1) Gather materials. To make my dress, I used a BYU shirt that I didn't mind cutting up and a navy jersey maxi skirt. The shirt was a size small, but was super boxy and didn't fit well, so it was perfect for resizing. The skirt was something I found at TJ Maxx last summer when I was shopping for Jerusalem, and it cost less than $10. It was the perfect color and cheaper than buying fabric for the bottom of the dress. I really suggest just using things you already own, instead of going out and buying something you aren't sure about. The other great thing about using the skirt was that I already knew how it fit, and I was able to better visualize what the final product was going to be.
2) Resize the shirt. While researching for this project, I found a lot of different methods for this step, and I tried most of them. The best way that I found, though, was finding a shirt that you already like the fit of and using that as a pattern. I took one of my favorite shirts (a v-neck from Old Navy) and put it right on top of the BYU shirt. I had already cut the sleeves off at the seams and set them aside for later. Turn the shirt inside out, and mark all the way down the side seams with pins. Remember that you need to allow room for a seam allowance, so the pins mark where you sew, not where you cut the fabric. Sew up the side seams, turn it right side out, and try it on! I suggest waiting to cut off the excess fabric until you try it on, in case you need to adjust the seams.
3) Set in the sleeves. This was definitely the hardest, most frustrating step, but it's very doable. My biggest tip is to make sure the seam allowance on the sleeve part and the shirt part are the same, that way you can just match them up and not worry about it (I cut my fabric without measuring closely enough...). I again used the Old Navy shirt as a template for the sleeves, marking on the shirt body where the openings started and ended. I also tried to use it for the sleeve piece, but for some reason I wasn't able to get that to work as well. I honestly don't know why it didn't, but I just worked around it and tried to get it to match up as closely as possible with the opening. The best way I found to pin the sleeve and shirt together was to have the body of the shirt inside-out, then stuff the right-side-out sleeve inside the opening (like how sometimes the sleeves of you shirt get caught inside from the laundry). Match up the edges and seam allowances, and pin together. Sew that sleeve! I was originally planning on doing a gathered or ruffled sleeve, but I decided that was a little too ambitious for my first sleeve-setting experience. It would be really cute though, if you feel comfortable doing that.
|See how my seam allowances are different.... Don't do that.|
4) Create the neckline. After the sleeves (which I amazingly only had to sew once!), I cut out the neckline that I wanted. The existing crew neck wasn't really what I wanted, so I got another v-neck shirt that I had to use as a template. The Old Navy one I used before had a v-neck too, but it was a little lower than I wanted. Just stuff the BYU shirt inside the other and mark where the v is. Unless you want a raw edge on the collar (which I did not), cut about 5/8 inch further from the mark, that way you can fold that inside to reinforce the shape of the v-neck and hem it. I sewed pretty close to the edge of the neckline, but it doesn't really matter too much.
5) Connect the top to the bottom. Since the jersey skirt already fit me, I didn't have any alterations to do except the length (which I'll get to later). It did have this weird waistband though, which made me think maybe it was a dress, but it wasn't quite long enough, so I don't know... that's why it was super cheap haha. Anyways, right under the awkwardly large waistband was a cute gathering around the skirt that I wanted to keep. So I matched up the front, back, and sides of the skirt the skirt with the front, back, and sides of the shirt, right at the ruffle. I had already tried on the top and bottom together to find where the shirt needed to end and the skirt begin. Mine is right at my waist. Once you match up and pin the four points, pin around the rest of the skirt. You might have to kind of stretch the fabrics to match up, but as long as you have the four basic points matched up, it'll be fine. The jersey was interesting to work with since it's so stretchy, but it didn't give me too much trouble. Note: The first time I connected the top and bottom, I tried it on and HATED how it fit. I had tried to do a sort of blouse-y top, but it wasn't working. I decided to just pick out the seam, get rid of the blouse, and try again. So don't get mad if it doesn't work out perfectly the first time-- just try again.
6) Adjust the side seams and the length to finish it off. I thought I had fit the shirt and skirt pretty closely to what I wanted, but of course it fits differently when you have it all put together and tried on. So, my mom showed me a cool little trick. Basically, you just put the dress on inside-out and fit the dress to yourself with pins. I only had to take it in a little bit on the sides because I wanted a more fitted look. (If you don't want it more fitted, or you like the way it turned out, just skip this step.) It's a lot easier if you have someone to help you pin the sides, but you can also do it yourself. The really tricky part is trying to get the dress off without sticking yourself with the pins! If you find a good method... please let me know. Once you do shimmy out of the pins, you just need to sew up the sides where the pins are! The pins mark where the seam goes, not the seam allowance, so just sew right on top. Remember to try it on again and make sure you like it before you cut off the extra fabric inside. Lastly, hem the skirt. My mom has this really fancy standing ruler that measures skirt hems from the floor to make sure it's a straight seam, so that made my life easier. Don't fret if you don't have a little hemming contraption, just try on the dress and mark where you want the hem to be (again, easier if you have someone to help, because the length changes when you bend over to mark it haha).
Here is the finished product! I know it's not a very good picture, but you can kinda see the v-neck and how it's fitted on the sides. I was going to take a picture with it on, but I didn't look very cute, so I didn't want to be in a picture. Also, the proportions between the top and skirt look off, but it really does look cute and normal when it's on. I promise I'll post one when I wear it at BYU's first football game. I can't wait for football season to start!!