The Most Flattering Shirt Dress DIY

Hello my Hot Mess Mommy friends. Ever feel like little girls get all the cute dresses? Well, now it’s your turn. I fell in love with this native-american-esque print gauze forever ago and finally decided to just cut into it. It’s a simple v-neck shirred waist dress, flattering because:  V-necks take the attention away from your giant post-baby boobs, and a shirred waist is never too tight and can be placed at your skinniest part (flabby baby belly=hidden).  You can totally make this.

If you need to get your bearings for shirring with elastic thread check out the Simple Shirred Summer Dress pattern and the Smocked Sundress pattern, then come back here for the full tutorial on sewing yourself The Most Flattering Shirt Dress after the jump…

The Most Flattering Shirt Dress

1. Grab a dress that fits you well that doesn’t have stretch.  Fold your fabric in half (i had two yards but depending on your size and the length you want, you could use 1.5 yards).  Fold your dress in half and lay it on top with the folds lined up.  Cut a big rectangle around it, adding width to the waist and several inches to the length.  Cut a little 1/4″ notch where the bottom of the armhole should go:

2.  This is the back panel of your dress, so also cut a high neckline.  You don’t need to add extra room here for a seam or anything, but do add a 1/4″ at the shoulder:

3.  Using your first panel as a guide, cut another panel the same size for the front of your dress.  Cut a nice v-neck shape into this panel and also notch where the bottom of the armhole should be.  Your final neckline will be the same shape as your cut, so you don’t need to add a seam allowance. Hold it up to your chest and make sure your boobs aren’t hanging out:

4.  Pin your two panels right sides facing at the shoulders:

Sew each shoulder together and finish the edges by serging, sewing with a zig zag stitch, or cutting with pinking shears:

Now we want to sew up the sides, so just check that your notches marking the bottom of the armholes line up and pin:

Then sew up both sides and finish the seams (of course stopping at the armhole notch.  I know you probably wouldn’t sew your armholes closed but it’s worth a reminder):

5. Now grab your single fold bias tape.  Unfold it and starting at the back of the neckline, align one edge to the right side of the dress and pin in place, all the way around the neckline:

on the front at the point of the V just let it stick out like this:

Sew in place along the fold:

Snip the excess off at the v:

Turn your dress inside out and flip the bias tape around to the inside, folding it back up.  Pin in place:

Sew it on along the edge of the bias tape:

6.  Repeat the same bias tape process on both armholes:

7.  Now it is time to turn your dress inside out and try it on.  It’s going to be kind of tent like.  Put a belt on and adjust the dress so you like the way it looks with the belt, making sure the side seams are actually at your sides.  Put a pin on each side above the belt and below the belt.  This is marking where you are going to shirr:

Also mark where you want your hem line to be with a pin on each side.

8.  Now let’s hem before shirring, it’s easier.  For this gauze I thought a thick hemline would be nice, and add a little weight to keep it from flying up. I made mine too short as you can see in the pics, so don’t be in a rush, try it on a few times to be sure. So I trimmed my dress a bit, folded 1/4″ and ironed, then folded 3″ and ironed, and sewed in place:

9.  Now the waist.  Use a ruler and a washable marker to draw a straight line across the dress from the top pin that you marked on the left to the right.  Repeat on the front and back of the dress.  If you are nervous about sewing in a straight line, you can keep drawing lines all the way down to the bottom pin that you marked.  Or you can just draw one at the bottom pin marking so you have a clear idea when to stop shirring:

10.  With elastic thread in your bobbin and sewing thread in a coordinating color on your spool, sew across all the way around your dress at the top line.  Back stitch at the beginning and end of each row, but you don’t have to cut the thread between lines.  Continue sewing shirring lines 5/8″ or so apart until you’ve shirred the entire waist that you marked (I did five lines):

11.  Try the dress on.  I found the area from under the arm to the shirred waist was a little puffy for my taste, so I turned the dress inside out and took it in a little by sewing diagonally from the top of the shirred waist to the armhole.  You decide.  You can also rock it with a belt and a sexy look on your face like this:

Girl you are done!

Go play!   And if you just aren’t ready for a shirred waist, check out our Hot Mess Mommy Tunic Dress.




That's cute! I cracked up when I read the part about "giant post-baby boobs" though – I never got those. 🙁

Definitely filing this idea away for future reference though!


So cute! So if I'm a real real real beginner, how long will this take me? I'm predicting at least five hours.

Katie P

I haven’t sewn this one up yet, but I’ve been sewing for 2 years and have only recently ventured into sewing for myself, and from that vantage point, I wouldn’t recommend you start with this project if you are a true beginner. Try something that doesn’t have elastic in it first. And if you are a TRUE really really real beginner, I personally wouldn’t start with apparel – start with a pillowcase or something that has only straight lines. You’ll be glad you did! It’ll save lots of frustration and wasted fabric.


I'm a super-duper beginner and don't get how to tackle this, but man, I love your site so much. I can't WAIT to get good enough to do this stuff! I'm starting with applique and so far so good!


can you please make a tutorial on how to do that sexy face you've perfected? Mine never turns out as Elvis-y as I want 🙁


HAHAHAHA! I had been looking at this on my phone til now so I didn't see the last photo. I'm like, what is Jessica talking about??? "Elvis-y" lol.
I love this dress. Make me one.


That is a fantastic print!

I have major issues shirring fabric, but I'll try using the bobbin winder trick and setting a longer stitch length as you suggested. Thanks for that tip!


Not a mama, but definitely a hot mess. Going to give this a shot as soon as I find some fantastic fabric! Thanks for the great ideas!

RookieMom Whitney

I completely love this. Not sure what is making the sleeves fit you as if they are really sleeves. I use shirring to turn boy handmedowns into girly shirts. Maybe I'll use a castoff dress shirt of my husbands to try this out. (He's 13 inches taller than I am.)


This is a fantastic tutorial. i've never known you could use bias tape like that…duh! That print is great, too, and I'm no longer intimidated by shirring. Thanks!

Chelsea Strong

OH MY GOD. Everything about this post is fantastic. I WILL be making this very very very soon. It's summer, and Pilates has made my legs look fantastic. And I'm still post-baby fat. Boo. Yay for hot-mess mommies!


I tend to wear dresses that are more like shirts anyway, and I just love the print of this. These types of dresses are very flattering for all figure types. You look great! Will have to give this one a shot. Thanks!


just made the top, yay! I like how mine turned out, I'll be posting it in the next few days. 🙂 Thanks for the tute!


nannersp – yes i would make the front wider and longer, maybe even cut it in an elongated u shape!


This is gorgeous! So simple but it looks really pretty. I wanna give this a go 🙂 Your fabric is really lovely too.


OMG! I have been trying to shear now for 3 hours and it won't work! Have watched every tutorial possible and it just won't do it! Am going to try smocking instead but my friend's picking me up in 15 mins and I'm not showered! Aghhhh! LOL!

BTW – can you just confirm the settings you would have on for thread width, length and tension? Thanks a million! 🙂


i saved this dress forever ago but now that i actually have giant post baby boobs and a flabby belly, i just remembered this tutorial and am totally making it tomorrow! quite the life saver


If you don’t like using elastic thread, use round or 1/8″ flat elastic. Cut pieces the measurement of your waist. Divide your dress into 8 sections around and mark your elastic in 8 equal sections by folding it and marking it with a marker. Pin the marks on the elastic to the marks on the dress.

Zig zag or use the elastic stitch (it sews a straight stitch in a slightly curves or v shaped line) to sew over the elastic as you pull each section of elastic to fit flat on the fabric. It takes one hand in front of your presser foot and one in back pulling while you allow your machine to sew. Let go of the elastic and you have gathers that stretch!

I would leave one side seam open to do this type of application. Sew the side seam when finished gathering and then do the hem. You will avoid getting the dress too short, if you try it on before you hem. The gathers will make the dress need to be longer.

If you don’t have enough fabric for a hem, use hem facing (lace or bias cotton) as you did on the neck and armhole and turn it under for the hem. You can also cut a solid band of fabric and sew it to the bottoml

++Note: Taper in your side seams a the waist when you cut the dress to avoid poofy-ness.


Do you think this will work if I used a tank top to draw the neckline and arm holes and then made more of an a-line skirt under the arm holes? I want to make a sleeveless dress…

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