Updated: Jan 14
An easy, breezy and roomy top for your active toddler to stay cool in the tropical heat. Includes a free pattern and tutorial (although, neither is necessary as you could easily draw your own pattern and the sewing process is extremely straight-forward).
We live in a tropical country, which means it’s hot and humid all year round, so I am always on the lookout for cooling fabrics for my sewing projects. When I first laid eyes on (and touched) the cotton fabrics I found during my trip to India, I knew they were perfect for making outfits for my active toddler son. I have an affinity for fabrics that have that traditional and ethnic flavour, so these light cotton fabrics with ethnic prints I found in Kolkata were gifts from heaven.
The lightness of the fabrics makes them suitable for a loose and unstructured style. Dolman sleeves and no collars are not only easy to sew – they also give a casual and relaxed look that complements the fabric prints.
In order to allow the wearer’s head to fit through the neck opening, the shirt needed some kind of a fastening mechanism at the neck opening. I figured a partial button placket that runs half way down the front of the shirt will make the shirt look a tad more “going-out attire”.
The following are 2 links to download my (very unprofessional) hand-drawn pattern that I used for this shirt:
If your printer can print on A3 papers, click here to download the pattern optimised for A3 printing.
If your printer can only print on A4 papers, click here to download the pattern optimised for A4 printing.
The measurements of the finished shirt (if you follow this pattern to the tee) are 34 cm across the chest, and 40cm long from the highest point of the neck opening down to the bottom hem. In the photos you see above, though, I have added about 3cm to 4cm of length, so my finished shirts were around 43cm long. My son is about 93 cm tall and as you can probably see from the photos, is on the skinnier side of the growth chart.
You might notice that the neck opening in my pattern is smaller than it looks in the photo of the finished shirt above. This is because I find the neck opening too big after making the shirts, so I reduced it in the pattern.
If the above size is not right for you, you can very easily create your own dolman shirt pattern by tracing an existing T-shirt pattern and modifying it using the following guide:
The loose and casual style of this shirt makes it very forgiving in pattern drafting and cutting. The style is very versatile so even if you ended up with a slightly longer shirt, for example, you can call it a tunic! So, don’t fret about the measurements.
To create the partial button placket, my go-to reference is always this great tutorial by Make It & Love It.
THE SEWING PROCESS
STEP 1: CUT OUT PATTERN PIECES
Cut out main pattern pieces, which only consist of the front piece and the back piece. Remember to add your seam allowances to the pattern pieces as follows:
Also cut out the pieces for button placket as described in the button placket tutorial by Make It & Love It.
STEP 2: SEW FRONT AND BACK PIECES TOGETHER
Place front and back pieces right sides together, and sew along the shoulder seams and side seams. To finish the raw edges of the seam allowances, the easiest way is to just trim them with pinking shears. However, for this particular project, in addition to trimming with pinking shears, I also ironed and stitched all the seam allowances towards the back of the shirt. I feel that this step gives the seams a bit more strength and keep the inside of the shirt neater.
Note that along the underarm curves, the seam allowances will have to be snipped so they fold and lie nicely against the back of the shirt. There will be gaps between the sections of seam allowance where snipped as a result of the curve, but just sew along the curve in a continuous run of stitches. It is a little tricky to sew at the underarms region, so go slowly. If you are not confident or find it too troublesome, you may skip this step entirely and just finish the raw edges of the seam allowances with pinking shears only.
STEP 3: CREATE PARTIAL BUTTON PLACKET
As mentioned above, this tutorial by Make it & Love It is as clear as it gets when it comes to creating partial button plackets. The only difference here is that the top of this shirt's placket will flush with the neck opening, which means you do not need to leave any seam allowance on the placket for the collars as that tutorial calls for.
Obviously, I have used KAM snaps (Size T5) for my button plackets. You may, of course, use other types of buttons with button holes, or even other types of fasteners such as velcros or zippers.
STEP 4: FINISH NECK OPENING WITH BIAS BINDING
You may use ready-made bias tape, or you may make your own bias tape. You may use contrasting colour, or you may use your main shirt fabric to make the bias tape. It’s all up to your preference! For me, obviously, I chose contrasting ready-made bias tape. Honestly, from experience, I realized my toddler outgrows his clothes so quickly that it’s just not worth the time and effort to make my own bias tape for his clothes.
STEP 5: FINISH SLEEVES’ AND BOTTOM HEMS
Fold the sleeves’ and bottom hems 1.5 cm into the wrong side, twice. Then stitch them in place using matching threads and regular straight stitch. You could use blind hem stitch if you are after that flawless finish.
THE FINISHED SHIRTS
I have made a total of two such dolman shirts for my toddler son. And as you can see in the photos below, I have also made a matching shirt from one of the same fabrics for my husband.
My son looked really comfortable wearing the shirts, and I, the borderline-OCD mom, am at full ease knowing he had all the room he needed for his active movements, without fabrics sticking to and tugging at his skin. ♡ ♡ ♡
These are so easy to make, they will likely not be the last dolman shirts I make for my son. After all, I still have more of those fabulous fabrics from India!