Learn how to make a tiered maxi dress with this beginner-friendly step by step tutorial. This summer dress is perfect for over your bikini at the beach, going out for dinner and even just lounging around the house!
If you are anything like me you probably live simple, comfotable clothing that you feel effotless chic wearing! This dress ticks all of the boxes for me. I am so excited to share this diy tiered maxi dress tutorial with you.
If you have just started sewing or would like to start check out my free beginner sewing series where I go through all of the basics from equipment through to simple sewing techniques.
Once you have the basics down this dress will be a great starting point for you to test your skills. You will be super chuffed when you have this cute dress to prance along the beach in!
Due to high demand, I am currently working on a pdf sewing pattern for this dress which will include a similar style to this tutorial as well as another bodice. If you would like to be updated on the pattern release just sign up to my mailing list. (You can do this at the top of this page!)
HOW TO MAKE A TIERED MAXI DRESS
So first things first, you will need to draft a bodice pattern which sounds terrifying but I have full instructions below for you to follow. If you are stuck please feel free to comment below, I’m happy to help.
MAKING THE DRESS PATTERN
To start you will need to use a dressmaker tape and measure the fullest part of your bust.
Write this down and add 2cm. For example: Bust = 95cm + 2cm = 97cm. We will call this measurement the dress bust.
TO DRAFT FRONT BODICE PATTERN
- Using a piece of A3 paper, fold it in half and measure out 1/4 of the dress bust measurement from the folded edge. Example = 24.25cm. This is point A.
- From point A measure down 20cm, this is point B. This is the length of the front bodice. Now take the line back to point C (the fold of the paper) to create a rectangle.
- Along the top-line measure across 15cm, this is point D. Measure down 10cm from point A to find point E.
- Draw a slight curve from point D & E to create the armhole curve. Add a 1cm seam allowance on the outer edge of the line.
- Cut the front bodice pattern piece out.
TO DRAFT BACK BODICE PATTERN
- To draft the back bodice pattern follow step 1 for the front bodice. This is now point F.
- From point F measure down 15cm. This is the length of the back bodice, this is point G. Now take the line back to point H (the fold of the paper) to create a rectangle.
- Measure in 8cm from point F to point I, mark point. Measure down 5cm from point F to find point J.
- Draw a slight curve from point I to J to create the armhole curve. Add a 1cm seam allowance on the outer edge of the line.
TO DRAFT BOTTOM TIERS OF DRESS
There are 3 tiers to form the body of this dress. These are just large rectangles long.
Its best to just measure and cut these out directly on the fabric rather than making pattern pieces but do what works best for you!
To work out the correct measurements to fit your bodice size follow the equation below.
Dress bust x 1.5 = width for tier 1
Tier 1 x 1.5 = width for tier 2
Tier 2 x 1.5 = width for tier 3
You may need to divide up these tier panels to fit onto your fabric width.
These are the length measurements I followed for my tiers below.
Tier 1 = 25cm
Tier 2 = 30cm
Tier 3 = 35cm
If you have limited fabric you could just sew one long tier to create a simple gathered maxi dress.
PIN IT FOR LATER
MATERIALS & TOOLS
- 3m cotton or linen fabric
- Measuring tape
- Sewing machine
- A3 paper & pencil
- Front Bodice – Cut x1 Pair
- Back Bodice – Cut x1 Pair
- Straps – Cut x 2 (30cm x 4cm strips)
- Tier 1 – Cut as required
- Tier 2 – Cut as required
- Tier 3 – Cut as required
TIERED MAXI DRESS SEWING INSTRUCTIONS
Fold the straps in half and sew a 1cm seam allowance, trim 5mm off the seam allowance. Use a safety pin to turn the straps through to the right sides. Press flat with an iron. You could edge stitch down the sides of these straps if you want extra detail.
You will have 2 pairs of the front & back bodice pieces. Place front & back bodices right sides together so you have two sets. Pin the side seams in place and sew together with a 1cm seam allowance.
Grabbing one of the straps measure 1cm from the armhole seam on the front bodice and pin the strap in place. Untwisted the strap and flip it over to the back bodice. Pin the other end of the strap 1 cm from the armhole.
Repeat for the other strap. This step ensures that the straps won’t get caught in the seam when bagging out the bodice.
Attach the straps onto the bodice with a 5mm seam allowance.
Place the outer and lining bodices, right sides together, and pin around the edges. Leave the bottom edge open. Sew the bodice lining and outer together with a 1cm seam allowance along the front, back, and armhole edges.
Cut some small nicks along the armhole seam to reduce the seam bulking. Turn the bodice to the right sides and press.
Depending on how long your tiers are you may need to join some panels together. Think of these as the side seams. Once all of the side seams are sewn you should have continuous panels for each tier. Don’t forget to overlock the seams.
Change the stitch length on the sewing machine to the longest length around 4-5 and sew one continuous row of baste stitching 5mm from the raw edge. Sew another row 5mm from the last row of stitching. Pull two end tails to gather up the fabric until the tier fits onto the bodice hem. Repeat this for all 3 tiers matching the gathers to the bottom of the appropriate seam.
Pin the tiers to the appropriate seams, moving the gathers to sit evenly then attach with a 1cm seam allowance. Overlock all of the seams.
To create a bit of shape I suggest adding darts to the front bodice. Find halfway on the front armhole and mark by pinning. Measure 1cm from each side of the pin and fold into a dart. Pin the folded dart in place. Measure the dart length on the inside of the bodice to roughly 12cm. I suggest trying on the dress and seeing where sits best.
Mirror this dart onto the other side of the bodice and sew.
Back box pleat
To stop the back from gapping add a box pleat to the centre back of the bodice. Find the centre of the back bodice and mark with a pin. Measure 1cm on either side and fold in towards the pin. Pin both folds of the box pleat down and edge stitch in place.
Fold the bottom edge of the dress up 1cm and press. Fold again over itself and pin in place. Edge stitch the hem in place.