How to Make a Tank Top Dress for Kids

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Turn that tank top into a cute little girl's dress, complete with a handkerchief skirt hem, in just over an hour! All you need is a sewing machine and some basic sewing essentials to make an easy tank top dress. With a free pattern directions for sizes 12 months thru 10 years, this is the perfect project for a beginner-level seamstress.

(Image: Jess Abbott)
(Image: Jess Abbott)

Things You'll Need

  • Tank top that fits well
  • 1-1.5 yards cotton fabric
  • Pins
  • Coordinating thread
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors/rotary cutter
  • Fabric marker or pen
  • Iron
  • Sewing needle
  • Sewing machine
(Image: Jess Abbott)

Step 1: Cut Skirt Rectangle

Use the following measurements to cut your main skirt pattern:

  • 12 mo = 30.25"W x 36.25"L
  • 2T = 34"W x  40"L
  • 4T = 36.5"W x 42.5"L
  • 6 yrs = 41"W x 47"L
  • 8 yrs = 43.5"W x 49.5"L
  • 10 yrs = 48"W x 54"L

Cut one skirt pattern using the above dimensions.

Tip

  • Quilting cotton is often 44" wide. This will work for all sizes except the size 10. Look for 48" wide fabric or larger for that age group.

Step 2: Fold Skirt Fabric for Cutting Pattern

(Image: Jess Abbott)

We are going to fold the fabric in fourths so that we have a right angle to work with for cutting the waist. To do this, first lay your rectangle skirt fabric flat. Fold fabric in half so that the two long 'length-of-fabric' raw edges meet.

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Fold your fabric in half again so that the two 'width-of-fabric' raw edges meet, giving you a right angle folded corner.

Step 3: Measure Quarter Circle Skirt Waist

Use the following measurements for your skirt's waist radius:

  • 12 mo = 3.75" 
  • 2T = 4"
  • 4T = 4.25"
  • 6 yrs = 4.5"
  • 8 yrs = 4.75"
  • 10 yrs = 5"
(Image: Jess Abbott)

From the right angle folded edge, use a measuring tape to mark the length of your radius away from the pointed corner.

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Continue to move your measuring tape in an arc, from the pointed corner out, making your way from one folded skirt edge to the other. Use your fabric marker to mark where the radius measurement hits.

Step 4: Cut Skirt Waist

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Following the marks you made in the previous step, carefully cut off the quarter circle of the right angle folded corner. This will be your skirt's waist.

Step 5: Hem Skirt

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Fold the outer four edges of your rectangle skirt 1/4" towards the wrong side of the fabric and press. Fold again 1/4" towards the wrong side and press, enclosing the raw edge inside. Sew around using a straight stitch to hem.

Step 6: Cut Tank Top

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Using a pair of scissors or a rotary cutter, cut the bottom off of your tank top. Measure from the bottom of your arm opening (top of the side seam), down the appropriate number of inches and cut straight across.

  • 12 mo = 2" 
  • 2T = 2.5"
  • 4T = 2.75"
  • 6 yrs = 3"
  • 8 yrs = 3.25"
  • 10 yrs = 3.5"

Tip

  • Do not throw away the bottom of your tank top! You can use that for a belt for your dress in later steps.

(Image: Jess Abbott)

You will notice that the skirt's waist is slightly larger than your tank top hem. This is good! If it was the same size, you would not be able to get the dress over your child's head comfortably.

Step 7: Prepare Your Sewing Machine for Sewing With Knits

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Select a stitch setting on your machine that is appropriate for working with knit fabric. This can either be a 'stretch' stitch, 'double overlock' stitch, '3-step zig zag' stitch, or regular 'zig zag' stitch. It also helps to use a 'ball point' needle when sewing with knits. Being that we are working with a knit AND woven fabric, a regular needle will work as well.

Step 8: Sew the Skirt to the Tank Top

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Slip the tank top over the skirt's waist, matching up the bottom edge of the tank top with the top of the skirt waist, right sides together. At this time, make sure that the shorter edges of the skirt are centered in the front and back of the tank top, and the longer edges of the skirt are on the sides. Pin the skirt to the tank top in 4 places - the front and back center, and the sides.

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Sew the skirt onto the bottom of your tank top, stretching the tank top as you sew to match the width of your skirt waist. Finish the waist seam with either a serger, zig zag stitch (once again, stretching while you sew), or pinking shears.

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Step 9: Optional Belt

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Hate the thought of throwing away your tank top bottom? You can turn it into an easy belt for your dress!

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Squeeze the side seam of your tank top bottom together, so that it is no more than 2-4" wide (depending on the age of your child, smaller width = younger child).

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Push the side seam of the tank top through the sewing machine, with the fabric all bunched up. Sew a straight line, going back and forth over the bunched up fabric a few times. Repeat for both sides.

(Image: Jess Abbott)

Step 10: Press and Wear

Slip the dress over your child's head, if desired slip the belt over the waist, and wear!

(Image: Jess Abbott)
(Image: Jess Abbott)
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