How to Turn a Men's Shirt Into a Cute Dress With Butterfly Sleeves

9 Materials
3 Hours

Men’s shirts are usually roomier than women’s shirts. When made of 100% Egyptian or another cotton, they feel and look fabulous. If you wanted to know how to make a dress out of men’s shirts and how to sew a butterfly sleeve, this tutorial will show you both.

I’m using a checked fabric for this DIY gingham dress but you could use any pattern or color as long as the fabric has no stretch. Let’s get started making your DIY men’s shirt into a dress so you can wear it this summer.

Tools and materials:

  • Men’s cotton shirt
  • Cotton or linen fabric
  • Elastic thread
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler + triangular ruler
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Serger
Men's shirt for the DIY

Pro-tip: Use only non-stretch fabric like 100% cotton or linen for this dress for the best results.

Cutting off the sleeves

1. Make the bodice

Lay the men’s shirt on a flat surface with the buttons facing you. Cut off the sleeves leaving the shoulder seam intact. Reserve the sleeves for later

Making the square neckline

To make the square neckline in the front, measure and mark 3 ½ inches on either side from the center button placket. Measure and mark 7 inches to meet that mark down from the shoulders on either side.

Turn the shirt over, matching the front marks on the back. Measure and mark down 1¼ inches and 7 inches across.

Cutting out the square neckline

Cut out these marked pieces.

Making the facing

2. Make the facing

The facing will match the square neckline. Cut out fabric to match 3½ by 7 inches by 1½ inches wide for the front. Cut the fabric for the back 1¼ X 7 inches and 1½ inches wide.

Folding the facing

Fold the back neckline over the front neckline right sides together and sew to connect it into a rectangle.

Serge the outer edges. 

Attaching the facing to the neckline

3. Attach the facing

Lay the facing right sides together with the bodice right side showing. Pin in place. Sew at the edge.

Snipping the corners

Snip the 4 corners of the facing.

Fold the facing inside of the bodice. Pin and stitch into position.

Marking from the shoulder down

4. Shir the waist

Mark a vertical measurement from the shoulder down about 16 inches on either side.

Connecting the marks

Connect these points on a horizontal line. Follow the original vertical measurement and add 2½ inches down on either side. Connect with a horizontal line. Repeat the process on the back using the same measurements.

Make sure the front and back horizontal lines align.

Wind the elastic thread on your bobbin by hand.

Keep the fabric right side showing. 

Shirring across the waist

Sew across the bodice horizontally with the elastic thread 3 to 4 times in between the two horizontal measurements.

Pinning the button placket

5. Finish the button placket

Pin the bottom, top, and sides of the button placket.

Sewing the button placket

Sew to secure along the long and short sides of the placket.

How to make a butterfly sleeve pattern

6. Make the butterfly sleeve sewing pattern

Use the reserved sleeves you cut off. You’ll make these into a butterfly sleeve pattern by cutting the sleeve first into 2 pieces.

DIY butterfly sleeve pattern

Then cut into 4 “slices” that meet at the top of the sleeve. Pin the old sleeve to the fabric. Spread the pieces so the distance between them is equal. The wider you spread the pieces, the wider the sleeve will be.

Lay the pattern on your fabric. Place weights on top so the fabric doesn’t move. Trace the pattern and add a ¼-inch seam allowance all around.

Cut the sleeve out. Repeat for the second sleeve. Serge the sleeve hem. Pin and sew the inner sleeve seam.

Pinning the sleeves to the bodice

7. Attach the sleeves

Fold the sleeve in half. With the bodice wrong side out, slip the sleeve inside so their right sides are together. Match the sleeve and side seams.

Pin around the shoulder. Sew to secure.

Making ruffles for the skirt

8. Make the ruffles

You’ll need 2 large rectangles. The first ruffle that connects to the bodice is 65 inches long by 10½ inches wide. The second ruffle is 97½ inches by 13½ inches wide. Sew each rectangle into a loop. Serge the edges.

Sewing gathering stitches

Set your machine to the longest stitch and stitch tension set at zero. Sew two gathering stitches parallel to each other on each ruffle. 

Attaching the ruffles together

9. Attach the ruffles

Pull on the threads on the bottom ruffle until the circumference of the loop matches the circumference of the first ruffle on the bottom. Align their side seams. Pin in place right sides together and sew into position.

Attaching the ruffles to the bodice

Trim the bottom of the bodice so it is straight and equal all around. Pull the threads on the first ruffle to match the circumference of the bodice bottom.

Pinning the skirt to the bodice

Match the seams of the ruffles to the side seam of the bodice. Pin all around right sides together. Stitch into place.

10. Hem

Hem the bottom of the dress by folding in twice, pinning, and sewing into place.

DIY men's shirt into a dress

DIY men's shirt into a dress

Congratulations! You’ve made a DIY men's shirt into a dress that’s light and breezy for summer. 

How to make a dress out of a men's shirt

Please let me know in the comments if you feel my tutorial showed you how to make a dress out of a men's shirt and how to sew a butterfly sleeve. Thanks!

Suggested materials:
  • Men’s cotton shirt
  • Cotton or linen fabric
  • Elastic thread
See all materials

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