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Smocking Dress From Men’s Dress Shirt

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Today we are going to refashion a smocking dress from a men’s shirt in this zero waste upcycle tutorial. Because we made this smocking dress is a men’s dress shirt upcycle idea, it ended up being a mini length.

If you are feeling intimidated by the process, don’t be! It is actually quite easy to make a dress without a pattern.

But if you are looking for a sewing pattern to follow, then this Elania smocked mini dress will be perfect for you!

In fact, I make a dress from men’s shirt all the time. Search through the inspirations to find the perfect design for you!

Sideview of the smocking dress from men's dress shirt

The cotton poplin material works fantastic for this style and there was plenty of material to execute this look. However, for a longer length consider using recycled fabric with this dress pattern instead.

This mini dress features a modern look with capped sleeves that give a whimsical appearance. The dress is so darling that you will feel like you just stepped out of a fairytale fantasy.

Smocking Dress From Men's Dress Shirt (Upcycle Clothing!)

The dress features top to bottom smocking detail, it’s not really as hard as you think! If you haven’t tried elastic smocking stitching before, let me challenge you with this DIY fashion tutorial.

From puff sleeve blouse to bow-detailed sleeve mini shift dress, there are many ways to refashion a men’s dress shirt. Step up to the challenge with me and consider repurposing old clothes into upcycled clothing instead of donating or throwing them away.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to look chic and fashionable. Join the Fashion Wanderer Community and learn how to refashion old clothes into modern and trendy style to wear every day.

How To Wear A Smocking Dress

Enjoy this summer smocking dress from a men’s dress shirt. It’s perfect for a variety of occasions from outdoor concert to casual brunch date. Pair with a cute straw hat or even a diy canvas tote bag to complete a fashion forward outfit. 

It looks absolutely stunning when paired with the right accessories on a bright sunny day. From DIY beaded bag to raffia belt bag, take your look to the next level with fun upcycle projects.

I recently finished a raffia crochet belt bag tutorial with matching headband. The color contrast between the recycled raffia and the white fabric is fabulous. In addition, you don’t want to pass up the opportunity to showoff DIY fashion accessories.

To maintain the charming look, dull down the smocking dress by wearing trendy flip flops or comfortable espadrille wedges. This dress is a fantastic piece to also wear over a stylish swimsuit as a cover-up.

I was looking to create an adorable white dress to add to my capsule wardrobe collection. However, this summer smocking dress from men’s shirt would look fantastic if made with any bright color fabric.

So grab your men’s dress shirt and let’s get started!

upcycle smocking dress from men's dress shirt
Yield: 1 Smocking Dress

Smocking Dress From Men’s Button Down Shirt Tutorial

Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $5.00

Who doesn’t love wearing a white dress during summer? Right? Smocking has been a go-to fashion trend recently. For this upcycle tutorial, we’re going to make a smocking dress from a men’s dress shirt.

Within this post, you will find the step-by-step instructions required to complete your very own smocking dress from a men’s dress shirt. Included below are an instructional video, detailed pictures and descriptive notes for each stage of the process.


  • Men's Button Down Shirt
  • Elastic Thread
  • ¼" Elastic Band


  • Sewing Machine
  • Fabric Chalk
  • Loop Turner
  • Measuring Tape
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Seam Ripper
  • Straight Pins


  1. First, cut off the neck collar and remove the buttons. 
    Then, remove the sleeves, open the shoulder seams, and also the side seams.
  2. For the front piece of the dress, start by removing the bulky French seams from the back of the men’s button down shirt.
  3. Draw a straight line across the neckline and cut to square the edges crossways at the shoulders.
  4. For the double ruffled hemline, use the yoke. The yoke is double layered and was originally 4” wide. Split the yoke piece in half by measuring 2” down from the neckline and then only cut off the bottom of the front layer.
    Helpful hint: This will create a layered effect for the finished double ruffled hemline.
  5. Measure 10” from the folded center. Then cut a vertical line to trim away the excess. Square off the bottom hem with a straight line across.
  6. For the back piece of the dress, use the chest pieces of the men’s dress shirt. Start by removing the buttonhole placket, the bulky French seams around the edges and also square off the bottom hemline.
  7. Open up the button placket with a seam ripper, and then sew along the button placket to attach both front chest pieces together.
  8. Use the front piece of the top bodice to trace and trim the sides of the back piece.

How To Make Ruffles

  1. To add ruffles to the hemline of the back piece, copy the layers from the front piece. Then, use scrap pieces to make the ruffles.
    Helpful hint: Trace the existing layers. Complete the ruffles by stitching a few pieces together. The smocking detail will hide all the seams of the finished dress.
  2. To hem the ruffles, double fold the edge and ¼” topstitch to finish.
    Helpful hint: Hem each layer along the neckline and also the bottom of the dress. The hem gives a clean finished look to the garment.

How To Sew Smocking Dress

  1. To complete the smocking detail, start by winding a bobbin with the elastic thread.
    Pro tip: In total, this smocking dress requires about 30 yards of elastic thread. Be sure to have enough on hand in order to finish the smocking detail.
  2. Start the smocking detail on the seam of the ruffled hemline. Space ¼”-⅜” between each row of smocking.
    Helpful hint: Work from bottom to top and complete the smocking stitch on both the front and back piece of the dress until 1” away from the neckline.

How To Make Capped Shoulder Sleeves

  1. To cut the capped shoulder sleeve, use the discarded sleeve pieces. Measure 9” away from the shoulder seam and cut a straight line across.
  2. Open up the seam, and then measure 8” from center on each side. Draw a straight line, add ¼” seam allowance, and then cut off the extra.
  3. Copy the pattern on the other sleeve to make the second cap shoulder sleeve.
  4. To hem the sleeve opening, double fold ¼” and then topstitch.
  5. To add elastic to the capped shoulder sleeve, measure 1” away from the sleeve hem. Then, grab a 12” long piece of ¼” elastic band. Pin to secure, and then edge topstitch.
    Sewing tip: Mark the center of the elastic band and the sleeve. Stretch the elastic band evenly as you sew in order to distribute flex across the entire width of the capped shoulder.
  6. Use another 12” piece of ¼” elastic band for the curved edge of the capped shoulder sleeve.
    Sewing tip: Again, measure the center of the band. Then, stretch as you sew edge topstitch in order to evenly disperse the elastic tightening around the entire curved edge.
  7. Duplicate this exact pattern for the second capped shoulder sleeve.

How To Finish Smocking Dress

  1. To attach the capped shoulder sleeve to the dress, measure 2” away from the side seam along the neckline. Pin to secure, and then sew edge topstitch.
  2. After adjusting the sleeve to the bodice, close the under armhole with ¼” topstitch along the wrong side of the sleeve.
  3. When I tried it on, there was slightly snug around my hips. As a result, I ended up adding extra smocking pieces on both side seams to improve the fit.
  4. To accurately fit of the dress bottom, measure up from the hemline to the highest point of your waist; mine is 17”. Open up the side seam with a seam ripper in order to add the smocking godet.
  5. To make a smocking godet for the dress bottom, use the remaining pieces of the original sleeves. Replicate the dress pattern consisting of hemmed ruffled layers and smocking spaced ¼"-⅜” apart.
    Helpful hint: My smocking godet was 4” by 12” on each side; not including the ruffles hanging from the bottom.
  6. Attach each smocking godet along the side seams with ¼” topstitch. Then, cut off any excess trim from the patch on the inside of the dress.
  7. The white men’s dress shirt was so sheer; therefore, I needed to add a white linen fabric as lining for this project.
  8. To make a lining for the dress, flip the dress inside out and lay it flat on the lining fabric. Copy the front and back of the entire dress.
  9. Double fold the hem ¼”, and then edge topstitch to cleanly finish the dress lining.
  10. Sew ¼” topstitch along the side seams to attach the front and back lining together.  


For this smocking dress tutorial, I turned a men’s dress shirt into a dress.
I found a bright white men’s dress shirt at a local thrift store and thought it would look adorable for this project. You can be creative and also go with a colorful men’s dress shirt of your choice.
Most importantly, select a cotton poplin material that doesn’t stretch at all.

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How to make top bodice for smocking dress from men's dress shirt.
How to make puff sleeve for smocking dress from men's dress shirt.
How to finish smocking dress from men's dress shirt.

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Mimi Gregor

Monday 29th of June 2020

I absolutely love your tutorials!! You explain things perfectly and your photos are extremely helpful. It's clear that you put a lot of thought into your projects. I am not new to sewing, but have recently gotten more into upcycling since the pandemic. I will definitely keep checking back to your website for inspiration 🤗.


Monday 29th of June 2020

Wow, thank you so much! My goal is to be clear and concise so that other can easily follow along. I truly appreciate any feedback, but this is extremely motivating for me to push forward making more content. Thank you for sharing!

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