Repurposing Clothes: My Old Shirt Becomes Niece’s Dress


Before: Sleeveless shirt

My sister made me a shirt perhaps 20 years ago that I kept long after it ceased to fit, since handmade clothing from sisters is special. After making dresses for my nieces one Christmas I was inspired to refashion the shirt into a dress for one of those incredible nieces, who’s fanatic about red, the fabric’s main color.

Repurposing clothing has grown in popularity with the rise of DIY and crafting culture, and likely, the economic downturn. Transforming items that are languishing in the back of your closet, or obtained secondhand, is a great way to get new-to-you clothing while saving money and  being gentle on the planet (just in time for Earth Overshoot Day on 8/21, when we will have used up one year’s worth of natural resources and ecological services, unfortunately).


After: Jumper

There are several blogs and websites sharing tips and designs. My sister-in-law who is very skilled at sewing (check out her blog) pointed me to some especially cool sites and has some clothing recycling projects up her sleeve as well. One very crafty woman is refashioning one item of $1 secondhand clothing every day for a year.

I’ve retooled old clothes and blankets into new-to-me clothing, tote bags and better fitting garments. Some examples here.

So, back to the dress…there wasn’t quite enough fabric for the pattern so I got a secondhand shirt from the community freebox that was best suited for repurposing, and got snipping and stitching. I reused the buttons from the shirt to cover up a seam on the top portion with a decorative element, and appliqued a heart over a tear in the fabric. It’s definitely a special family heirloom of sprts since my sister/my niece’s mom made the original garment and I sewed the dress using a sewing machine from my sister-in-law, scissors and thread from my grandma, and snaps and pjns from my mother, who first taught us to sew.

Photos of the reconstruction in process below:


Front: Sleeveless shirt with fabric from secondhand shirt, redesigned pattern to empire waistline style


Constructed dress without embellishments

Back of dress, button closure is from original sleeveless shirt

This entry was posted in Creative Reuse & Repurposing, Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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