DIY: Tank Dress with Pockets!

May 11th, 2010 § 71 comments

At long last, I present a tutorial for the tank dress I made a few weeks ago before the end of the semester blindsided me. I’ve been seeing these tank+patterned skirt all over the place lately, but frequently they were too short or too short-waisted for my particular proportions. After some googling, and studying the really excellent skirt tutorial and t-shirt dress tutorial at Ruffles and Stuff and the skirt with pockets tutorial at Freshly Picked, I decided that even my fairly rudimentary sewing skills could handle this project.

And since I celebrated my height yesterday for Dress Your Best week, it seems appropriate to post a sewing project prompted by my need for a longer-than-in-stores dress.


  • a tank top
  • 2 yards or so of patterned fabric
  • scraps of a coordinating fabric for pockets
  • matching thread
  • disappearing fabric pen or chalk


1.  Measurements. Take your measurements for the skirt portion. Measure your natural waist. Stand in front of the mirror and measure your desired length. To make our math easy, let’s say that my waist is 30 inches and my desired length is 22 inches, plus 1 inch for seam allowances and hemming. (Okay, actually it should be more like 1.5 inches, but I was willing to sacrifice a quarter inch.)
2.  Then, put on the tank top you’ll be using. Standing in front of the mirror, use a disappearing fabric pen to mark the smallest part of your waist or wherever you want your skirt to begin.

3.  Measure and cut your patterned fabric. You’ll need two identical pieces 30 inches x 23 inches.

4.  Pocket time! Freshly Picked has a handy pocket pattern, or you can simply fold a piece of fabric in half and draw around your hand, leaving about a half inch allowance all the way around.

Pin and cut out a pair. You’ll need four total pocket pieces.

5.  Take your pieces of skirt fabric (30×23″), measure three inches from the top edge, and pin a pocket piece to each side, right sides together.

6.  Use a 1/4″ seam to stitch the pocket to the skirt piece. Repeat for all four pieces.

7.  Press the pocket pieces open.

8.  Pin the skirt pieces together, right sides facing each other. Sew a 1/2″ seam along the edge, going around the pocket.

9.  Turn the skirt right side out, press your seams flat, and marvel at your pocket-making prowess.

10.  Hemming. Turn and press your bottom hem 1/4″, then turn up 1/2″, press, and stitch. Nice and clean.

11.  Tank top time. Remember that mark you made on your tank top? Pin the layers of the tank together to keep things in place. Extend the initial mark across your tank top and (deep breaths) cut. A few tips: measure up from the hem of the tank to your mark, then duplicate that measurement along the width of the tank top, measuring from the bottom. Connect the dots and cut on the line. Also, when I do this again, I’ll probably cut a quarter inch above my initial measured line, to accommodate the stretching/sagging that will occur with the added weight of the skirt.

12.  Gathering the skirt. Set a long stitch length on your machine and stitch a 1/4″ seam around the top edge of the skirt. Gently pull the end threads to gather. Carefully spread the gathers evenly around the skirt waist until the width of the skirt waist is the same as the width of your cut tank top.

13. Putting it all together. Here is where things get a little tricky. You need to pin the skirt and tank together, right sides facing each other. I matched up the side seams of the skirt with the side seams of the tank and pinned those first. Then, I evenly pinned the rest of the skirt together to the tank, trying to avoid puckering. You can pull or ease out the skirt gathers as necessary.

14.  Stitch the tank and skirt together using a 1/2″ seam. You’ll be sewing just outside of the 1/4″ gathering stitch. Be careful not to stray, otherwise your gathering seam will be visible in the final product.

15. Ta da! Flip everything right side out and try it on!

A note of warning. My tank definitely stretched some during sewing, meaning that it doesn’t hug the narrowest part of my like it used to. I, of course, just used a stretchy belt to solve the issue (a sash would also do the trick) and that usefully covered any awkward puckering too.

If you’re worried about being able to get the whole contraption on easily — given the whole knit + woven situation — I’d bet that you could actually sew in a wide elastic waistband to join the woven skirt with the knit tank, adjusting measurements accordingly. Basically, follow the skirt tutorials I linked to above that have a wide elastic waistband and then attach your tank to the elastic waist rather than the skirt itself. You’ll have a strip of visible black or white elastic, of course, but you can either enjoy the colorblocking or cover it with a wide belt.

I can imagine so many fun variations on this. A striped tank with a floral skirt. A graphic print tank with a solid skirt. An analogous color combination of tank and skirt. An embellished tank with an attached skirt. None of my old tank tops are safe! And, yes, I just may go raid the sheets and table cloth section of my local Goodwill to build up a skirt fabric stash.

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§ 71 Responses to DIY: Tank Dress with Pockets!"

  1. RB says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I am going to try it soon. I have broad shoulders, so I think I will add an elastic to make it easier to get into.
    Recently, I’ve discovered that in addition to sheets and tablecloths, discarded curtains at Goodwill make a wonderful skirt material. You just have to sew the sides together and put an elastic or drawstring in the ready-made tubular gap where the curtain rod used to go in originally. :)

  2. Jane says:

    I am in awe of this. I may well get my sewing machine out right now.

  3. etannen says:

    Gathering, esp. for a skirt, is often easier to manage if you stitch 2 parallel lines of the long stitch instead of just one. I think I might also use 2 parallel stitching lines when joining the skirt to the top. This takes me back to the days of the drop-waist
    t-shirt+skirt dresses everyone was wearing (the current version is much cuter!).

  4. Una says:

    Have been waiting for this tutorial! Amazing. For some reason it never occurred to me that you used a tank top instead of making the top yourself. Can’t wait to try it out, especially because the ones I see in stores all have necklines that are way too low for me.

  5. sabrina says:

    Awesome tutorial! I have become pretty good at gathering skirts but haven’t figured out what to attach them too. I love the look of this dress. To the thrift store!! (after finals grading).

  6. Diana says:

    Great tutorial! I think I might have to try this soon… probably when I go visit my parents and have access to my mom’s sewing machine. (I should probably get my own, as they are so useful, but I am really really afraid that it’ll mean I feel justified in accumulating a large fabric stash to go with my large yarn stash!) Anyway, I love the look of this dress, and it looks so comfy and great for summer. Unlike you, I am quite short-waisted, so I find that this kind of dress in stores actually ends up having too low a waist. Plus, I love the high-waisted skirt look, but I have to admit that a high-waisted skirt is not always the most comfortable for short-waisted me, as the tight waistband often tends to sit over my ribs… this dress would also fix that problem!

  7. THANKS so much for this awesome tutorial! I would love to make one of these, soo cool! I LOVE the yellow skirt pattern you used and it looks great w/ a belt! Now I need to go dig up an old tank!!

  8. elizabeth says:

    How adorable!!!! I need a sewing machine asap-thanks for sharing this great tutorial!

  9. lumikha says:

    aaghh! i need a sewing machine! BAD!

    • Emil says:

      Total waste of money if you have a combined setsym whereby rain water and waste water go down the one line and your pipe is installed at the proper gradient then you will never have a problem.If you have a seperate setsym whereby surface water goes down one line and waste down another then again if properly installed to the correct gradient you will never have a problem,you could however have the pipe tested to see what condition it is in and you never know where you’ll be in 5 years time you might move on and having spent that money I just think it would be a waste.

  10. [...] DIY:  stenciled animal mugs and an awesome Tank Dress with Pockets. [...]

  11. Flitryss says:

    I love this. I have a long torso and short legs so dresses rarely fit me properly, but I love the ease of them!

  12. Rachel says:

    Wow. I love this! And I would love to link to it if you didn’t mind.

  13. [...] this kelly green tank dress at Gap Outlet when shopping with E. It’s similar in style to E’s. homemade one, but the tank is the same color as the solid colored skirt part, which is cotton and lined.  The [...]

  14. [...] A tutorial on an adorable DIY tank dress from Academichic [...]

  15. Hope says:

    Thanks for sharing your tutorials, they are simple and easy to follow. I used the pocket portion on a project today and plan on doing this complete project very soon.

  16. [...] already had. The only thing I bought was some wide elastic for the waist. I referenced a couple of tutorials to guide me, but really kinda made it up as I went [...]

  17. Hannah Forney says:

    I am definitely going to try to make this style dress for my 19 month old. I am super excited!!! Thank you for easy to follow directions. OK, gotta go and get my sew on!!!

  18. Hannah Forney says:

    Just finished my daughter’s dress and I LOVE it!!! The best thing about it is I am so excited to go pick out more materials to make more dresses! I used a onesie for my top and being the amature seamstress that I am tore a small hole in it when I was ripping out a seam but I used your suggestion and put a sash on it. I really like the rocker look so I used a striped pink and white onesie for the top and used some fabric with skulls on it that I had left over from making her blanket. The fabric is white and black with pink bows on the skulls. The sash gave it a more edgy look. THANK YOU< THANK YOU< THANKS YOU!! I LOVE IT!

  19. Lara says:

    Wow, great tutorial – thank you!

    I think I put too much fabric on the skirt, but I think I might try it again with another fabric/top.

    Thanks again!

  20. the curtain rods that we use are made of aluminum instead of still, the good thing about it is that they are very lightweight compared to steel

  21. [...] just look cool. Another great do it yourself project worth testing out if you’re crafty: DIY Tank Dress with Pockets! Let’s face it: most college students have experienced a hangover. If you haven’t [...]

  22. aluminum curtains rods are much lighter than those steel rods that we previously used ”-

  23. Laure says:

    This dress is super cute. I saw that yellow floral fabric in the early pictures, and went “Ewwww!” Then I saw it all together and was amazed. Nicely done!

  24. Fashion Man says:

    Very creative. I think the skirt could have been a bit shorter. I think it would look cool if the shirt had sleeves.

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  26. Lauren says:

    I can’t wait to try this fab dress. I’ve been looking for an easy-ish dress to make for my wedding rehearsal, and I think this is it :) Thanks for putting this together.

  27. Jessie says:

    I just did 4 of these and I would like to add a few comments to help others.

    *I didn’t cinch mine, I just stretched out my tank top (which you have to do to fit it over your head) and then pinned them together. That cinched it on it’s own and when I tried machine cinching it the thread kept breaking anyway.
    *I added a sash to hide the cinching. I just made a 2 yard long belt and make the edges angled.

    Thanks a lot for the original pattern, it’s great!

  28. Fashion Blog says:

    Whaaaaat? So cool! and i love the floral print you chose!

  29. Bern says:

    Back in the day…we made these for little girls and to make it really really easy and fast you can use a pretty pillowcase for the skirt part. Of course you won’t be able to make pockets, but it is super quick and fun.

  30. Casey says:

    This literally took me less than 2 hours. Cutest darn dress :) Thank you so much for the tutorial as now none of my tank tops are safe from being cut in two, and i smell a busy christmas gift making season this year!!

  31. Shapewear says:

    I loved the way it looked. It looks amazing.

  32. Lotusy says:

    You posted everyones comment accept mine..why is that? :( You even let links in your comments – I would hate to think you are you know …making differences between countries – it starts with r and finishes in t. I will never read your blog again if you are that kind of person. And I will also make a blog about racism on internet – there is a list, don’t worry. Anyway – this comment comes as a message that I will make the list with racist blogs. So that you know, next time someone tells you something nice and has an opinion, not to look at the ip and considerate him a spammer. I used another e-mail address last time, but i just hope you will think about this, as internet racism is not ok. If you let others promote their website trough links in name you should let everyone – especially since they bothered to read the blog, and since they actually have an opinion.

  33. [...] this also meant I could make the skirt fuller.  So, I turned to E.’s tank-dress tutorial again and loosely followed her directions for gathering the skir and attaching a tank to it. Since [...]

  34. Hula Doula says:

    My 14 year old daughter is in awe and making this dress. Thank you for making something adorable and something she can wear (which is modest and stunning) to school.

  35. Pickeju says:

    Love this! I made it with a bubble skirt… which is that I just folded the fabric in half and gathered both long edges to the elastic waist. This updates it a tad and eliminates hemming completely… while also assuring that it doesn’t need to be lined.

    It means using more fabric, but I was still able to make it nearly knee-length.

    I’m really happy with the end result, thanks!

  36. I love this! So cute. Will definitely give it a go when I get a minute…

  37. Bela says:

    Wow, this was so easy to do, thanks a lot! Do you think it would work on a tee with sleeves too?

  38. katey says:

    how do you do step #9 “marvel at your pocket-making prowess”

  39. THANK YOU ! nice idea compliment for your blog

  40. It’s actually a great and useful piece of information. I am happy that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  41. Wow, the dress you designed is super cute! Doubt I could pull it off though.

  42. rainbowsilk says:

    It’s great.

    I do this.

    And it is very useful to me.
    Thanks for the great article.

  43. [...] » DIY: Tank Dress with Pockets! academichic Tutorial ~ Five Kitchen Towels Dress ~ I found this kitchen towel bundle for pretty good price (it was originally $16 and I got it for $8!). I had an idea of what I wanted to do with them… 4. Modcloth Dress Ed Finally is my turn to house the party! For day 3 of #DIY bloggers fashion week I would like to show you how to turn a big scarf into a wearable dress without using any pattern. Scarves add a chic touch to any outfit. [...]

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  45. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for this easy to follow tutorial! Fist time I attempted pockets and you made it a breeze.

  46. Cheryl Chan says:

    Thank you for the tutorial! Love it!

  47. [...] I went thrifting this weekend and found this sheet for $1.99 and a tank for 99 cents. I mainly used this tutorial, but kind of skimmed through multiple versions and using my own knowledge made it work. I used the [...]

  48. [...] pockets, since I carry my phone everywhere with me, so I just looked up a simple tutorial. Although this is for a different kind of dress, the pockets work fine for this one [...]

  49. keyaira says:

    hey, i measured my waist and its 25 but my hips are larger….what do you recommend the size of my skirt should be?

  50. [...] car seat covers and bibs, why not a dress right?  Looks easy enough.  Find the tutorial I used here.  This dress has pockets.  POCKETS!  The pockets were so easy to make too.  I did have a few [...]

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  52. [...] pockets, since I carry my phone everywhere with me, so I just looked up a simple tutorial. Although this is for a different kind of dress, the pockets work fine for this one [...]

  53. Kudzu says:

    thank you for sharing. i want to make some with tees now :) i want to mention i was given a dress and the top was too tight, so i cut the woven skirt off the bottom and added it to my tank top that had shrunk too short. easy peasy, and no hemming! very quick sun dress!

  54. SG says:

    Thanks for the instructions on pockets! I will have to add that to my list of to-sews. I made a tank top dress but used a circle skirt pattern so if i add pockets, they may be on the outside. I did add a collar with the extra tank top material though. Check it out here:

  55. Victoria Barmak says:

    How do you make sure you can pull the dress over shoulders? Will the are where the skirt and tanktop meet stretch? I am a little lost.

  56. Grace says:

    Just thought I’d let you know that I tried this today and it was my first sewing success!! I’m 14, and I can’t wait to pick out some funky combos for different versions of this dress! YAY! :)

  57. Sian says:

    I love the tutorial and the end result is great. I can see myself wearing that outfit. I enjoy sewing projects but in truth I’m not very good at sewing. This project looks like one I could complete with some hope of success lol.

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  62. [...] car seat covers and bibs, why not a dress right?  Looks easy enough.  Find the tutorial I used here.  This dress has pockets.  POCKETS!  The pockets were so easy to make too.  I did have a few [...]

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