Recycled Men Shirts into Cool Girl Dresses

crafts for kids, Sewing Patterns

** Warning: Really Cute Recycled Men Shirt Ideas Here!!! **

Today I’m featuring fellow blogger Deborah from Sew Much to Give*. In particular, she’s sharing her original dress designs re-purposing all the various parts of men’s shirts into unique and totally adorable girls dresses, summer tops and jump suits. Her grandchild is her lucky beneficiary. (Dis-)agree with me in the comments below but I think she looks VERY cute in all these outfits.

Free dress sewing patterns from mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com

“I love to recycle mens shirts”, Deborah said.

This shows. Have a look at these four original girl outfits that she designed. They are just brimming with ideas for us all on how to recycle the various parts of mens shirts into dress designs.

Ideas to Recycle Mens Shirts into Dresses

1. Use the front and the back panels of the mens shirts as regular fabric for the dress skirt and bodice panels.

You knew that you could do that.

But did you know, that you can…

2. Recycle Mens Shirts’ Cuffs into darling dress pockets, mix-matched girl dress cuffs, dress or top shoulder straps, or use them, folded over, as jumpsuit pant hems.

3. Re-purpose old men shirt’s button tabs for cute dress back button closures, as a unique dress hem, or a dress bodice detail.

3. Upcycle mens shirts’ collars as girl dress shoulder straps, dress waste bands and ties, bodice front panel decoration??!!

Deborah shows you all these techniques in various ways.


Learn how to Make 4 Different Girls Outfits from Recycled Men Shirts

(Tips for Using Old Men Shirts for New Girls Dresses)

In the following four dresses, you can see all of these recycling ideas and suggestions.Free dress sewing patterns from mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com On Deborah’s blog she shows how to make the dresses in several articles.

MENS SHIRT GIRL DRESS # 1.

When the fabric is very masculine, counter-balance this with extra-feminine dress design elements.  Look how she overcame the (too) masculine nature of the fabric with super-girly smock work, creating a darling of a dress.

Free dress sewing patterns from recycled mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com

Note the creative use of the shirt collar in the belt section of the dress. The stiffness of the collar works well with the smocked front top section, and the gathers in the skirt. Then at the back, the stiffness is counter-balanced with a big floppy bow. This dress is a great balancing act of dress design details.

MENS SHIRT GIRL DRESS #2Free dress sewing patterns from mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com.

This girls jeans dress is introduced below. I’m my article feature shot, as I love it so much. It is Deborah’s latest masterpiece. There are so many amazing details in this dress.

To give the denim a zing, Deborah combined it with bright red buttons into original buttonholes. And, she top-stitched visually-important seams with red thread.

Most importantly, an adorable red/white lining fabric is peaking through at various points in the dress top section. She created this effect by lining the total bodice with this red/white fabric and  by using lined ties at the shoulders and a giant bow tie at the open back section.  (See feature picture for details).

Free dress sewing patterns from recycled mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com

While looking at that top photo, discover this trick: Deborah stitched box pleats instead of gathers to hide color difference under the removed pocket.

The choice to use pleats solved a problem. When I removed the pocket from the shirt front, the fabric under the pocket was darker in color. I needed every bit of the original fabric to make the finished dress, so I hid the darker pocket shaped spot inside the box pleat.

Deborah’s notes:

Free dress sewing patterns from recycled mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com“Back of Dress: During the design phase of planning this dress, I decided to use the front button placket down the back of the skirt on the dress. The placket is sewn shut and merely ornamental. You can see that I used the entire width around the men’s shirt to create the skirt, and the original side seams remain. “

“Front of Dress: Uses the cuffs of the shirt and a trimmed width collar from the original shirt. Three evenly spaced box pleats are used on the front skirt too.”

Red /white accessories such

as hair bows and

red felt bird necklace

finish off the outfit. 

MENS SHIRT GIRL DRESS #3.

Free dress sewing patterns from mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com

This dress also gets a lift from the red/white polka dot contrast fabric.

Note the fun details:

  • Butterfly flutter sleeves with buttons tab shirt front. (On one side, the buttoned portion, on the other side the buttonhole portion, so it balances out).
  • Very creative use of the (otherwise useless) point sections of the men’s collar in the asymmetrical front chest section.
  • With the red ribbon, the triangles look nautical.
  • The continuation of the ‘button’ theme, by using the button section of the shirt as a skirt insert panel on the front.

I often use two shirts in two different patterns or tones in the same color range, explains Deborah, plus accent ribbons in contrast colors.

MENS SHIRT GIRL OUTFIT #4

In this fun girls jumpsuit, you can see how to mix-match cuffs, and how to use cuffs rolled up as pants’ hems. The white in the belt, front section and socks balance the whole outfit. Adorable.

Like the hair bow too!

Free dress sewing patterns from recycled mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.com

Tips for Using Old Men Shirts for New Girls Dresses

Free dress sewing patterns from mens shirts by Deborah, featured at FineCraftGuild.comThis image gives away Deborah’s way of thinking and working, so I am featuring it, with all its notes! You can literally see all the thinking and detailing that goes into one of Deborah’s recycled denim shirt dresses! 

For example, this dress has 42 buttons on its bottom hem. Deborah added buttons from her saved button collection to an existing shirt bottom row to fill it out.

All Deborah’s work is adorably detailed and very cute. Hop over to her blog, Sew Much to Give, to learn all the details. Use the ‘labels’ in her sidebar to find your way through all her designs. Have fun browsing and learning dress making from a pro, the environmentally friendly way.

Thank you, Deborah, for everything!!!!

Hugs, Rose

About Deborah

deborah, sew much to giveDeborah is the author of Sew Much to Give, a blog that marks her adventures in her sewing room. She is a very talented seamstress and a great free-spirited dress designer.

“I just love to sew and create with colors and fabrics. Recycling and re-purposing fabric is so much fun. I love the creative energy of inventing new sewing techniques to make the outfit work.

Normally, I stick to established sewing techniques, but when I repurpose. I do a lot of free-styling, make-it-happen techniques that were never taught in any Sewing Class!”