Designer Interview: Vintage T-shirt Renewal Dresses

There’s nothing quite like a vintage t-shirt. It’s been through the wash too many times to count, making the cotton fabric turn into the softest thing you’ve ever felt. There might be holes, but that just means it’s been around the block a time or two. Back in high school, my dad handed me down a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt that he bought in 1978. This is one of the best articles of clothing I have ever owned. I love that a simple shirt can live through so much, and be bought or passed down to live on through someone else’s adventures.

Vintage Loves and We The Free teamed up recently to source some amazing vintage band tees, and reworked them to create an amazing limited edition line of vintage t-shirt renewal dresses. The Grateful Dead, ACDC, Prince, Van Halen — they are all in there, plus some more gems.

I wanted to get to know more about how this collection came to be, so I asked one of our designers, Sam, a few questions to get the scoop on these awesome dresses.

vintage dress vignette

How long have you been designing at Free People, and what do you do on a normal day?

2 years! At Free People there is no normal day! Every day is different depending on the deadlines we have for that week. But I guess daily things include: looking for inspiration, blog hunting, following up on styles that are in production, running to fittings, and most importantly sewing! Lots and lots of clothes making.

The collection is a collaboration between Vintage Loves and We The Free — how did this project come to be?

My boss and I thought it would be cool to actually use the real vintage tees that inspire many  of our Free People graphic tees. It just seemed like something that made sense.

model posing in vintage

Where did you draw most of your inspiration from when designing this collection?

I only designed one of the dresses! We had several designers all design one, some fell into our Free People collection and the other one that became a Vintage Loves piece was designed by our creative director Doub!

long vintage dress and t-shirt

All of the dresses incorporate vintage band tees. What are some of your favorite bands, old and new, that you are currently listening to? What kind of music inspires you the most? 

My favorite band of all time is The Talking Heads, I can listen to them any time of day for any reason and it always seems to fit.  I’m pretty bad with music actually! I’m so busy I have no time to really discover much new music!  I have been listening to Father John Misty on repeat… I don’t even know what’s new anymore! I like Lykki Li a lot, especially while I’m taking a bubble bath, Billy Holiday is also good for bubble bathing.

Oh! I love oldies! Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, they can do no wrong.

fringe over jeans

Get the look: Limited Edition T-Shirt Renewal Fringe Dress, Casual Thunder JacketLevi’s 1966 Skinny JeansEquestrian Ankle BootStitch Banded Hat.

girl in vintage ramones dress

Get The look: Limited Edition T-Shirt Renewal Tutu Dress, Plaid Sequin Yoke Buttondown, Emerson Ankle Boot, Popcorn Tall Sock, Francis Diamonite Statement Necklace.

vintage tee dress lead

Which of the tees were you most excited to design with and why?

The original mock up I did was with a Quiet Riot tee — I guess that one was my favorite! I love the contrast between a hot pink tutu and a metal tee.

pink tutu dress

Get The Look: Limited Edition T-Shirt Renewal Tutu Dress, Shaggy Sherpa Coat, Kantell Lace Up Boot.

How would you style your favorite dress from the collection?

I’d probably pair the dress I designed back to boots and a leather jacket — similar to how they styled it on Lizzy for the holiday shoot :) (see below).

lizzy picture

What vintage band tee would you want reworked into a dress?

Follow FP Jana on Twitter. 

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9 years ago

<3 them all – especially the pink tutu!

9 years ago

I need to do this to my Guns and roses tee. I got it from my cousin and it has been through a lot with him and for the last few years with me… there are some holes, but the memories are priceless and i still wear it :)

9 years ago

These are rad!!!! I will never give up my fav band tees, they’re are part of my history =)
<3 xoxo

Visit my shop:

9 years ago

This is cool … But not a new concept by any means I used to make these for my punk friends back in the day …. I would take an old slip, dress or tutu And sew it to say a discharge shirt … I would sell them like crazy … It seems free people had borrowed a few ideas from the punks over the years … Your take on them is quite adorable!!! I love them !!!! It reminded me how many of those darn tshirt dresses I actually made!!!

9 years ago

Do you think you could show us how to DIY these? That would be amazing!!

9 years ago

@Justino you’re such a hater! These dresses are adorable and original. Just because you made some ratty old version of a “tshirt dress” doesn’t mean they took your “punk” ideas. I hate “punk” they think they’re so cool and original when actually every single one is a cookie cutter copy of eachother.

9 years ago

@britneyflu I was not hating I said they were adorable if you read my comment properly I never said they stole my Idea it wasn’t my idea to begin with this is a old concept from the 70s … I never claimed to have came up with the idea and I was never “hating” on anything…I actually like these dresses I was stating I used to make them … I never meant to upset you and putting others down isn’t very nice of you and taking a whole subculture and calling them cookie cutter is quite ignorant of you!!! Hope you have a pleasant day !!!

9 years ago

These are so awesome!

9 years ago

Oh my goodness with this collection! So perfect.

xo, Juliette Laura

9 years ago

I love this idea. It’s so good and I’m seeing a vintage tee dress in my future.

9 years ago

I love how you have teamed up the band tee with a skirt turns a punk rock outfit into a more feminine outfit. Some great combinations above. Thanks for the inspiration.

9 years ago

This is a fantastic idea re purposing vintage t-shirts into dresses. I love the fact that , like you said, you can pass a shirt down from family member and it go on many more adventures with each person.

9 years ago

Check out this 90’s grunge inspired shoot!!

9 years ago

Vintage clothing is just a style, and so in and wearable. You can style it up and wear it casually or make it into something chic.

7 years ago

Justino, I totally agree. This is nothing new. In fact I think this guy just scoped out some of the Etsy shops and found this exact same design and ran with it as his own! Totally uncool!