HelenGilbert Hacks, Gilbert Top, Helen's Makes, Pattern Hacks25 Comments

Gilbert Dress

You knew this was coming, right? Of COURSE I am hacking the new Gilbert Top into a shirtdress. It makes perfect sense and it is so easy to do. You can make a tunic, a knee-length dress, or even a maxi dress with Gilbert! The tutorial below will show you how.

Gilbert pattern hack from Helen's Closet Patterns.
Make a shirtdress using the Gilbert Top.
I used washed linen in Rosewood from Blackbird Fabrics for my dress.

How to make a shirt pattern into a shirtdress

The first step to making your shirtdress pattern is figuring out how wide to make the dress around your hips. First, find the finished hip measurement for your size. The closest measurement will be the hem measurement for view B.

Next, measure your own hips at the widest part of your hip/bum area. How do the measurements compare? You want at least a 5″ difference to have a comfortable dress that isn’t clinging. If you have that measurement, excellent! We can simply lengthen the top to your desired length. If you need to add some more room, we can grade out and I will show you how that is done.

Back view of the Gilbert shirtdress pattern hack.

Lengthening the pattern

Technical illustration: lengthen the Gilbert Dress.

I cut View B and lengthened my pattern 20″ from the bottom of the front piece, back piece, and front facing.

The Gilbert Top pattern can easily be hacked into a shirtdress!

Grading out at the hips

Technical illustration: how to grade between sizes on the Gilbert Dress Hack.

You can grade out or in from the bust to the hips area and then lengthen straight down to your desired length. When grading, you want to get as smooth a line as possible between the sizes. The graded line is shown above in red.

Side view of the Gilbert Top hacked into a shirtdress pattern.

Adding a back pleat – optional

This is another great way to get more volume in your dress and more ease around the bum. Simply extend the back pattern piece at the center back and sew that excess as a pleat, gathers, or even an overlap. Add 3-6″ here depending on how much you plan to pleat/gather/overlap the fabric. I did not add this detail on mine but I think it is super cute!

Technical illustration: how to add a back pleat to the Gilbert Top dress hack.

Hem options

There are so many ways you can finish the bottom of your dress. The longer you make the dress, the more necessary it is to include some kind of side slit or opening because you will need it for your range of movement.

I chose to do a scooped hem on the side which I think looks really cute in this linen fabric. I also considered a side slit or just a straight hem (easiest option). I am going to show you how to make the scooped hem as I did on mine.

Side view of the Gilbert Top pattern as a shirtdress.

Rounding out the hem of the pattern

Technical illustration: rounding out the hemline of the Gilbert Top.

I curved the bottom hem on the side seam of the dress. I freehanded this but you can use an appropriately sized plate or bowl to make this curve, too! Once I did the curve on the front, I copied it onto the back. I also added a notch where I want to end my side seam when I am sewing.

Sewing the Gilbert Shirtdress

Follow the instructions as indicated until step 28.

We are going to use the front facing/hem finishing method for View B, but we are not going to pivot at the hem and sew around the bottom of the shirt dress. Simply sew to the bottom of the facing and backstitch.

Technical Illustration: Gilbert Dress Hack, sewing the facing.

Finish each edge of the side seams separately. This will allow us to press this seam open and create a side slit or in this case, a scoop. As you serge around the curved edges, crank up the differential feed on your serger so the fabric gathers slightly. If you do not have a serger, try a zig-zag stitch or an overcast stitch to finish these edges.

Technical Illustration: Gilbert Shirtdress Hack, sewing the facing.

Sew the side seams and backstitch when you get to your notch. Press the seam open.

Technical Illustration: Gilbert Dress Hack, sewing the curved hem.

At the hem of the dress, press the edge under 1/4″ and then 1/4″ again. Go slowly pressing around the curved edge. Where the side seam is joined, your fold lines will gradually unfold into the pressed open seam.

Technical Illustration: Gilbert Dress Hack, sewing the curved hem.

Topstitch all around the hem, pivoting to sew a little ‘hat’ at each side seam. You can also add a bar tack here for extra stability if desired.

Technical Illustration: Gilbert Dress Hack, sewing the curved hem.
Gilbert shirtdress pattern hack, close up on curved hem.

You will need to sew more buttonholes on your shirtdress, too! You can do as many as you like. I did 11 on mine.

Gilbert dress hack.
Gilbert dress hack.
Gilbert dress hack.
Gilbert dress hack.

That is it for my shirtdress pattern tutorial! Have fun and play around with length, volume, hem style, and finishing details! I really love this linen summer dress and I think it looks super cute belted, too! I would love to make a longer version, or maybe one with a gathered skirt. So many possibilities!

Gilbert dress hack.
About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

25 Comments on “Gilbert Dress”

  1. I made the Gilbert blouse. I love the pattern. However, the darts were about one inch too low. How can I fix that on my next Gilbert blouse? Thank you in advance.

  2. Helen in your pictures it looks like this is a slightly drop shoulder fit. I have been looking at other pics and the line drawings and it is hard to tell. Is the sleeve pattern drafted to fit at the end of the shoulder or slightly drop?

    1. Hi Donna! Gilbert has a slightly oversized fit similar to a bowling or Hawaiian shirt. The shoulder does extend just past the natural shoulder and in the loose linen fabric, it is exaggerated even more. I hope that helps!

  3. Hi Helen. The Gilbert is my first pattern purchase from Helen’s Closet. I’ve been waiting until my weight stabilizes–long story. Anyway, this hack for a shirt I haven’t even made yet makes me very excited!!! I can’t wait to get from fabric, preferably linen or linen/poly, and get started with the shirt. A dress will follow shortly after, I”m sure. I haven’t sewn for myself in many years! Listening to “Love to Sew” over the last two years has really made me want to get back in. Thanks so much!!! Marsha

    1. Hi Marsha! Thank you so much for choosing Gilbert for your first project back at the sewing machine! I bet you will LOVE sewing clothes again and I see many more makes in your future!

  4. Lovely, lovely simple yet versatile pattern. And the designer is wearing such charming sandals!

  5. This looks fantastic Helen – I do love a shirtdress! How much fabric would you say you used for this length? Also, that washed linen has got me jealous!

  6. Hi Helen
    How much more fabric would be needed to make a shirtdress just above the knee?

  7. Wonderful description and great fotos and drawings. Excellent.
    I have some liberty fine cotton, that I have not dared to cut for 15 years.
    I am wondering what would be suitable for this. What do you think? Would this pattern be a very good choice, or do you have other suggestions. I only want to make the very best.

    1. Hi Barbara! Thank you for checking out Gilbert. I think it is a great pattern for cotton lawn and a liberty print would be amazing! When working with special fabrics, I always like to make a test version to ensure I get the fit perfect before I dive into the final garment!

  8. Hi Helen!! Love this pattern – I have made it in a light to mid weight linen and a rayon. I saw on your maker round up a week ago you had a corduroy shirt dress? I can’t seem to find it now! What do you think about making it in a thicker corduroy? I’m not sure how it would sit and was wondering if you had any helpful hints!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Hayley, A lightweight cord would work fine! Just be careful when pressing corduroy as the iron can crush the fabric easily. I’d recommend using a press cloth and consider pressing on a towel. Make sure to press from the wrong side whenever possible. I hope that helps! Happy sewing 🙂

  9. I love your patterns! Do you think it’s doable to finish the top with the same scooped hem? I really like the look of it! Do you think a simple side slit would be better? Thank you so much!!

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