How to lengthen a tee shirt sewing pattern into a tee shirt dress

I get asked about basic pattern hacks all the time, and I’ll refer you to a couple of great resources for this (as well as showing you how to do it) wherever I can.

A basic tee shirt pattern is invaluable – from a tee shirt dress to a maxi dress, swim cover up, tunic, the basic tee shirt can be so many things.I’ve included some inspiration from around the web here, including some sewing resources. This is a great beginner friendly sewing pattern hack. Especially on trend this summer, when worn over pants. Equally at home with flip flops at the lake as it is with dressy flat sandals at work, the basic tee shirt dress should be in everyone’s wardrobe.

Choose a well-fitting tee. Doesn’t matter the style, really, just one that you like and that fits you and that is not too snug. The tee should NOT have negative ease (stretches to fit your body) but should skim it.

Trace a copy of the tee onto tracing paper. Starting from about 3″ under the underarm point, draw and extend the sideseam down to the finished length at an angle, keeping a similar hem/sideseam curve before straightening out at the mid thigh down. You should be about 1″ -2″ wider than the tee is at the hips (for some wearing ease, as most tee shirts will be snug at the hip.) If the tee has a straight hem, keep that, and consider adding walking slits in the sideseam for tee dresses that are longer than knee length. If it has a curved shirt tail hem, use the same curve shape for the edge of your tee shirt dress by sliding the pattern piece down under your tracing paper to the bottom, lining up the side seams and tracing off the shape, connecting it to the center front.

Besides wearing just a tee shirt dress, the trend is to wear them over pants, to add a high side or front slit to wear over pants.

Inspiration for your tee shirt dress sewing

How to make a tee shirt dress from a tee shirt sewing pattern

From the pattern magazine Tauko, a tee shirt dress over wide leg pants. My Local Fabric Store carries this magazine so you don’t have to pay for postage from overseas.

Soo Linen boxy tee with wide leg pants and a high slit (shown in black over rolled jeans)

Jcrew dip dyed stripe tee shirt dress (thrifted) (on me, also see the example above, now sold out, but you can recreate it!)

My favorite tee sewing patterns:

Whatever you have in your stash is FINE. You do NOT need to buy another tee shirt sewing pattern! In fact, if it’s one you’ve fitted to you, even better!

HotPatterns shirt-tail tee

Christine Jonson Three Tees (already comes as a dress option) with a cut on cap sleeve

Grainline Studio Scout Tee (woven fabrics but you could also use it for stable knits)

Antero Shell by Sew News / Sew Daily

Tauko Magazine oversized Nordic Tee and dress

For knit fabrics, use 1″ minimum at each sideseam – this will give up to 2″ of wearing ease. You can always cut wider, try on as you sew, and then narrow the tee dress if you need to.

If you’re using WOVEN fabric with a tee shirt designed for wovens, such as the Scout tee by Grainline Studio, you will want to extend the width at the hip to a minimum of 2″, potentially wider – each side 2″ wider at the hip will give 4″ of wearing ease.

Add pockets! And other sewing tips:

A note about pockets – you can add any side seam pocket to a tee shirt dress as well, but a firm, snappy recovery fabric is best (cotton knit, cotton/lycra, ponte or some heavier ITY). A soft rayon or drapey ITY knit will have a droopy, bunchy pocket inside the dress. If you’re using woven fabric, go ahead and add a sideseam pocket.

As you’re sewing your tee, you’ll want to use 2 rows of zigzag – a narrow one on the seam line and a wider one in the seam allowance. Press the seams back toward the back of the garment. Follow the pattern instructions for sewing the tee shirt, only longer.

A tee shirt dress will take a short amount of time to sew – usually under 2 hours. A great win-win project. These make excellent swimsuit coverups too.

Books about pattern hacking:

My current favorite is the Mimi G book Make it Yours – she does a whole book about pattern hacking/modifying for different styles and is a confident beginner to advanced book.

Threads Magazine, and Sew Daily both have regular pattern hacking articles. I like the ones at Sew Daily (more modern projects).