Transform a Button-Down Shirt Into an Adorable Halter Neck Dress

10 Materials
2 Hours

Don’t throw out that shabby old button-down shirt just yet! Turn it into a fun new item for your summer wardrobe. Thrift flips are a great way to keep the contents of your closet fresh and fashionable while still being environmentally friendly. In this tutorial, I will show you step-by-step how to transform that tired button-down into a super-cute halter dress.

Tools and materials:

  • Old button-down shirt
  • Elastic
  • Thread
  • Fabric scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Pins
  • Safety pin
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Seam ripper
  • Sewing machine
Try on the shirt

Try on the shirt

I tried the shirt on to see how much I wanted to take it in on the sides, so it would not be loose and shapeless.

Sew a line down from the underarm

Take in the sides

Once I knew how much I wanted to take the seams in, I flipped the shirt inside out, and sewed a straight line on either side of the shirt from the underarm down to the bottom hem.

Remove the pockets with a seam ripper

Remove the pockets

Next, I used my seam ripper to carefully remove the pockets from the front of the shirt.


Mark with a pin where to cut

Step: Mark the points where the shirt will be cut

Once the side seams were in, I popped the shirt back on and stuck a pin in to mark the point where I wanted the armholes to be.

DIY halter neck dress

Then I took the shirt off again, and using the pin as I guide, I plotted where I would cut out the armholes. I drew the line where the final seam would be, so I had to remember to leave an inch extra for seam allowance when I was cutting. 

How to make a halter dress

Cut the armholes

Following about an inch away from the line I had just drawn, I cut the sleeves off the shirt to create the armholes. 

Cut from underarm to underarm

Cut out the rest of the back

After I cut out the armholes, I just cut a straight line directly across the back of the shirt, from underarm to underarm.

Cut from shoulder to shoulder

And then I made another straight cut across the back a few inches below the collar, from shoulder to shoulder, making sure to leave an extra inch for seam allowance.

Pin the edges

Fold and pin the raw edges

Once everything was cut, I turned the dress inside out. Then, I made a half-inch fold and pinned all the way around the back opening of the dress.

How to sew a halter dress

Sew it up

Then I sewed one long hemline all the way around the back opening of the dress.

Measure the elastic across your back

Measure and cut the elastic

I pulled the elastic across my back to the point where it was a little bit tight, but not too stretched out, and it reached across my back to where the side seams of the dress will rest. Then I cut the elastic at that point.

Attach the elastic at the side seams

Attach the elastic

I aligned the elastic with the back edge of the dress, leaving about a half-inch of space from the top, so there would be enough fabric to fold over the elastic, then attached both ends of the elastic to the side seams of the dress with a zigzag stitch.

Fold and pin the waistband

Fold the waistband over the elastic and pin it

I folded the edge of the waistband over the elastic, and pinned it into place. 

Fold and pin around the back opening

Fold and pin the edges around the back opening

Then I continued to fold the edges about another quarter- to half-inch all the way around the back opening of the dress, and pinned everything down.

Sew a halter dress

Sew all the way around

Once everything was pinned, I sewed across the waistband, pulling the fabric flat as I went, since the elastic caused it to bunch up. I continued to sew one long seam all the way around the back opening of the dress, once more.

Measure the circumference of the hem

Add extra length (optional)

If your shirt was already at your preferred length, you’re done! You now have a cute new dress. However, my dress was a bit too short for my liking, so I added a strip of fabric at the bottom to give the dress more length. To do this, I first measured the circumference of the hem of the dress.

Easy halter dress

Then, I cut strips of fabric from the piece that I had cut out of the back of the shirt, and attached them to create one long strip, the length of which was equal to the circumference of the hem.

How to make a halter neck dress

I folded the strip of fabric in half, so the fold would become the finished edge of the dress, and I wouldn’t have to hem it. I pinned the folded strip of fabric along the bottom of the dress.

How to sew a halter neck dress

Then I sewed it all together. I tried it on one more time and made any small adjustments necessary to get the fit just right. And then my dress was complete!

Before and after

The back of the dress

This dress is the cutest!

I love how this turned out. I think it would be so cute with some white go-go boots and a headband. I hope this tutorial was helpful, and you use it and share it with friends!

Suggested materials:
  • Button-down shirt
  • Elastic
  • Thread
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 7 comments
  • Rhonda Rhonda on Mar 12, 2021

    U did a great job young lady.. ... and yes Leslie, I wore these myself back in the day. Thank you for this post. I will try this with a few old shirts to make a back in tunic top. Lol, I've grown a bit so may use the sleeves to give a loose fitting summer top. Thank you again

  • MB Summers MB Summers on Mar 12, 2021

    It did turn out very cute, for a hot day. From the photos used, I could not really see the added length you put on. As a suggestion, if someone used the sleeve fabric also they might be able to gather the added length a small amount, so it had a bit of a ruffle on the bottom.