I have a large collection of tank top t-shirts that I wear throughout the summer. I toss a shirt over one and I’m ready to go. For evening, I pair one with a skirt and shawl. In the 70’s, I saw a lot of improvised fashion that some adults seemed not to like while others appreciated the ideas. One of those ideas was called a “t-shirt dress.”
Over the years, I have worked out ideas that allow me to make this dress three different ways. I can buy high-end tank tops and create a dress that rivals some sold in stores. I’ll share them with you and using the ideas, you can effectively make your own in any style you wish.
It’s easier to start with a cheap tank top and experiment. Tanks are often sold in packs, so they’re affordable for most budgets. You will need fabric, knitting or crochet equipment and standard sewing equipment.
This article assumes the reader has a basic knowledge of sewing, crochet or knitting. A wide variety of tapes, DVD’s, books, videos, classes and websites are available for training. Of course, having a skilled friend for a teacher is always a good way to learn.
Most of the lightweight fabrics used will require a slip to be worn; you can line the dress with a fitted slip so you do not have to look for one.
Dress Number One:
Take a tank top that fits well and put it on. Mark the waistline all the way around; take it off and even the marks around the garment.
Measure the width of the t-shirt and write it down. Multiply this measurement by four. Use gauze or other lightweight, breezy fabric to make the skirt. Decide the length of the skirt you need, include enough for seams.
Use a zigzag stitch over a draw thread or elastic thread. I prefer elastic because it will move with the shirt. Gather the fabric until it meets the t-shirt all the way around. Pin in place and carefully put it on; the shirt and skirt should allow you to put it on without any trouble; readjust it now if it does. Belts can always cover gathered waistbands.
There are several ways to stitch gathered and flexible waistbands. Experiment to find the right one for you.
Allow the dress and skirt to hang on a hanger for a couple of days before hemming; this allows the fabric to relax.
Dress Number Two:
Take the tank top and as before, mark the waist, take the tank off and while it is flat on a table, straighten the marks.
I’ll choose my right or left side to make an opening and slit the t-shirt up to the waist mark. The fabric is rolled back and I’ll attach hooks and eyes for closing.
On this dress, I like to sew a flexible strip of fabric that acts as a casing with elastic in it. I crochet one or two inches of single crochet long enough to go around my waist, but do not join them in a round. The ends are left open for now, I’ll explain it later. The same technique can be used on all the dresses.
I’ll pin the strip to the casing and match the ends. The top is donned once more and I’ll measure from the strip to the point where I would like the dresses length to be.
Now for the fun part; I have to decide what pattern/color/type of skirt I would like to crochet as well as choose the type of yarn to use. I like to choose sport weight yarn or lighter for these skirts and take my time making them.
Any crochet pattern can be used; for example I’ll plan to use a high-end royal blue tank. I’ll make a stretchable waistband and attach it to the tank, but I’ll leave the side open so I can hook it. After the waistband is made, I’ll select a lacy pattern. I’m partial to lace. After a few rounds back and forth, I’ll attach the lace at the ends and continue in the round. Every few inches or lace pattern, I’ll let the project rest on my dressmaker’s mannequin to allow the lace to stretch. In this way, I’ll arrive at the length I want instead of having it too long or short. Once the skirt is the length I want, usually a couple of inches below the lining, I’ll sew the crocheted foundation rows to the waistband. Instant classic. Of course, I’ll also choose a color and crochet a scarf, sweater and other accessories.
Tank Dress Number Three:
Begin as with dress number two with the tank, a waistband and choosing the yarn. Knitting tends to stretch more than crochet, so I’d choose a pattern with stability. I like knitting the zigzag type pattern, so I’d tuck the points inside the waistband. Most zigzag patterns have a yarn over, knit st, yarn over between the pattern repeats. To create an interesting look and a measure of stability, I’ll purl one side and knit the other. The stockinette pattern is not as vertically stretchy as the garter stitch, and a straight line of purl stitches in between the pattern repeats adds visual flair. The holes created by the yarn over just barely allow a view of the lining, which almost always (unless I’m using variegated yarns) matches the tank.
Just as with crochet, there are a wide variety of lace patterns to choose from, so showcase your skills.
It is fun to experiment with different fabrics, yarns and threads. The finer the yarn, the finer the lace will be and the more delicate the overall effect will be. Match your lace skirt with a lace shawl, thin strap sandals, a small chain necklace and shimmering hose. The effect is smashing.
- · Cutting the tank off is a matter of personal preference. I’ll attach a lining to the waistband and leave the tank at full length. If the fabric, crochet or knitting is light enough, I’ll have a lining that could be three or four layers of silky, organza-like fabrics that rustles as I move. Very feminine and alluring.
- · Mix and match your skirts and tanks by creating detachable waistbands. You could also use the skirts by themselves. It will look as though you have a larger wardrobe.
Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse forms of crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects and more.