Simple Summer Dresses

1 t-shirt or tank + 1  yard of fabric + a little elastic = simple summer cuteness!

Summer dress tutorialI bought some cute fabric a couple months ago and just got around to making some summer dresses. I went through my stash of tanks and t-shirts and put together some cute combinations. I love making one-of-a-kind things. It makes me feel more creative.

If you can sew, these dresses are about as simple as it gets. Here is my own tutorial. I can’t find the tutorial I originally used. The only tricky part is the elastic seam. But you HAVE to use elastic to give the stretch you need to pull over your child’s head and shoulders. And with elastic you will get much more wear out of these dresses. As they get shorter you can wear like a tunic with leggings.

First, find a knit shirt…t-shirt, tank top, long sleeve, short sleeve, whatever you want but it must be knit.

Cut the shirt off a few inches from the arm opening. This one is little longer than I usually cut them. I usually cut about 2 or 3 inches from the arm opening. You can always compare to a dress you already have.

Next, figure out how long your skirt fabric needs to be. I don’t cut any off from the width. It’s usually 44/45″ wide. You won’t need a whole yard. Probably only a half.

Sew up the side seam. I serge and sew the seam. You can also make a seam on the other side if you like. It used to bother me to have only one seam, but then I got over it. When you make the dress, you can line up the seam with one seam of the shirt or you can center down the back. You also need to serge the raw edge that will be sewn to your shirt at this point. I didn’t do that for this tutorial, as you will see in the pics. If you don’t use a serger, you can hem the raw edge. No need to do anything to the t-shirt edge. Knit doesn’t ravel. That’s why it’s so great to work with!

You also need to gather the top edge of your fabric (not the shirt.) It doesn’t need to be gathered a lot. Your fabric should be wider than the shirt, but I find that if I don’t gather it a little it is too wide. You want to be able to stretch the shirt out to the width of the fabric.

Cut a piece of elastic to the same size as the shirt, un-stretched. Sew to make a loop. ** SORRY for this blurry picture…yuck!

Ok, here’s where I might lose some of you… Make sure your fabric is inside out and put your right sides together. Pin the seam of your fabric to a seam in your shirt. Put your elastic on TOP of the fabric and pin the seam of your elastic to the seam in the fabric to the seam in the shirt.

Now you need to find the center of the elastic, fabric, and shirt. You could actually do this before you pin the seams. You have one side all pinned together so pin the other side seam the same way and then find the center point of all 3 layers (in between the seams), mark with a fabric marker, line up the marks you made and pin together. So you will end up with it all pinned in 4 places. Remember, the elastic and t-shirt are roughly the same size and the fabric is longer so it will be bunched up in between the pins.

Go to your machine and set your needle to the down position (so when you stop sewing it stays in the material.) Put a few stitches at the point where you lined up all your seams and then stop sewing. Grab the next pinned part and pull until the elastic, fabric, and shirt are all the same length. Your fabric is gathered so don’t pull so hard that the gathers come out. Now keep pulling and start sewing. Go slow and make sure your layers stay lined up. When you get to the pin, stop. Grab the next pinned part and do the same thing. You are stretching out the elastic and knit shirt in order to sew at its most stretched out point. When you let go it will go back to its original size. That’s how you get the stretch! When you finish sewing, go back and take the gathered stitch out.

Here’s the finished product. That’s it! Now you can hem the bottom of the dress or add a ruffle and embellish the shirt with ruffles or flowers.

Summer dress tutorialYou can also make adult dresses this same way. They are super cute with a belt and sandals. And as a maxi dress. Go. Get. Sewing. Or if you don’t want to take the time, buy a summer dress here..

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. 1
    Diana Q says:

    Thanks Heather – I have wanted to make one for Abby and I was trying to figure out how you made the two pieces fit – Great tutorial – Now I just have to find the time and the material out of my stash! Looking forward to other tutorials from you!

  2. 2

    Hello Heather,
    I love the idea of making a few of summer dresses for my girls. Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial. ;o) Super Cute.
    Smiles, Paula

  3. 3
    Natalie says:

    This is so great ! thanks for posting, I’m keeping my mom busy sewing for my daughters ! Love this so much and the step by step pictures are wonderful !



  1. [...] But I also needed to photograph clothes. I did create this hanging setup on our pergola for my summer dresses, but I wanted a different look this [...]

  2. […] To kick off this project I made three little girl’s sundresses by attaching gathered cotton skirts to white T-shirts found at a local discount store for $2.  I used dimensions from a sewing book but there are lots of blogs that have free patterns using this idea including these.  This is a fast and economical way to sew a dress, in just a couple of hours I had three finished and am now making the matching shorts for underneath. Photos below of finished dresses and here are some sites for ways to make such dresses here,  here, here here, and here. […]

We Love to Hear From You