Repeat on the other sleeve.  Now take one of the scraps and cut a 2 inch by 18 inch strip.  We will use this to finish the collar.  Save the rest of the scraps for embellishments or other projects.

Now that you have all your pieces cut out, you are ready to assemble! (Here I switched to some pieces I had previously cut out... I ran out of green thread!)  I like to start with the skirt.  Take your two skirt pieces, pin right sides together, and serge or zig-zag the sides.  Make sure to leave the top open!  Turn right sides out and press the seams.

Set the skirt to the side.  Take your two bodice pieces, pin right sides together, and serge or zig-zag only the shoulders and the sides.  Make sure to leave the sleeves, collar, and bottom open!  Turn right side out and press the seams.

Now for the sleeves.  Fold right sides together and serge or zig zag only the bottom seam that forms the sleeve... make sure you leave the side seam where sleeve and bodice come together open! Turn right side out and press.  Now to join the sleeves to the bodice.  Start with both pieces right side out and line up the bottom sleeve seam and the side bodice seam.  Pin. 

Now fold the bodice piece inside out over the sleeve piece and pin all the way around the sleeve.  Serge or zig-zag.  Repeat for the other sleeve, then turn and press.

Now for the binding strip... take the 2"x18" strip, fold in half longways and press.  Now fold each half in half longways and press.  Now fold back over and press.  You should end up with a 1/2 inch by 18 inch strip. Pin that strip all the way around the collar and topstitch in place.  You're finished with the bodice!  Now you should have two pieces that resemble this:

Now switch to an elastic bobbin.  (You can continue with a regular bobbin by doing a gathering stitch and then stitching in place, but it's so much simpler with the elastic bobbin and it makes for stretchier dress.)  Pin your openings right sides together and stitch.  Iron over the elastic to help it draw up.  Turn your dress right side out and you're finished!  You can leave it plain, or use scraps to embellish.

You can do a flower.

You can do a ruffle.

You can even do both.

You can even use the scraps to make matching headbands!

... and pretty soon you'll have a whole cluster of inexpensive, repurposed, adorable handmade dresses for a special little lady.


  1. I love these! I have a friend who is going to have a baby soon (they find out the gender tomorrow!!!) and I'm definitely making some of these for her if it's a girl! So cute and easy!

  2. These are adorable! Thanks for the detailed tutorial!

  3. These are fantastic! I have a whole PILE of polo shirts and always wonder what do to with them! :)

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  5. Cute, are you using elastic to get teh gathered waist look?

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  8. These are adorable! Thanks for the detailed tutorial!

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