Little Girls Valentine’s Day Dress Tutorial

My daughter Savannah had this super-cute Valentine’s Day shirt last year that I bought from BabyGap:

I love this shirt!  It’s just so perfect for Valentine’s Day, but that sad thing is that she only really wore it for a couple weeks last year. She went through a major growth spurt and it seemed like overnight the shirt was too short – total bummer!!  Do you find that happens a lot – the shirts don’t get too tight, they just get too short?  That always seems to be our problem around The Cottage Home.

In thinking about what I wanted my little miss to wear for this Valentine’s Day, I kept thinking about that shirt from last year, but it was 12-18 month and she is now in 2T.  Well, I am certainly not interested in buying her anything new this year because I am really trying to make do with what we already have (not to mention, she will probably hit another growth spurt :-).  So I got an idea!!!  I’ll turn this cutie little shirt from last year into a dress for this year!

Little Girls Valentine’s Day Dress Tutorial
1 shirt (a size too small)
Fabric for skirt (four fat quarters or four squares (10″x10″)
Fabric for Ruffle (two 2″x44″ strips sewn together)
Fabric for Waistband – (one 5″x44″ strip of fabric)
Ribbon – 44″ long
Sewing Machine
Serger (not necessary, but nice if you have one)
Start out with a child’s size shirt (preferably one size too small)
For the bottom of the dress, I used four fat quarters, but you could also cut four squares (10″x10″)
Cut the fabric for the waistband.  I just used the width of my ruler (to make this easy).  The fabric should be about 5″x44″.
Cut your ribbon (44″ long) that you will be attaching to your waistband.
Cut the strips for the ruffle that will go at the bottom of the dress.  These strips should be 2″x44″ – you will need to cut two and sew them together.  You will end up with a LONG strip that is 2″x88″ long.
Now that you have all of your pieces cut – press all of them so they will be nice and easy to work with.  I have to admit…..ironing may be one of my favorite parts of sewing…….but more about that another time.
Fold your waistband fabric in half (right sides together).
Now sew or serge your waistband fabric – 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Turn your waistband right-side out.
Once turned right-side out press the waistband with the seam running down the middle.
Fold a corner of the waistband under to make the edges look nice.
Pin your ribbon down the center of the waistband and fold the end of the ribbon inside the waistband.
Stitch both ends closed – 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Then stitch down each side of the ribbon (as close to the edge as possible to secure in place.
Now for the fabric ruffle.  Serge the edges of the fabric with a rolled-edge or 3-thread over-lock stitch.  If you don’t have a serger, do a tight zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine to finish the edge.  Remember you sewed two strips together before you even began so that you have a 2″x88″ strip.
Now do a gathering stitch straight down the center of your ruffle strip.  To do this, set your sewing machine on the longest stitch possible.  Start your stitching and DO NOT back-stitch at the beginning or the end (otherwise you won’t be able to gather your fabric).
This is what it will look like after you run your gathering stitch.
Gather your ruffle by pulling on one of the loose threads.  Gather up the fabric until it fits the length of the bottom of the skirt.  Just play with it, until you feel like it looks right.
Start to pin your ruffle and again, just play with the gather until it fits the length of the skirt.
Pin your entire ruffle in place along the bottom of the skirt.
Stitch your ruffle in place by sewing down the center of the ruffle.
Now that your ruffle is sewn in place, place the right sides of your fabric together and stitch the skirt closed (1/2 seam allowance).
Press your skirt seams open.  Then run another gathering stitch across the top of the skirt.
Gather the top of the skirt until it is the same width as the bottom of the shirt.
Pin the top of the skirt to the bottom of the shirt – right sides together.  Stitch in place (1/2 inch seam allowance).
Then press the seam between the shirt and the skirt and top-stitch.  Top-stitching is just another added layer of stitching near the top of a seam to increase durability and flatten the seam.  I love top-stitching – especially when it comes to toddler clothes!!
Here’s what your dress will look like after top-stitching.  You can call it quits here, but I wanted to add some more girly-ness!
Now it’s time to add the waistband.  We are only going to stitch down the front part – we will leave the back part open.  Pin your waistband in place (in between the skirt and shirt).
Stitch down both sides (as close to the edge as possible).  Then press for added crispness.
Ta Da!!  Here is your repurposed Valentine’s Day shirt turned into a cutie little Valentine’s Day dress.  I love how it turned out – so girly and cute!  My model was not available (she is in bed right now), so my 2-year old mannequin will have to do (she is VERY cooperative).
Here’s what the back looks like – you can do a knot or a bow – either works!
Ruffle Detail
Finished Valentine’s Day Dress
Cottage Mama’s Note:  This is a great way to re-use any shirt that may have gotten too short for your kiddo.  You can add a little fabric and just lengthen the shirt or add more and make it into a dress.  Also consider using other store-bought trims if you don’t feel like making the bottom ruffle.

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  1. Super cute! Thanks for the ideas for fat quarters… I have a bunch I’d like to use up and this would be a great dress for my little one.

  2. That is so cute. Seriously! I love it!!! I want to make one for my daughter!

    What a cute blog you have – I love the colors!


  3. What a great idea & how adorable! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. Just adorable 🙂

    Feel free to link this up at Talented Tuesday on My Frugal Family:

  5. So cute! Great way to use those adorable shirts that they grow out of just way to fast.

  6. LOVE it! I have plenty of shirts to use this idea with!

  7. Way to go..I did the same kind of thing with a top that was too big..take a look:

  8. Very cute Tammy! Great job – I love repurposing clothing and thrift stores are the best!!

  9. Holy cow, I wish I knew about this (and a lot of other things…) when my girls were little! The dress is adorable, thanks for linking up!

  10. That is A-DORABLE!

  11. Oh mylanta! This is adorable!

  12. Love this! And I have plenty of those ‘short’ shirts that still fit too! I cannot master my Serger yet though. =( I have serged an entire full length apron but I want every stitch to be perfect! =/ Any tips to having that perfect serged edge? I have tweeked it here & there but still… not a happy camper.

    [email protected]

  13. That is SUPER cute! I can’t wait to try it!

  14. I want to find a shirt like this! The dress turned out so cute! your daughter is one Lucky little girl with all the projects you make for her!Thanks for linking up at

  15. so cute! i had a question, where did you get the little dress form? i think thats so cute!

  16. Oh, thanks! I got a set of children’s dress forms from ebay – my father actually got them for me for Christmas! I don’t know the exact seller, but just enter “children mannequin” and you will get lots of hits – they were VERY reasonable as well.

    It helps to have the dress forms because my 2-year old is in an anti-photo mood lately :-).

  17. A good writing style and information is certainly useful.For all readers
    continue to write such excellent articles.Thank you.Thanks for sharing high visibility clothingthis formation.Valuable.enjoyed reading it…

  18. I find the color of the dress really cute! I love the color pink and black and pink is a very nice combination. The details added is making the dress more attractive to look at.

  19. Oh yeah, many thanks! I managed to get some children’s outfit kinds coming from auction web sites : my father really got them for me personally regarding Christmas! I am not sure the precise vendor, but merely key in “children mannequin” and you will get lots regarding hits – these folks were Affordable too.