Nannynotes2u: Converting a Regular Shirt to 'Easy Dress'

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Converting a Regular Shirt to 'Easy Dress'

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My Dad is in a high care Aged Care Facility and recently, the staff asked me if I could get him some 'easy to remove' clothing.  Dad had some new flannel shirts so I set about 'converting' them and I thought I'd show you what I did.

I just happened to see the shirts reduced to a few dollars in a sale, so decided to buy the same shirts that Dad already had to use in the conversion. 

My plan was to slit Dad's shirt at the back, so that it could be easily removed over the head, without opening the buttons. The size of the armholes did not allow the shirt to be lifted , so I  needed to add a piece, to enlarge the armhole.  

So let's sew! 

Take the new shirt (or of course, you can use any suitable fabric that you have on hand)

1. Cut out the sleeves, cut up the side seams and across the yoke so that you have separate pieces ie deconstruct the shirt. You will need the back and the sleeves and I will now refer to them as the back piece and the sleeve pieces.

2.  Take the original shirt (I will refer to this as D-shirt for Dad's shirt) and a piece of paper and draw a triangle to fit under the arm so that it extends further down the side seam.

3.  Take the sleeve pieces and place the paper pattern on the folded side not the seam side and cut out, leaving a seam allowance. (If you are using fabric just fold it) Imagine that my paper is straight along the fold at the bottom ie don't cut the fold! See 2nd photo

4. Do the same on the other sleeve piece.

5.  Take D-shirt and using the paper pattern as a guide, undo the seam under the arms:

6. Open the shape you made from the sleeve piece and pin it in the opened seam of the D-shirt, with the pointy ends going to the side seam and underarm seam, the longest  going down the side seam. 

7. Stitch and finish the seam with a zigzag or overlocker/serger. I just used a zigzag.  Repeat on the other sleeve.

8. Cut the back of D-shirt so that you have about 3" of the yoke in from the sleeve seam at the top on the right hand side.

9. Undo the stitching on the yoke of D-shirt so that you can cut the slit all the way through: 

and continue opening it to the left to about 3" in from the sleeve seam

10. Take the back piece and cut a rectangle the same width as the back of D-shirt from the slit to the same distance in from the other side seam. In the photo, D-shirt with the slit is at the top to demonstrate.

11. Take D-shirt and hem the left hand side of the slit - I've turned it back to show you - I just turned a 1/4" and then again.

12. Join the rectangle  to the right hand side of the slit and finish the seam. 
Hem the other side of the rectangle with the same 1/4" hem.

13. Now lay the added piece UNDER D-shirt to form a flap. 
Join D-shirt and the flap back into the yoke seam. Over stitch the yoke on the outside. (I'm sorry it is hard to see the stitching but you can see the seam where I joined the rectangle as I didnt worry about matching the check)

This is the finished shirt on my lovely model!  The sleeve looks a little odd

but when Dad is sitting or walking you will not notice it.

and the overlap is large enough to ensure that Dad's back is well covered

The shirt is easily removed without undoing any of the buttons on the front.  I am really pleased with the result and it was certainly way cheaper than buying ready made. More importantly, it will still feel 'normal and familiar' to Dad. (Dad is blind)

What do you think?  If you have loved ones in the same situation, I hope I have inspired  you to give it a go!

Now I'm going to fix some polo shirts for summer!

Until next time
Nanny xx


  1. What a great solution to the problem, Margie. Makes it easier for both your Dad and the staff.

    1. Thank you Pam! I love that I can still do things for Dad! :)

  2. Very nice. My mother has some trouble lifting her arms now, so I may have to test this out on a couple of her shirts. Thanks for the great tutorial, Nanny!

    1. Thanks Susan! I hope it makes things easier for your Mum! :)

  3. Very clever and talented of you Margie. Great job!

    1. Thanks Mrs Lucky! Simple but it worked! :)

  4. My Mom needs extra room in the arms so I have done something similar to her shirts only taking the insert all the way to the cuff of the sleeve.

    1. Thank you Sew Many Quilts - I thought I would do that on one of his other shirts that looks a bit 'slim' in the sleeves! :)