This week we’re using one of our older patterns, the Laelia tunic, and transforming it into a fun, spring & summer friendly tiered dress. By using the top of the tunic pattern, and adding lots of gathered rectangles, there’s not a lot of fabric waste here! I made this into a two-tiered dress, but you can play around with the length and number of tiers. This would make a gorgeous maxi dress, either by adding even more tiers, or lengthening the bottom tier to the ankle. Sew this with a double cotton gauze for maximum comfort, or use netting for a resort wear cover up. We love the versatility of this pattern hack, and hope you do too!

How to adjust the bodice:

1. Decide where you want the bottom edge of the bodice to sit. I wore a t-shirt and measured the top of the neck to a spot below my bust. Add ½” for the bottom seam allowance

2. On the front dress, take your measurement from step 1, and mark it at the CF.

3. Draw a new curved line from the CF to the side seam, using the curve of the original hemline as a guide.

4. Because I used a knit fabric, I knew the weight of the tiers would pull the top down a bit. I added some coverage to the armscye up to the neck. If you’re using a non-stretch woven, you might not find this step necessary, but I suggest making a quick muslin of this bodice, just to be sure.

5. Your front bodice pattern piece is complete!

6. Place the back dress beside the new front bodice, lining up the side seams. For best results, fold down the side seam allowance on each piece, and place the folds side by side.  

7. Use the redrawn curved line on the front bodice, and continue that line across the back dress. Keep it curved. If you want to do a hi-low bodice, draw the line accordingly.

8. Add coverage to the halter neck if you need.

9. Your back bodice pattern piece is now complete!

How to add a ruffle to the neckline:

1. Measure the length of the collar, and multiply that by 2. 

Mine measured at 9 ½”, so when doubled, it’s 19”

2. Cut out a single strip on the fold, using the number from step 1 as the length, and 1 ¼” as the width. 

Mine measured at 1 ¼” x 19”

3. Sew or serge a rolled hem on one lengthwise side. 

4. Sew a row of basting stitches on the opposite side, 1/2″ from the raw edge. 

5. Cut your collar piece – 1 of self, and 1 of lining. 

6. Pin the ruffle to the collar self, right sides together. The ruffle’s raw edge should be aligned with the collar’s raw edge. The sides of the ruffle should stop just before the collar’s center back seam allowance. Baste together.

7. Place the collar lining on top, so the lining and self are right sides together, with the ruffle sandwiched between. Pin together. 

8. Sew the two ends and the long edge with the ruffle. Make sure the ruffle isn’t caught in the end seam allowance!

9. Trim the SA, clip corners, and turn right side out. Press.

How to make the tiers:

1. Measure the bottom width of the front and back bodice, and multiply each measurement to get your gathered width. Divide by half.

Note: The general rule of thumb for gathers is to multiply the space where you’re gathering into by 1.5 – 3, depending on your desired fullness.

The front and back bodices measured to 30” each. For this first tier, I chose to multiply by 1.5:

30” x 1.5 = 45”

So, the tiers for the front and back are going to be 45” in width. I want to cut the fabric on the fold, so we need to now divide that number by 2:

45” / 2 = 22.5” 

22.5” is the first tier width, when cutting on the fold.

2. Determine the length of the first tier. I chose 13”.

3. Using your measurements from step 1, write down the dimensions of the front and back tier. 

For this dress, the front and back tiers were 13” x 22.5”, when cut on the fold.

4. Fold your fabric, selvedge to selvedge.

5. Cut out 2 rectangles on the fold, using your calculated length & width. 

6. For the second tier, use your 1st tier width and multiply that by 1.5 – 3, then divide that amount by 2. What happens if that number doesn’t fit on the crosswise fold? See below! 

The top tiers are 45” wide, so this is the measurement to start with. I chose to multiply by 2, for a little more fullness:

45” x 2 = 90”

Divide that measurement by 2, and that’s the number you’ll cut on the fold:

90” / 2 = 45” 

Now, my fabric clearly isn’t wide enough crosswise to make a 90” wide rectangle. If your fabric doesn’t have a directional pattern or stretch, you can fold your fabric lengthwise and cut on the fold that way. 

This fabric does have directional crosswise stretch though, and all the pieces need to be cut the same way. If you need to keep your pieces orientated in the same direction, do the following:

  • Instead of dividing that measurement by 2, divide by 3. This should give you a measurement that you can cut on the crosswise fold. Because you’re dividing by 3, you’ll now need to cut out 3 rectangles.

90” / 3 = 30”

7. Choose the length of this second tier. I kept mine at 13”

8. With these measurements, write down the dimensions of the second tier rectangles, and cut on the fold.

For the second tier, the three rectangles measured at 13” x 30”, when cut on the fold. 

How to sew the bodice:

1. Sew the back bodice pieces together, up the center back, stopping at the notch.

2. Double fold the CB opening down ¼”, and stitch to create a keyhole.

3. Sew the front & back bodice pieces together at the side seams. Finish the armscyes using bias tape.

4. Sew the collar to the bodice neckline, sewing them right sides together. Topstitch the seam allowance down to the bodice neckline. 

5. Sew a clasp to the bottom edge of the collar. 

6. Serge the bottom edge of the bodice, or hem.

How to sew the tiers: 

1. Sew the first tier together at the side seams. Finish the side seams.

2. Serge the top edge with a rolled hem, or sew with a regular rolled hem. Finish the bottom edge, by serging or hemming.

3. Sew a basting stitch ½” from the finished top edge, and use it to gather the tier so it fits onto the bodice. 

4. Line up the side seams on the tier and bodice, and place the wrong side of the tier to the right side of the bodice. Leave a ½” overlap between the bodice’s edge and the gathers line. Pin in place. 

5. Sew the two layers together, right on the gathers line. 

6. Repeat with the bottom tiers. If you had to make more than two panels for the bottom tier, just evenly distribute the panels around the top tier. Although the side seams won’t match, the gathers will camouflage the side seams, especially after they’ve been pressed! 

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