Make a shirt dress. Upcycle a men’s shirt into a dress.

make a shirt dress
In this practical clothes upcycling tutorial, I’ll show you how I refashioned a men’s shirt into a comfortable shirt dress that is designed to be worn all year round.

Watch shirt upcycling tutorial video

I bought this beautifully tailored men’s shirt for $5.00 from my local thrift store. From the label, it looks like it may have been custom made by tailors in Hong Kong but I’m not sure. When thrift shopping, I’m always looking out for men’s shirts that are made from quality cotton because they’re easy to sew.  Not only does a lot of work go into tailoring a shirt but the manufacture of cotton takes a lot of resources and it’s a shame to see the fabric go to landfill.

Step 1 – Take in the side seams.

The first step was to tailor the side seams of the shirt so it fit my female shape.  I didn’t want this dress to be too tight – preferring for a slack, comfortable fit.  The button down front, however, does make it possible to make shirt dresses quite tight because you’re able to get in and out of them by buttoning and unbuttoning them where you would usually have to insert a zip on a tight fitting garment.

For this project, I didn’t bother taking in the seams at the back but this could easily be done to provide further tailoring to suit your shape.

Step 2 – Alter the sleeve length.

The next step was to alter the length of the sleeves.  To do this, I used one of my shirts as the template, cutting off the excess at the bottom.  The cuff is saved to be reattached.

Step 3 – Take in the sleeve seam to fit the cuff.

Next, I have to take in the inside seam of the sleeve so it fits my arms and, importantly, is the same circumference at the bottom as the sleeve cuff. Because I shortened the sleeve, the new hem is too wide to simply reattach the cuff.

Step 4 – Reattach the sleeve cuff.

Then I reattach the cuff to the bottom of the sleeve. This usually takes a bit of adjustment and I may have to go back to the sewing machine to adjust the sleeve hem to size.  Sometimes you’re lucky and you get it right first time.

Step 5 – Add a ribbon around the neck (optional)

Then, to make this dress look less like a men’s shirt, I made a neck tie from some scrap fabric.  I sewed this to the seam under the collar.  This can be tied or left untied.

Step 6 – Dye the shirt dress (optional)

Next, I dyed the shirt dress. The white was a bit see through and I thought it looked like I’d just thrown on my boyfriend’s shirt.  After leaving this to sit in my tray of die overnight, I check whether the shirt has taken up most of the dye.  To test this, the water should be quite translucent.  If it’s not, I’ll throw something else in so I don’t waste any dye.

And it’s finished. In the colder months I wear the shirt dress with tights and boots.  In summer I can wear it with sandals, flip flops or sandshoes.

This is a quick clothes upcycling project that could be done within an hour or so.

Thanks for watching, BEX.

clothes upcycling

Why clothes upcycling is important.

Clothes upcycling promotes a more sustainable, creative, and responsible approach to fashion, all of which contributes to a healthier planet and a more sustainable future.

Environmental Impact

Clothes upcycling helps reduce waste by repurposing old or unwanted garments, often diverting them from landfill.

With the fashion industry being one of the planets largest polluters, upcycling and repurposing clothing reduces the need for new materials and decreases carbon emissions associated with the product and disposal of clothing.


Traditional clothing manufacturing consumes significant amounts of water, energy, and raw materials.

Upcycling clothing not only extends the life of existing textiles, conserving these valuable resources, but promotes more sustainable consumption patterns.


Creative Expression

Upcycling clothes and other materials encourages creative freedom by transforming old clothes into unique, personalised garments.

Upcycling and sewing fosters innovation and encourages people to experiment with designs, creating one-of-a-kind items that reflect personal style and creativity.

Cost Effective

Upcycling clothing can be very cost-effective by reducing money spent purchasing new clothes but can also assist charities when clothes are purchased second hand from charities.

Quality and Longevity

Repairing and mending clothing enhances the longevity of existing garments, giving them longevity in your wardrobe and limiting the need to purchase new clothes.  This contrasts with fast fashion items, which are frequently designed for short-term use.