How to Turn a Too-Small Dress Into a Top in 6 Simple Steps

8 Materials
90 Minutes

If you have a vintage dress that you absolutely love but it’s just a bit too small for you, then here’s a tutorial that will help! Follow along to learn how to turn a too-small dress into a top. You can also use the same technique to upsize the dress instead. Let’s start!

Tools and materials:

  • A dress that needs upsizing
  • A well-fitting shirt for a size template
  • Fabric for side panels (only if you’re making a dress)
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Stitch remover
  • Sewing machine
Measuring side panels for the dress

1. Measure side panels

If you are upsizing the whole dress, then you will need some coordinating fabric for the side panels. But if you are going to turn the dress into a shirt, then you’ll be able to take fabric from the bottom of the dress for your shirt side panels. This tutorial will show you how to turn the dress into a top.

Lay your dress that needs upsizing on top of the dress or shirt that fits you well, with the shoulder seams of both pieces aligned. If both pieces have back zippers, line those up as well.

Measuring the side of the dress

Measure the distance from the edge of the smallest point of your dress to the edge of the dress or shirt below it. Double that measurement to know how wide your side panel will need to be, because it’s going to wrap from the front to the back.

Add another 2 centimeters (0.08 inches) for a seam allowance.

Marking the new zipper end

2. Mark a new zipper end

Turn your dress inside out and lay the template shirt on top of the back of the dress. Place a pin in the back zipper of the dress at the length you want your final top to be.

Hand-sew a few stitches over the zipper teeth to make a zipper stop where you want the zipper to end on your top.

Trimming the dress to the new length

3. Trim your dress

Now you can cut off your dress at the hem length for your new top.

Cutting out side panels for the top

4. Cut the side panels

Use the cut-off dress fabric to cut two side panels in an A-line shape. The top of the panels should be the measurement you took in Step 1 and then make a gentle A-line down from there, on both sides.

Opening the side seams

5. Attach the side panels

Carefully open the side seams of the shirt.

Pinning the side panels to the shirt

With the right sides facing, pin your side panels in place to the front and back of your shirt on both sides, and then sew them in place.

Hemming the new top

6. Finish the hem

Hem the bottom of the shirt.

How to turn a too-small dress into a top

Voilà! My too-small vintage dress is now a perfectly fitting vintage top! I’ve recycled and upsized at the same time.

Please leave a comment to let me know what vintage pieces you will upsize and how you liked this upsizing tutorial.

Grab all of my free upsizing tutorials right here!

Suggested materials:
  • A dress that needs upsizing
  • A well-fitting shirt for a size template
  • Fabric for side panels (only if you’re making a dress)
See all materials

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Join the conversation
  • Marlene Marlene on Apr 25, 2022

    Amazing Results, n ur adorably "Beautiful"!!!!!!!👍️🤩

  • Gwyn Dean Gwyn Dean on Apr 25, 2022

    I was so sad after having made so many dresses I just love, especially the fabric. I've had surgery that made me gain too much weight and now they don't fit. Somehow I need to wear them before they go out of style. Your idea is fantastic! I've printed this and getting ready to make some good changes. Before I do I have one concern. How do you finish the underarm on one with and without sleeves? 🙋🏻‍♀️