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DIY Tank Dress Tutorial: The Urban Princess Dress Tutorial

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This DIY Tank Dress Tutorial is a perfect beginners sewing project!  This easy sewing tutorial uses a tank top you already own and shows you how to add a skirt using wide elastic.  (Perfect for any lil’ princess!)

This DIY Tank Dress Tutorial

Happy Monday Everyone!  While I’m off relaxing and having some fun in the sun, I have a few awesome guest posts lined up for you.  My guest posters have been so generous with their time and creativity, please be sure to visit their blogs!  (You’ll love what you see, I promise!)  First up is this adorable DIY Tank Dress Tutorial from Domestic Bliss Squared:


Hi! This is Jessica from Domestic Bliss Squared, and I’m excited today to be guest posting for the lovely Jamie here at Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom!  I wanted to share a tutorial with you all on how to make a dress from a tank top!

This dress was designed by my four-year-old daughter. She decided that this was the dress that “a Disney Princess would wear to go downtown.” Thus, the Urban Princess dress was born! This DIY Tank Dress is seriously the easiest dress to sew, with the most impressive results.

DIY Tank Tress Tutorial

We started with this drawing of my (Jessica’s) daughter’s design:

I then measured her waist circumference and the length from her waist to the floor.

We did this first so that we could get a good guess as to how much fabric to buy. My daughter is a skinny size 6/7 right now (at 4 years old!!!) and her waist was 20 inches around, and 28 inches from her waist to the floor. This means that I cut a single skirt piece that was 2 X her waist measurement (40 inches) x 32 inches long (I added four inches to accommodate for a deep hem and sewing the top to the skirt).

We then went to the fabric store and chose this super cheerful rainbow stripe fabric, and bought some white 2 inch wide elastic. I bought a yard and a half of fabric, because I knew I wanted a very twirly dress with lots of gather in the skirt at 40 inches around. We also decided to use a pink tank top that she already had but never wore for the top of the dress:

Using the two inch wide elastic, measure around the waist of your tank top. It doesn’t matter if the tank top is a little loose on your child, the elastic should still be fitted to the tank and not to the child’s waist. This shirt just happened to fit my daughter perfectly so it was exactly her waist measurement, but that’s not necessary.

After you’ve measured and cut your elastic, cut straight across the shirt about half an inch below your child’s waistline. The extra half inch is for seam allowance.

how to make a dress from a tank top

Next you’ll put together your waistband. Pin the ends together and sew them together into a loop using a straight stitch, like this:

Then take the edges of your seam in the elastic and pin them down like this:

Sew both edges down again, using a straight stitch, like so:

Now you’re going to pin your elastic to the top of the dress! Center your seam in the elastic in the back of the tank top piece, and pin all the way around:

Sew your tank top to the elastic, using a long straight stitch. It really helps here if you stretch the elastic as you sew your straight stitch. It will look a little ruffly at first but trust me, you can fix that later with a steam iron:

You now have the top of your DIY Tank Dress!

This is what it will look like on the inside. No need to finish off that raw edge, because the tank top is jersey, so it won’t fray:

Now let’s finish the skirt! Just to warn you, this skirt is not an economical project in terms of fabric. I wanted the skirt to be extra twirly, so I used the entire 40-inch width of the fabric and just pinned the selvages together. This also makes it easier in the long run, because I didn’t have to finish the interior edges of the skirt, either:

Sew your skirt piece into a long tube:

I used my pinking shears to cut along what will be the “top” of the skirt piece. This is not really necessary, but it will help to keep that raw edge from fraying when your dress is washed:

Next, I measured for my hem. I always put a very deep hem in my daughter’s dresses when I sew, so I measured three inches from the bottom and ironed it down all around.

Then I folded the fabric under so that I had a two-inch deep hem, and ironed it in place. This step is totally unnecessary, but for me it makes sense. My daughter is going to hit a growth spurt very soon (and already is growing so fast!) that I don’t want this dress to be too short for her in a few weeks! Putting in such a deep hem means that if she grows and her dress is too short, I can use my trusty seam ripper to take out the old hem and lengthen it:

After you have hemmed the skirt, gather it so that it is about 3-5 inches wider than your elastic. Now we’re (finally) going to put the skirt on the top piece!

Starting at the back center seam of your elastic, pin all the way around the dress evenly. It’s totally fine that your gathered piece will be bigger than the top! This will allow room for your little girl to stretch the dress out as she puts it over her head to wear it:

Making sure to stretch your elastic as you sew, sew your skirt piece to the elastic with a straight stitch. I did two rows of stitching, just to be absolutely sure that it wasn’t going anywhere. This makes the elastic look a little ruffled and funny…don’t panic!

how to make a dress from a tank top

Run an iron over the elastic waistband on a steam setting and it will magically shrink back down and become flat again. And you little girl will be able to get the elastic over her head without busting the seams. Yay!

how to make a dress form a tank top

There you have it!

This DIY Tank Dress is a relatively simple dress to make, and a gorgeous result! Your girl will be sure to love it. I know my daughter felt like a princess all day long, even in the mud (yeah, you read that correctly…sigh).

Thanks, Jamie, for letting me share this tutorial with your readers!  ~hearts, Jessica

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  1. Thanks I’ve been planning on making myself a skirt almost exactly like that
    But w/o the shirt and at the waist. Mine has up and down batik pattern. So is also urban ?. This helped me to figure out how to figure out the amount of material to use.

  2. oh my goodness! I moved my website back in August and never realized these pictures disappeared. I’ll get them reloaded in the morning!

  3. Sorry! This was a guest post written by another blogger, but I'll keep your suggestions in mind!

  4. Kim Kirkhart says:

    I love this! Can't wait to make one! Is the skirt a jersey knit as well?

    1. The skirt fabric is a woven quilting cotton.

  5. Steve, Angela and Stevan Dillon Reichert says:

    Hello, great tutorial! I do have the same question as Jenny comment above, how is the skirt sew on? Is it the same way as the top because the picture shows it inside out while the top is right side out. Thanks for any clarification and I look forward to making one for my daughter.

    1. Yes, the skirt is attached from the inside. Once you have gathered the skirt so it is a few inches wider than the elastic tube, (I recommend doing to gathering stitches, this will help the gathers stay in place when you sew.) Divide the skirt and the elastic into 4 equal parts and mark them with a fabric marker. Match up the marks and attach the elastic to the skirt, stretching the elastic as you go. It is a similar technique to what I did when attaching the binding in this tutorial: https://www.scatteredthoughtsofacraftymom.com/2012/07/go-anywhere-knit-dress-tutorial.html.

      Good luck,

      1. I agree with op. I followed the tute but realised after gathering the skirt o have no idea how to attach it. None. There’s is no directions for this part. I’m hoping I can find something online that applies it, otherwise that’s a lot of time and fabric wasted 🙁

      2. I’m sorry, this was a guest post.

  6. How much fabric did you use for the skirt portion?

    1. Sarah, you will determine the amount of fabric based on your measurements.

      Jessica's daughter was wearing the length equivalent to a size 6, so she used 7/8 of a yard.

      "her waist was 20 inches around, and 28 inches from her waist to the floor. This means that I cut a single skirt piece that was 2 X her waist measurement (40 inches) x 32 inches long (I added four inches to accommodate for a deep hem and sewing the top to the skirt)."

      Good Luck!

  7. LOVE! I have been making the t-shirt tank dresses for a while. I love the elastic touch. I am guessing when you sew the skirt to the elastic you have to flip it wrong side out? For some reason I am having a hard time picturing this.

  8. Erinn Campbell says:

    I really like this tutorial! I will be making this for my daughter as well, but I'll probably change the sleeves since it is getting colder. Thanks!

  9. Kylie Corriveau says:

    I adore this and plan on making one just like it for my 4 year old princess this weekend! Thank you for the instructions, they are super easy to understand 🙂

    1. HandJ Cobb says:

      Thank you so much Anne! I'm really excited, and so pleased you love the dress. My daughter is so proud of herself let me tell you!

  10. amy mayen says:

    A great tutorial!! I love that your Princess designed it!