Sew a cute ruffle shirt dress with 3 upcycled men's button-down shirts
Updated: Jun 21
Spring has sprung, and I’m in the mood to make a menswear-inspired, lightweight dress. I hit the internet for inspiration and found this Veronica Beard dress. It had everything I was looking for - button-down front, rolled-up sleeves, tiered ruffle skirt, and loose, flowy fit. I loved it so much, I almost bought it until I saw the $278 price tag.
I knew I could knock off this dress with some thrifted men's button-down shirts for less than $10.
In this blog post, I’ll show you how to upcycle 3 men’s button-down shirts into a spring shirt dress. This upcycle is a great sewing project for beginners because it's all straight-line sewing. If you're a seasoned sewer, you can whip up this fast and easy dress in 1 hour.
Read on, or watch the video:
3 men's button-down shirts
1 to 2 hours
Here's a quick overview of the project:
Step 1: Chop off shirt #1 at your belly button
The first shirt fit me quite well, so I gave it a chop at the belly button. To save time, I recommend using a well-fitting shirt that slips over your hips so you can avoid making any alterations.
Step 2: Cut ruffles from shirts #2 and #3
Cut out 10" strips from the bodice of the second and third shirts.
Cut out the button placket and side seams to make even rectangles.
Step 3: Sew rectangles into ruffles
Sew the 10" rectangles into long strips. I made the first ruffle 1.5 times the width of the first shirt. The second ruffle is 2.25 times the width of the first shirt. Sew the ends of the strip together to make a big circle.
Step 4: Mark the shirt and ruffles into quarters
Marking the bottom of the first shirt and the two ruffles into quarters will make aligning all the pieces an easy task. To mark the first ruffle, lay the ruffle flat lengthwise and mark the corners.
Fold in half and mark the inner corners.
Step 5: Sew gathering stitches
Set your machine to the longest stitch length to sew two rows of gathering stitches. Sew the first row 1/4" from the edge. Sew the second row 1/2" from the edge. Leave 6" tail threads.
Step 6: Gather the ruffles
Gather the first ruffle by holding the thread tails and pushing the fabric along the thread. Gather until it is the same width as the first shirt.
Before gathering the second ruffle, I hemmed the bottom 1/4" because it is easier to do flat. Repeat the gathering process on the second ruffle until it is the same width as the bottom of the first ruffle.
Step 7: Sew ruffles
With right sides together, pin the first ruffle to the bottom of the first shirt, aligning the quarter marks. Sew with 3/8" seam allowance. This should land your sewing line in the middle of the gathering stitches.
Repeat with the last ruffle. Remove all gathering stitches.
On to the reveal . . . . .
I can see myself wearing this dress well into the summer. The loose, flowing fit is ideal for hot weather, and the long sleeves will keep the sun off my arms.
Here's a close-up of the front. I love how the ruffles jazz up a classic button-down shirt.
You can barely see the seams in the gathers of the ruffle.
This simple project is perfect for new sewers. There's no fancy sewing here - just a bunch of straight-line sewing. And the upper half of the dress is already made. You'll have a beautiful shirt dress in a few hours. Be prepared for lots of compliments.