T-shirt Tunic Swimsuit Cover-up

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T-shirt Tunic Swimsuit Cover-up

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T-shirt Tunic Swimsuit Cover-up
By Diana Eng

A summer trend I love is the tunic top, and with the passing of Memorial Day, swim season has officially started! The tunic top makes the perfect swimsuit cover-up, ideal for lounging in at the beach or pool. We’ll be making this cover-up out of your favorite old oversized rock T-shirt, Threadless shirt, or free tech tee. Choose a shirt with a screen-printed pattern that you like, because this will become part of the tunic design. The older and more worn the shirt is, the better, as the fabric will be softer and drape more nicely.


Old T-shirt Choose a shirt that is one or two sizes larger than you normally wear. I chose a men’s size medium when I usually wear a small. Note that this does not work with baby-doll tees.

Thread to match T-shirt
Wide shoelace or cord
Scrap fabric similar to that of the T-shirt
Disappearing ink pen
Body double friend or dress form
Tape if using a friend
Sewing machine


Tshirttunic Step1
Step 1: Fold the shirt in half and pin it by matching up the shoulder seams, armholes, and side seams, as shown above.
Tshirttunic Step2
Step 2: Pin a line going down the vertical middle of the shirt (along the half-fold line that is created in Step 1) on the front and back. After you are done pinning the fold line, unpin the rest of the shirt so that it is no longer folded in half.
Tshirttunic Step3
Step 3: Open up the top of the shirt by cutting across the shoulder seam and the top of the sleeve.
Tshirttunic Step4567
Step 4: Figure out what length you want the tunic to be by putting the shirt on a friend or mannequin. Adjust it until it is the correct length, and tape or pin it in place.
Step 5: You will be attaching straps to the tunic so that it hangs at this new length. Determine how long the straps need to be by measuring the length from the top corner of the collar on the front to the top corner of the collar on the back.
Step 6: Using the disappearing ink pen, draw in a new neckline for the tunic on the front and back. Remember, this can be a revealing sexy neckline since it is a swimsuit cover-up. Start drawing the neckline at the shoulder right by the collar, then draw the neckline as low as you wish, stopping at the center line made by the pins (drawing in one half of the neckline). You can make it V-shaped or U-shaped — it’s up to you.
Step 7: Using the disappearing ink pen, draw a new armhole for the tunic on the front and back. Start drawing at the shoulder, 1″ away from the neckline. Then continue down to the bottom corner of the sleeve.
Step 8: Fold the shirt in half along the line that you pinned in Step 2, and cut out the neckline and armholes on the front and back.
Tshirttunic Step9
Step 9: Using the sleeves, cut out straps for the tunic. Make them 1″ in width and the length determined in Step 5. Add ½” to the length for seam allowance.
Tshirttunic Step10
Step 10: Sew the straps to the tunic using two 1/8″ zigzag stitches on a ½” overlap. Cut off the excess fabric so that the zigzag stitches are close to the edge of the fabric.
Step 11: Try on the tunic and determine where you would like to place the drawstring waist. Mark this height with a pin.
Tshirttunic Step12
Step 12: Using the clear ruler and disappearing ink pen, mark where the drawstring will be on the inside of the tunic. Measure the distance from the bottom edge of the tunic to the pin with the clear ruler. Then draw a line around the entire tunic, using the clear ruler to measure the same distance from the bottom edge to where you are marking the line.
Step 13: Measure the width of the tunic. Using the scrap fabric, cut a piece that is the width of the tunic and 1½” in height.
Step 14: Pin the scrap fabric to the inside of the tunic by using the waistline you drew in Step 12 as a guide. This will become a channel for the drawstring.
Tshirttunic Step15
Step 15: Using the sewing machine, zigzag stitch along the top and bottom edge of the scrap fabric.
Tshirttunic Step16
Step 16: Cut a slit in the center front of the tunic waistband and thread the shoelace drawstring through the channel.
Now put on your shades, grab your favorite tote, and head for the beach in your new swimsuit cover-up!

About the Author:
Diana Eng is a NYC-based fashion designer, Project Runway alumni, co-founder of NYC Resistor, and the author of Fashion Geek: Clothes, Accessories, Tech. Visit her at her blog, Fashion Nerd.

21 thoughts on “T-shirt Tunic Swimsuit Cover-up

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I love the pattern!
    But did you mean to say “passing of Memorial Day”?

  2. Natalie Zee Drieu says:

    Good catch – thank you. I fixed the reference to Memorial Day! :)

  3. Alisha Whitfield says:

    Thanks for this tutorial. This looks adorable. Im off to find one of my hubby’s old T-Shirts to make this now!!! Thanks again!! Alisha from http://www.homemakinghoneys.com

  4. Andrea says:

    fun tutorial.

  5. Malty says:

    My friends and I are making these tunic this weekend. It will be perfect for my trip to costa rica next month!

  6. Butterflies and Bikinis says:

    Great job, Natalie! What a fun way to use vintage t-shirts that are too big! Can’t wait to try it!

  7. ruby♥ says:

    i like the way you change the dress on your own style …

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