DIY Tiered Maxi Dress

I absolutely love cotton dresses for summer, especially ones that are tiered, gathered and dreamy. I had some white cotton poplin in my fabric stash, which was perfect for this dress.
how to make your own maxi dress
This is a beginner friendly project so I encourage anyone to give this dress a go. Follow my easy steps and get started on sewing the perfect summer maxi dress! I have no doubt it will become a season favourite!

Tools and materials:

  • Cotton or linen fabric
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine

Pattern Pieces to Cut: 

  • Front Bodice - Cut x1 Pair
  • Back Bodice - Cut x1 Pair
  • Straps - Cut x2 (30cm x 2cm strips)
  • Tier 1 - Cut x2
  • Tier 2 - Cut x2
  • Tier 3 - Cut x4

Step 1: Measure the fullest part of your bust.
To do this step grab a dressmakers tape and measure across the widest part of your bust. Write this down and add 2cm.
Example; Bust is 95cm + 2cm = 97cm.

Step 2: On one of the papers fold it in half and measure out 1/4 of your new bust measurement from the folded edge. Then 20cm down and back to the fold with the 1/4 bust measurement. You will now have a rectangle shape. Next, measure in 15cm across the top and 10cm down from the side. Draw a curved shape to meet both points to form your armhole. Now add a 1cm seam all the way around. Cut out.

Step 3: The back bodice is 1/4 the new bust measurement from the folded edge, then down 15cm and back across to the fold at 1/4 bust again. Measure down 10cm at the side and in 8cm from the end of the top line. Meet points to form the armhole curve.

Example; 97cm x 1.5 = 145.5cm. 
Tier 1 I am going to round up to be 150cm long x 25cm wide. This will just add a little bit more fullness in the gathers.

Repeat this for the other tiers...
Tier 2 = 150cm x 1.5 = 225cm x 30cm wide (eg, Cut x2 113cm lengths)
Tier 3 = 225cm x 1.5 = 338cm x 35cm wide (eg, Cut x3 112cm lengths)

As you have probably noticed the more layers you have the more fabric you will need so just work with what you have. 

Cut out the fabric pieces

How to sew a maxi dress

I started off by cutting the bodice pieces. I made sure to cut 1 pair for both the front and back bodice pieces. I chose to use a piece of white cotton fabric for this dress. If you want to add more colour or texture to your new dress any cotton or linen fabric will look stunning!

Cut strips


Next, it was time to cut fabric for the strips. I measured a width of 2 cm and a length of 30 cm and cut two strips. 

Cut the tiers


Once I had the strips cut to size, it was time to work on cutting out the three tiers that add so much to this dress. 

Sew the straps

Sew the strips


I love being organised and prepared when I’m sewing, so I laid out my pieces right sides together and ready to go. I then started sewing my straps with a 1 cm seam to keep them nice and thin. If you prefer to keep your straps thicker, then add a few more cms. 

Simple maxi dress


To turn the straps over to the right side I attached a safety pin to one inner side of the strap. I pushed it all the way through until my fabric was the right side out. 

Sew the bodice together

Sew the bodice

With the straps turned right side out, I moved on to sewing the side seams of my bodice. One of the pieces would become a lining and the other would be the outer shell. In this step, it’s important to have the fabric, right sides together if you are using a patterned fabric or a fabric with a wrong side. 


Attach the straps

Attach straps

Next, it was time to attach the straps. I measured 1 cm from the armhole seam and pinned the strap in the front. This step ensured that the straps wouldn’t get caught in the seam when I bagged the bodice. I untwisted the strap and flipped over to the back bodice where I attached the other end of the strap 1 cm from the armhole. 


Create a bagged effect

Bag the bodice

It was finally time to bag the bodice of the dress. I put the two bodice pieces, right sides together, and pinned around the edges. With all my pins in place, I sewed a 1 cm seam along the front, back, and armhole edges.

Cut slits


To make sure my dress would have the perfect finish, I turned the bodice inside out and cut a few slits along the seam. This really helps prevent any bunching in the fabric. I then pressed the fabric to make sure the bodice would have a beautiful finish.

Sew the tiers

Sew the tiers


In this next step, I moved onto the tiers of the dress. I absolutely love this element! It adds so much to the style of the dress. I sewed the short sides together and overlocked them as they would become the side seams of the dress. 

Gather the long edge


I then sewed a gathering stitch along one long end of the first two tiers and made sure to pull the gather equally along the fabric. 

Pin the tier to the bodice

It was finally time to put this gorgeous dress together. I pinned the gathered edge of my first tier to the bottom of my bodice, making sure the gathered fabric sat nicely and equally along the bodice. 

Simple white maxi dress

I then sewed the tier in place. I always make sure to sew upwards so that I can shift the gathering if I need to while I’m sewing. A great tip for making this lovely dress is to overlock all seams to keep things secure and in place and also give the perfect finish. I sewed the bottom two-tier layers on and couldn’t believe how quickly this dress was coming together. 

Create a fitted bodice

Pin a dart

To ensure the perfect fit for this dress, I measured halfway on my front armhole and popped in a pin. I then folded a 1 cm dart and pinned at the fold. 

Make box pleat


To make sure there wouldn’t be any gaping at the back, I decided to add a box pleat. I found the centre of my back and pinned in the middle. I then measured 1 cm on either side of the pin, folded the fabric, and pinned the folds in place. I sewed the pleat in place, making sure it was nice and sturdy. 

Add the second dart


With the back already looking more fitted, I wanted to sew my front darts. I mirrored the dart I had already made onto the other side of the bodice and then sewed them both into place. Although darts are such a small detail, they definitely create a more professional finish. 

Hem the bottom

Easy maxi dress

For the final step, I did a double-turned hem on the bottom of my new dress. I made the folds 1 cm long and sewed. Lastly, I pressed the fabric so that my awesome new dress would be ready to wear! I couldn’t wait to try it on! 


This simple summer maxi dress is everything I wanted and more! What colour would you make this dress? Let me know in the comments below! 

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