Easy Tank Top Dress

Earlier this week I made some 4th of July hair bows. While buying the clips for those I ran across a table of cheap tank tops and got the idea to do a matching tank top dress as well. This might be one of the easiest dresses ever to sew. If you're looking for a beginner project to wear, you're in the right place. I made this dress for my 5 year old (she wears a size 6), but it could easily be adapted for any size. I could see this being a great bummin' around beach dress for myself too. It's also a good upcycle project if you've got a shirt circa 2001 that's way too short now (you know you're still hanging on to a few... I am). Chop that sucker off and make an easy tank top dress!

  • Tank Top - or any shirt really that has some stretch to it
  • About 1/2 Yard of Fabric for a girl's dress - this will vary depending on the size booty you're trying to cover
  • About 1 1/2 Yards of Ribbon - on the thicker side to make a nice waist band
  • Double Fold Bias Tape
  • Sewing machine, pins, thread, scissors, measuring tape
You should wash and dry your fabric and shirt before starting. This will prevent uneven shrinking and wrinkling later.

Step 1
Chop off your tank top.
I put the shirt on my kid and measured down from the neck where I wanted the skirt part of the dress to start. It was 5". Then I added 1" for seam allowance. Is that a huge seem allowance? Why yes it is... don't judge. So I did my chopping at 6" down from the neck.

Step 2
Measure and cut the skirt fabric.
Now measure from where you just determined the skirt would start (my spot was 5" down from the neck) to where you want the skirt to end. I went just past her knee and came up with 18". I then added an inch for seam allowance and cut at 19". Since I started with a square yard of fabric, I did not cut down the width at all.  I just left it 1 yard wide (it's folded in quarters here to make it easier to cut).

Here's the little drawing I did to help me remember my numbers.  After I sketched the dress the kid came in and added the body parts and "princess" hair. I'll pause while you admire the splendor. You can see my actual measurements on the dress and then the measurements plus seam allowance over to the right. I also measured her waist too, 21". We'll need that in a bit.

Step 3
Sew your skirt into a tube.
Take your rectangle, fold it in half matching up the raw edges, and sew up the side. I did this using french seams. That's when your raw edges are completely hidden and finished on the inside as well as the outside. Here's how.

First sew your seam with wrong sides of the fabric together. This is the opposite of how you would normally do it. Sew very close to the edge with a tiny seam allowance.

When that's done, flip your fabric inside out so now the right sides are facing each other (like normal) and sew your seam again. This time with a slightly larger seem allowance.

And ta da! Your raw edges are now tucked into a neat and tidy pocket on the inside of your skirt. No fraying, no strings.

Step 4
Sew your tank top to your skirt.
Make the skirt inside out. Make the tank top right side out. Shove the tank top inside the skirt so the right sides of the tank top are touching the right sides of the skirt. Line up the raw edges of the tank and skirt. Also make sure the back of the tank top lines up with the seem you just made on the skirt. That's the back :)

Pin the front, back, and both sides. The skirt will bunch in between the pins since it's wider than the tank top. That's okay.

Start sewing at the back pin. Stretch the tank top to match up with the width of the skirt while you sew. Sew from one pin to the next pin, pulling each section flat as you go.

The blue thread is what we just sewed. After that I zig zagged that seem too (the white) to keep it from fraying too badly. Notice my giant seem allowance :)

This is what you should have now.

Step 5
Add the ribbon.
My ribbon is about 2" wide and 55" long. I just put the ribbon up to my kid and determined what length would go around her waist and make a nice bow in the back.  Then I hemmed the ends by folding over twice and sewing. Like this...

Then find the center of the ribbon and pin it to the center of your dress, covering the seem between the skirt and top. Now remember when I measured my kid's waist earlier (21")? This is when that comes into play.

Half of that waist measurement is 10 1/2"... this is the width you want the front of the dress to be. So, gather your dress in from the sides and pin the ribbon to each side seam of the tank top making the total distance between your side pins 10 1/2" (or half of your waist measurement). Make sure the ribbon is flat and not bunched up. This is what is going to make the font of your dress look neat and clean.

Now just sew a rectangle around your ribbon. I start on the side, go up the side seem, across the front, back down the other side seem, and across the front again. Just try to keep the wrinkles in the dress evenly spaced under the ribbon. You could add more pins if you want before sewing to help with that.

Step 6
Add bias tape.
Last step! I finished the hem of the dress with double fold bias tape. I think it's faster than hemming and requires no ironing :) I started at the back seem and finished by folding the edge of the bias tape under and letting it overlap where I started a little.

You're done! Put that sucker on. I don't know what took me so long to make this dress. I've had that polkadot fabric for probably 2 years now. I love it! What other occasions could you make this dress for?  Let me know. I see some tailgating maybe?? :)
No more pictures mom! I'm going to look for fish!


  1. Such a cute dress! Love that black and white polka dots and the blue ribbon ties it all together to lovely! Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof

  2. Ahh I love everything about this dress! I want to make one for me... is that bad? lol.

  3. This is darling!! I love that you don't have to worry about making your own sleeves or arm holes! We'll be featuring this over at Someday Crafts later today! :)

    1. Sweet! Thanks! Yep, using the tank makes it really simple and quick. And really inexpensive too :)

  4. Oh my goodness this is darling......I'm looking in my fabric stash right now! :)

    1. Thanks! I know... I want to make one for me! Haha

  5. Can't wait to do this for a couple of my granddaughters!!!!!

    1. Great! I can't wait to make one for me! lol Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Could i sew sleeves to it I wanted?

    1. Sure! I don't see why not. That would be really cute!

  7. I'm going to try this with a knit shirt from good ole' Wally World and some red tag fabric from JoJo's.

  8. Thinking of trying this for my two daughters for a Disney trip this summer. It would be cool and I could use any cute pattern. Thanks for the great idea!

    1. Great idea! It's so hot at Disney... these would would help them stay nice and cool... plus look cute in all the pictures ;) Great idea!