Transform a Men’s Shirt Into a Flirty, Fitted Cowl Neck Dress

Elegra Margiela
by Elegra Margiela
8 Materials
3 Hours

This dress was so much fun to make, and relatively simple, too! In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how I took a men’s XXXL button-down shirt with a cool pattern and turned it into a fun, flattering, fitted cowl neck dress. I love the Miami day vibes this dress is giving me. And you can even add a cute jacket, and wear it for a night out, too.

Tools and materials:

  • Size XXXL men’s shirt
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Rotary cutter (optional)
  • Needle and thread
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine

Cut out the back of the shirt

Cut out the back of the shirt

The first step was to cut out the back portion of the shirt, and this became the front of my dress. I saved the two front panels of the shirt, as well, to make the back pieces.

Fold down the top edge

Fold over the top

I folded down about six inches of the top edge of my front piece, which will become the cowl neckline. 

Use your own dress for the pattern

Create a pattern

Follow the shape of a dress that fits well I used a dress that fits me well as the pattern to create the shape of the front of the dress. The fabric of this dress is stretchy, while the fabric of the shirt I am working with is not, so I made sure to leave about two inches of seam allowance.

Pin and sew the neckline

Fold, pin, and sew down the cowl neck

Once the front of my dress was cut out, I folded down the neckline, right sides facing each other, pinned it in place, and sewed a seam on either side.

Use your own skirt for the pattern

Follow the shape of a skirt that fits well

Taking one of the front panels I had cut off the shirt, I laid a skirt that fits me well on top of it, folded in half lengthwise, and used that as the pattern to shape the back part of the dress. I added about five extra inches to the pattern above the waistline of the skirt to add back area to the dress. This piece will be one half of the back of the dress. 

How to make a cowl neck dress

Make the back

I laid the piece I had just cut out on top of the second shirt panel, right sides facing each other, pinned it in place, and used that piece as a guide to cut the second half of the back of the dress.

Make a cowl neck dress

Pin and sew the front piece and back pieces together

I laid my back pieces on top of the front piece of the dress, right sides facing each other, and pinned the side seams all the way down. Then I sewed both seams using a straight stitch.

Cut strips from the sleeves

Cut strips for the straps

Using one of the sleeves from the shirt, I cut two strips that were each one and a half inches wide, and about 23 inches long. 

Fold and press the edges inside

Press the raw edges

Once the strips were cut, I folded both raw edges inward and pressed them into place.

Attach the straps with the foldover method

Attach the straps to the dress

Using the foldover method, I pinned the straps to the top portion of the dress.

How to sew a cowl neck dress

Then I sewed them in place using a straight stitch, and then continued sewing to the end of the straps, folding it closed as I went.

Cut facing pieces using offcuts

Make a facing

To make a facing for the back of the dress, I cut two pieces that were about two inches wide, and the same length as the top edges of the back pieces of the dress. I pinned each facing piece into place at the top of the back of the dress, and sewed them into place with a straight stitch. Apologies to all my netfans, but I was too busy watching Shameless to realize I didn’t get a good view of this step. 

Press the zipper

Press the zipper

I ironed the invisible zipper flat, so it would stay nice and...well...invisible once it was sewn into place.

Pin the zipper

Pin the zipper in place

I pinned the zipper into place along both edges of the open seam in the back of the dress, and then sewed it down.

Sew down the facing

Fold over the facing and sew it against the zipper

Next, to hold the facing down, I folded it over the zipper and sewed it down. 

Iron flat

Then I ironed it flat so everything looks neat and beautiful.

Attach the straps

Attach the straps to the back of the dress

To attach the straps on the back of the dress, I folded the raw edges over about half an inch, and sewed the straps in place, about four inches from the side seams. 

Sew a cowl neck dress

I used a back stitch to attach them, going over it a few times to make sure the straps were secure.

DIY cowl neck dress

Basic cowl neck dress

I hope you love this dress as much as I do. It has such a chilled-out beach vibe, but it’s also a little extra--just like me! Let me know what you think of this transformation!

Suggested materials:
  • XXXL men's shirt
  • Scissors
  • Pins
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 3 comments
  • Jane Jane on Mar 13, 2021

    So creative! I really like this!

  • B B on Mar 16, 2021

    Love the pattern and how you made it completely yours. Looks really great.