How to Sew a T-Shirt Dress With a Cutout in the Back

Lydia Naomi
by Lydia Naomi
8 Materials
3 Hours

Today I’m going to show you how to make this cropped elastic-back dress. They’re so simple to make, I made two in one day. I love the design of this dress because it’s extremely comfortable, but it’s also very unique because of the cut. I think it’s a great option for casual wear in the spring or summer.

Tools and materials:

  • T-shirt (to trace for the pattern)
  • Yard and a half of jersey fabric
  • Twill tape or selvage from a woven fabric
  • Fabric chalk
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Elastic
  • Sewing machine
Use a t-shirt for the pattern

Trace a shirt for the pattern

All you need to make a pattern for this dress is a t-shirt that fits you a bit loosely. If you don’t have a shirt like this, you can use a more fitted shirt, just make sure when you’re copying it, you make the side seams wide enough to accommodate your hips.

Make a t-shirt dress

Lay the shirt on the fabric

Fold your fabric in half, and fold your t-shirt lengthwise with the front facing out. Align the fold on your t-shirt with the fold on the fabric. 

Measure and mark

Mark the width and length of the dress

Using the shirt as your guide, mark the width of your dress all the way down, and measure the length. 

DIY t-shirt dress

Trace around the top of the shirt

Trace the front armhole, shoulder, and neckline.

Cut out the front piece

Cut the fabric

Cut out your front piece from the fabric.

Fold the fabric

Lay the front piece on top of the fabric that will be used for the back pieces

Fold up the front piece to where you want it cropped and mark that point with a shallow snip. I recommend making this measurement about an inch higher than you want it since the weight of the elasticated skirt will pull it down a bit. Lay the folded front piece at a slight angle over the doubled fabric that will be used for the back pieces. This will help reduce sagging in the back. I placed my front piece so the edge of the neckline aligned with the fold, and the bottom edge of my front piece about one and a half inches past the fold.  

Trace around the front piece

Trace out the back top piece

Trace around the folded front piece to create the pattern for the back piece, with a hem allowance of about three-quarters of an inch. Also, make the back armhole a bit wider, and the back neckline a bit higher. 

Cut the fabric

Cut the fabric

Cut out the back top piece.

Basic t-shirt dress

Cut the back bottom piece

Fold the top piece at the spot where it is notched. Mark a two-inch guideline for the elastic casing at the top edge of the skirt piece, then place the fold of the top piece along the bottom line of the two-inch guideline. Cut around the top piece, which will give you a rectangular piece of fabric for the back bottom of the dress.

How to make a t-shirt dress

Trace the sleeves

For the sleeve, fold the fabric with the right sides together, and draw a line down the center. Fold the t-shirt at the shoulder seam and line up the fold of the sleeve with the center line. Then trace around the sleeve, adding three-quarters of an inch hem allowance. 

Trace the back of the sleeve

Flip the shirt over, and trace the second side of the sleeve on the other side of the center line.

Cut the fabric

Cut out the sleeves

Mark which side is the front of the sleeve and which side is the back, and notch the center where it will line up with the shoulder seam. Then cut out your sleeves. 

T-shirt dress tutorial

Cut a neckband

These are all the pieces, including a neckband measuring two inches wide, and at least as long as your neck circumference.

Hem the top

Hem the back top piece

Fold the bottom edge of the back top piece up about half an inch, and sew it down.

Create a casing for the elastic

Create tunnels for the elastic

Create the casing for the elastic by folding down three inches along the top edge of the skirt piece, and creating two rows of stitching--one along the edge of the folded fabric, and one in the middle of the folded fabric, creating two tunnels.

Cut the elastic

Cut pieces of elastic

Cut two pieces of elastic long enough to stretch comfortably across your back. Cut one inch off the piece of elastic that will be closer to the top of the skirt section of the dress. This will help to stop the opening in the back of the dress from gaping too much. 

Pull the elastic through the tunnels

Pull the elastic through the tunnels

Use a safety pin to feed the elastic through the casings you’ve created in the bottom piece. Make sure the shorter piece of elastic is on top. 

Sew down the elastic on the sides

Sew the elastic in place

Pin the ends in place and sew them down at the edges of the fabric.

Sew the shoulder seams

Sew the shoulder seams together

Next, with the right sides together, sew the shoulder seams.

How to sew a t-shirt dress

Because this fabric is very heavy, adding twill tape will help to keep the shoulder seams from stretching out over time. If you don’t have twill tape, you can cut the selvage edge off a bolt of fabric, and use that instead.  

Pin the sleeves

Pin and sew the sleeves

Pin the sleeves in place, making sure you are pinning the front to the front and the back to the back, and then sew them in place. 

Pin the side seams

Pin and sew the side seams

After the sleeves are sewn in, you will sew the side seams. Line up the top back with the notches on the front body piece, and pin them in place. 

Pin the side seams of the skirt

Next, pin the sides of the gathered skirt piece in place, with the top edge of it overlapping the bottom edge of the top back piece. 

Add twill tape to the seams

Add twill tape to the seam from the underarm until the bottom of the elastic casing to add support, since the fabric is heavy. 

Sew the side seams

Sew up the side seams, making sure all the layers of thickness are being sewn together in the seam. 

Iron the neckband

Prepare the neckband

Next, take your neckband, fold it lengthwise and iron it flat.

Measure around the front neckline

Walk it around one half of the front neckline, stretching as you go, then create a notch in the neckband at the point it meets the halfway point of the neckline. 

Notch the fabric

Fold the neckband in half at the notch, and make a second notch. 

Measure the back neckline

From the second notch, walk the neckband around one half of the back neckline, make a notch at that point. 

Cut the neckband to the appropriate length

Copy that length with an added quarter-inch seam allowance, and cut any excess fabric. 

Sew the ends together

Sew the ends of the neckband

Sew the ends of the neckband together to create a circle. 

Pin the neckband in place

Pin and sew the neckband

Match the notches with the seams along the neckline, pin it down and sew it in place. 

Top-stitch around the neckband

Top-stitch around the neckline

At this point, you can top-stitch around the neckline with a contrasting thread to add detail, but it’s not necessary for the construction of the dress.

Iron and sew the sleeves

Hem the sleeves

Next, iron the sleeve hems up, and sew them down. 

Sew a t-shirt dress

Hem the bottom edge

Iron the hem of the skirt and sew it down. 

Iron the dress

Iron everything flat

Iron the seams and any wrinkled fabric to finish. 

T-shirt dresses for women

T-shirt dress with cropped back

Easy t-shirt dress tutorial

T-shirt dress with cutout

If you use this tutorial to make your own t-shirt dress, I’d love to see the result; especially if you try it with a woven fabric instead of jersey fabric. 

Suggested materials:
  • T-shirt
  • Jersey fabric
  • Twill tape
See all materials

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