T-shirt dresses for little girls

Confession: I love to sew, but when it comes to little girls’ dresses I’m a cheater. I often start with a T-shirt.


Do you gals do this too? My sis-in-law Kim is the one who taught me how, and got me hooked on it.

All you have to do is buy a T-shirt for a couple of dollars, new or second hand, and raid your fabric stash for something coordinating. You can use a plain T and smarten with a fabric flower for a little pop of color and texture…

Aw, she grew up! This picture was taken last fall.

Or buy a polo for a dressier look.


Cut the shirt off short, for a high-waisted look. Nothing worse on this pattern than having the skirt starting down around her hips.

Now it’s time to choose a skirt! You can go a couple of ways: a slim, flared skirt, or a gathered waist.


For a perfect fit, measure the width of the T-shirt at the bottom (it’s usually 12 inches, in Kelly’s 5 T size), and cut fabric to match. Don’t forget to figure seam allowances, for a total of 13” or so. Now flare the skirt wide—I like it about 22” wide at the bottom.* This is important so your little lady has wiggle room to sit modestly/ run/ climb trees/ things like that.

(*I mean on both front skirt and back skirt, for a total of 44″)

I kept the skirt too straight on this one from last year—you can see it pulling up around her legs instead of draping nicely. She couldn’t wear it very long.


Sew the skirt seams first, then stitch the finished skirt onto the T-shirt bodice.

I usually prefer the look of a slim tapered skirt, unless I’m trying for something sweet with ruffles. Gathering fabric onto an already loose T quickly becomes elephantine, so be carefuland add a tie-belt to tuck in the fullness.


(Simple tip: Use store-bought ribbon for a belt, melted at the ends with a flame to prevent fraying.)

T-shirt fabric can stretch when sewn, but sewing it against a durable cotton fabric actually holds it in place very nicely. Pin it in plenty of places to make sure, before you sew the waist.

Hem up the skirt, and add embellishments if you like. A flower, a pocket, rickrack, whatever you please.


Yes, I pulled that blue one out of the laundry hamper for this picture. Sorry about that.

And now all your sewing problems are solved, right? Unless you have brainless moments like I do, and still sew an occasional seam inside out, with the raw edge on the right side. Ugh. Been there, done that.

But most times? Easy peasy. And you have a whole new dress without worrying about sleeves or necklines or facings. Awesome!

I am not very good at explaining these things, so if you have questions please ask.

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Beth Russo
8 years ago

Well I don’t know whether my daughter is going to have a girl or boy yet, but I just Pinned this so I can come back to it in case it’s a girl. Or I could make one and gift it. Leave it to you for cuteness!! And I love your little model, what a sweetie.

8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Russo

Thank you! Congratulations, Grandma-to-be!!

8 years ago

How very, very cute!! Love the “ruffly” skirt in the first pic! How did you do your strips for that? Straight strips? Flares? Having to wear solid colors makes dresses like this impossible but I’ve made lots of nighties this way and my girls would love the ruffles!

8 years ago
Reply to  Bethany

I used straight strips. They gather nicely and save fabric. 🙂

8 years ago
Reply to  Shari

Thanks! Can’t wait to try it… there’s just something about seeing all your cute dresses that makes me want to rush out and make one 🙂

8 years ago

Cute! Thanks for sharing. One tip I learned when sewing a gathered skirt onto a T is to iron about an inch of interfacing to the bottom of the shirt before attempting to sew the skirt on.

8 years ago

I’ve not tried this yet but am hoping to do it very shortly. Thanks for the reminder. My niece gave me a little tip the other day. She said to sew in little darts in the T-shirt to keep it from stretching so much. It also helps it to fit a little nicer at the waist/seam. Just an idea…I thought it was pretty practical. Can’t wait to try it!

8 years ago

These are all beautiful. I am definitely in need of a new sewing machine to get my three little ladies some of this cuteness 🙂

8 years ago

thanks for the instructions. I want to do this for Cassie in the next year or so. You do such a beautiful job at adding cute little embellishments here and there.

8 years ago

Yes, mom did this for us, and I do it for my 8-year-old girlie. Esp since I got her all at once and didn’t have ANY dresses and wanted a few fast.

8 years ago

Yes! to this plan. Thanks for posting in words that I will be able to see the pitfalls before I begin… and walk around them. 🙂

8 years ago

I love it, but I confess the “easiness” of it does little to inspire me. I just hate sewing that much. But when I see cute things like this, I do kind of wish (kind of) that I liked it…

8 years ago

I am bookmarking this! I have some thrift store dresses that are the same idea and I love them on the girls. Been wanting to make some and I love your tips and the ones in the comments.

8 years ago

Do you have to be careful about what kind of fabric you use for the skirts? Like if it doesn’t stretch/launder or wear same as the t shirt?? Always wished to try this but felt like didn’t have the “know-how”….

8 years ago
Reply to  Lori

So far, so good, Lori… we haven’t had any trouble.

I (try to) always pre-wash my fabrics before cutting and sewing, to prevent shrinkage later. I like playing with diverse fabrics, and have not gotten grief so far.

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