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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Men's Shirt to Pillowcase Dress = Worthy Cause

At the start of the year, I read an article on MSNBC.com about an organization called Little Dresses for Africa.  Some of you may have heard about this cause and may have even contributed a dress or two to it before. Anyway, I was so touched by what I read that I decided to make a few dresses to donate.  I figured I would help some beautiful little girls feel special with a new dress and fulfill my need to sew!

I had a small stack of men's dress shirts that I was going to donate to Goodwill, but I saw an opportunity to upcycle these shirts into some cute pillowcase style dresses for this cause.  At the time I started making these dresses, I was new to the upcycle/repurpose idea.  I decided I wanted to transform these men's dress shirts into pillowcase dresses using as much of the original shirt as possible in order to minimize the waste.

The first one I made is still my favorite.  I used a solid blue button down dress shirt and sewed the front button placket together so that the buttons are purely decorative and not functional.  The tie is made from the shirt sleeves, and I made up this neat detail for the ends of the tie by sewing the sleeve cuffs to the ends.  For this dress, the only thing I didn't use was the shirt collar!  I've had a hard time convincing my daughter that we need to donate this to a little girl in Africa that doesn't have a dress instead of keeping it!

The next dress I made I actually used a sleeveless women's top that I picked up at the Goodwill Outlet store.  I paid pennies for the shirt.  I started off the same way as the first dress by sewing down the button placket.  I then removed the collar, cut it in half, and then sewed each half onto the dress as a pocket.  Because there were no sleeves, I had to use a ribbon for the tie at the neck.  Absolutely nothing was wasted!  This has to be my second favorite!

The third and fourth dresses were made using two cotton plaid short-sleeved men's shirts.  I didn't do anything fancy with these.  Just pretty basic pillowcase style dresses.

The fifth dress is where I spent a little more time and used every part of the shirt but the collar.  Again, I used a cotton plaid short-sleeved man's shirt, but this time, I made a cute little ruffle to sew on each side of the button placket.  I even made the tie out of the shirt along with a simple matching headband using a piece of the shirtsleeve and some elastic.

The final dress I've made so far was fashioned from a piece of shirting material that I had previously used for something else.  It is pretty plain except I did add a large pocket to the front.

Now I'm ready to ship these dresses off to Margaret Andrade in Florida.  I contacted Margaret a few months ago after I had made three or four dresses. She had contacted some other sewers/bloggers and asked them to get the word out about the Little Dresses for Africa cause and her personal mission to help collect at least 50 dresses that she would send all at once to the organization.  If you'd like to help Margaret and inquire further about her mission, you can contact her at margaretandrade@hotmail.com.

Margaret has been so friendly and helpful in finding out if Little Dresses for Africa would accept the dresses I've made since they have buttons on them and were made from used clothing.  What we learned is that as long as the buttons aren't functional, then they are fine (that is why I sewed the placket's together).  And as long as the used clothing was refashioned into a dress, it is acceptable.  Yay!

So, if you like to sew or just like to help others in need, I hope you'll consider contributing in some way to this worthy cause.  I believe every little girl should own a dress to spin around in!


  1. What a great cause, every little girl should have a beautiful dress she feels special in, and your actually making it happen. The dresses are so cute. Keep up the great work.

  2. I really like how your dresses turned out! I never would have though of turning shirts into dresses like these. I especially how you used the shirt sleeve as a tie. I like your pockets too. I didn't think of making pockets, but I made the newborn size and I don't guess they need pockets!

    I found your post through Margaret's wrap-up email. If you want to stop by and see the dresses I made for the project, here's the link: http://sarahdudik.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/baby-pillowcase-dresses/ great job!

  3. Little Dresses for Africa sounds very similar to Dress a Girl Around the World. Your pillowcase dresses look great, Veronica and well done making them from shirts. I love the ruffle you've added and the pockets from a collar. I think the collar is the hardest part of a shirt to refashion.

  4. All the contents you mentioned in post is too good and can be very useful. I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information keep updating, looking forward for more posts. Thanks
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  5. Thanks for all of this info! I can't wait to start upcycling all these shirts.


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