Easy Tank Dress Tutorial.

Lately I’ve been wanting to wear skirts and dresses over shorts or pants.  When the weather is hot, a dress or skirt seems to be more comfortable to me.  I’ve been challenging myself to make more of my clothing myself, and skirts and dresses are an easy project.  I’ve noticed so many women wearing tank dresses, and I always think “How easy would that be to make?”  Turns out, pretty easy, so I put together an easy tank dress tutorial!

Materials needed:

  • tank top
  • about 1 1/2 yards of fabric for a knee length dress, more for a maxi dress.
  • 1/4″ elastic, enough to go around your true waist (right above your belly button), plus a couple of inches.

Step one:  Hold the tank top up to yourself and make a mark just below your true waist.  Fold the tank top in half and lay it flat.  Cut across the tank top at your mark.  A rotary cutter and cutting mat really comes in handy here, as it does in many situations… I highly recommend having these tools in your possession!

Step two:  Measure your waist and jot down that number.  You are going to need to create two panels from your fabric, a front panel and a back panel.  

Each panel will need to be as wide as your waist measurement.  The length depends on how long you want it to be.  1 1/2 yards of fabric will allow you to create a two panels, each up to about 26 inches long.  If you want to make a maxi dress, you will need more yardage.

Step three:  Right sides together, sew the front and back skirt panels together at the sides with a 1/2″ inseam.  Press seams open.  Now you have a tube… your skirt!

Step four:  Now you are going to create a gather at the top of your skirt.  Using a basting stitch (setting your stitch length to the longest stitch), sew 3/8″ from the top raw edge of the skirt.  Start at one side seam and go all the way around, stopping just short of where you started.  Do not back stitch at either end, and leave plenty of thread on both ends.  

Sew a second line of stitching at 5/8″ from the top edge, same as the first.  You now have two rows of basting stitches all the way around the top of the skirt.  If this is the first time you have made a gathered skirt, you might find my ruffle tutorial helpful.  It’s basically the same thing.  

Step five:  To gather the material, pull on one of the long ends of the thread while scrunching the fabric down gently with your other hand.  Continue doing this while attempting to distribute the gathers evenly.  This can take a little bit of time, but it’s not tricky.  You don’t need to gather it too much, because you’ll finish gathering it in the next steps.

Step six:  Now to attach the tank top to the skirt.  With the tank top right side out and upside down, insert it down into the top of the skirt, which is still inside out.  Match up the side seams of the shirt and the skirt and pin at the side seams.  At this point your skirt opening will probably be bigger than the shirt opening.  If this is the case just gather the material until the opening of the skirt matches the opening of the shirt.  (If your skirt is smaller then just widen it until it matches the shirt.)

Step seven:  Using lots of pins, pin the skirt to the shirt all the way around.

Step eight:  Get your 1/4″ elastic.  Starting at one side seam, lay it along the line of stitching that you created at 5/8″ (the line of stitching furthest in from the top of the skirt).  Make sure your machine is set back to normal stitch length.  With a zig zag stitch sew the elastic to the skirt.  In one fell swoop you will be attaching the tank top to the skirt and creating a bit of an elastic waist, not too much stretch, but a little give to help get it over your head.

Cut off the excess fabric at the 3/8″ line of basting stitches, then finish the seam with a serger or using a zig zag stitch.

Step nine:  Hem the bottom of the skirt to the length you like.  Turn the hem under 1/4″ and press, then turn it under another 1/4″ and press again.  (That fabric at the top of the photo is the ironing board cover).  Edge stitch along the inside fold.

The finished tank dress!

I made a simple sash for the waist.
With a cardigan over it you can wear it right into fall.

This tank dress is so easy to make, you’ll want to make at least a couple of them.  You can keep it casual or dress it up with high heels and cute accessories!  Definitely a “go to” summer (or fall) dress.  

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  1. Krystal says:

    Love the dress!! So cute:)

    • jane says:

      this was , by far, the best tutorial i found, thank you so much, mine turned out perfect….thank you thank you thank you!!!!

  2. amariebell says:

    OMG. Thank you. I’m addicted to dresses and I keep seeing this type of dress in the stores, but none fit me quite right. This is perfect because I can change the sizes! (I’m small on top, bigger on bottom, a pear, if you will). I can’t wait to try this!

  3. anna.cooke says:

    This is seriously the best tutorial! I have been looking to make something like this for a long time! Thank you thank you thank you! I cannot wait to go to the fabric store and get started!

  4. Melody says:

    super cute!

  5. Louise says:

    OMG! That is so cute! I have to say it is sooo much cuter on you than the hanger! perfect!

  6. Jenny Yarbrough says:

    Awesome, Anna!  Make sure you post a photo on the flickr pool when you’re done!

  7. Jenny Yarbrough says:

    I know what you mean, that’s the beauty of using one of your own tops!  Make sure to post a photo in the Flickr pool so we all can see it!

  8. SO cute! Love the fabric. I really need to learn how to sew. :)

  9. Jenny Yarbrough says:

    So weird Mandy! I was just about to email you to see if you’d be interested in being a guest here… consider this your invitation! :) Let’s chat!

  10. SharleneT. says:

    Excellent tutorial. You make it so easy for even the newest beginner to follow. You have a real gift. Thanks for sharing.

  11. GodsGreenUrth says:

    Very sweet!  I love it! :O)

  12. Jenn Wade says:

    Love this! I may have to try it – and will probably royally mess it up — but I need a project to tinker with. :) So cute! Thanks for sharing.


  13. Danni Surre says:

    I knew I’d find something to do with all those $2 tank tops I got at Old Navy a few weeks ago. Thanks for the fantabulous tutorial, Jenny!!

  14. Amy says:

    Hooray! I can comment now!

    You make this dress look so easy! I’d love to try it but I may do it with a short sleeve shirt. I just don’t like my arms too bare. I wonder how it would look? I especially like the sash. So cute!!!

  15. hueisei says:

    Loves the dress… I voted for you too ^^

  16. Cherie says:

    How have I missed your mega sewing skills? I’ll have to try this for my girls!

  17. Lovely! I like that it’s so easy to do.

  18. Melissa says:

    Love it! And thankyou for such clear directions and pictures, can’t wait to try :)

  19. where did you find the fabric. I’ve been trying to find that fabric online forever. Great job on the dress.

  20. Jenny says:

    I got the fabric at a local fabric store… it was a long time ago. I don’t think they even carry it anymore. :(

  21. Lisa says:

    I’m totally going to make one of these dresses! I love it!

  22. Laura says:

    just found this tutorial and LOVE it! had 2 yards of fabric sitting around waiting for just the right project, and i think this is it! i just got the pieces for my skirt cut (i have a toddler so i have to do my projects a step here, and step there;) and am headed to the thrift to find a matching tank tomorrow. before i get really into it, though, i have one question: my waist is definitely the smallest measurement between it, my hips, and chest;) how will i be able to get this on??? (i hope this isn’t a totally stupid question, lol!) i know there is elastic in the waistband, but sewing with non-elastic thread over top, right? then how will it stretch to fit over my shoulders/chest? any help appreciated!

  23. @Laura Not a silly question at all! You are the opposite of my… my chest is very small. The zig zag stitch allows the non elastic seam to stretch with the elastic. It won’t stretch a ton, but it should be enough to get it over your head and chest. If you’re afraid that it still won’t, then try gathering the skirt material a little bit less. I really hope it works for you!!! Thank you so much for commenting. :)

  24. Anonymous says:

    Adding that elastic to the waist! SHEER GENIUS! I will be making these with tank tops, t-shirts, and long sleeve t-shirts for the fall. the possibilities are endless!!
    amanda in canada

  25. Anonymous says:

    A HUGE TIP FOR ANYONE MAKING THESE!! dont’ just go to the fabric store! check your local second hand store for flat sheets. they are only a couple dollars and enough fabric to make this dress about 3 times lol. You can find some rich fabrics with great patterns. you’d have plenty left over for other crafts.

  26. Hi there! I’m SO glad I found your tutorial! I have been making tank top/t shirt dress for myself and daughter with out Elastic. But I wanted to learn how to add the elastic to make it easier to slide on and off. I tried winging it and it didn’t work. Your tutorial is great! But I wanted to ask if you could give me a few more bits of info about the adding the elastic. Do I cut the elastic to a certain length before sewing it on? If so how do I measure it out so I know it will give me the elastic stretch I want on my dress?

    • Jenny Yarbrough says:

      Hi Jessica! I’m so glad you found the tutorial. As far as the elastic goes, I say to measure around your waist and then add an inch and a half or two. You’ll need to overlap a little when you’re sewing it on. When you measure it around your waist, you don’t want it to be stretched tight because then it won’t have much room to further stretch over your head. You don’t want it to be too loose either though. I hope that helps! If not, please let me know and I’ll try to help further. :)

  27. SG says:

    Very nice! Love the pattern you chose for the skirt. I made a similar one but used a circle skirt instead of a tube. Used the excess material from the tank for a collar. Check out pics here: http://sharoncreations.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/tank-top-fabric-new-collared-dress/

  28. Susi says:

    I LOVE this and I’m making one today! Was wondering what brand the fabric is… it’s fabulous!

    • Hi Susie, thank you! I believe it was Anna Maria Horner, but I can’t remember what it’s called. :( Was it called Stacks?

  29. Penster47 says:

    I made one like this last fall, only I used a t-shirt and for the bottom, I had two pillow cases that had a color in the pattern that just matched my t-shirt. I took apart the pillowcases, left the hems in and sewed the sides up and then pretty much did the same as your pattern. Love them, so comfy, wear mine all the time. Going to have to make a few more. I also left mine long as in a maxie.

  30. Ellen says:

    I love this! I’ve seen a few tutorials, but yours has been the easiest for me to follow as a beginner. Thank you for the tutorial. I’m so gonna try this.

  31. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found
    something that helped me. Many thanks!

  32. Julia LoVan says:

    Cute! How funny, I have that exact same fabric I bought from my friend’s store over a year ago and was going to make a wrap top out of it… i’m totally making a tank top inspired by your tank dress, tonight!

    • Im so glad that the tutorial inspired you! Don’t you love that fabric? Have fun creating!

  33. Tringa says:

    Love this idea! Great dress.

  34. Denise says:

    Do you stretch the elastic as you sew it on the waistline

  35. Amy Brandt says:

    This tutorial was awesome. Soooo easy to follow and I modified it a bit for a mother-granddaughter pairing. Plan to use this “pattern” a LOT! Thank you VERY MUCH! Dresses purchased in retail shops cost at least 4X as much!

    • I’m so glad to hear that you were able to use this tutorial for your project! Thank you for your kind words!

  36. Andrea C says:

    That was by far one of the best tutorials Ive found, very well done, thanks so much! If only more were this detailed yet to the point… Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!!!!!


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