Tuesday, April 24, 2012

KCWC–Day One: Tiered Ruffle Dress + TUTORIAL

Truth be told, I started these dresses over a week ago, but I finished them on Monday-Day One of the KCWC.

These dresses were inspired by a dress I saw in a popular children's clothing store, but it’s no longer on their website (otherwise I’d link you to it!).

I loved the tiered ruffles and fullness of the skirt, and after working on the ruffled skirts for the girls, I knew my plan of action for these dresses.

It started with my FAVORITE pattern, McCalls 5793. It’s not a fancy pattern, but it has so many possibilities. It’s a basic bodice (with options for sleeves or a yoke) and a ruffled skirt. I mainly use the bodice only and adapt the skirt portion to suit my needs for the project. I’ve sewn up this pattern at least 10 times now in all sorts of variations, each of them unique. For the 99 cents I spent on this pattern (on sale, of course) I’ve got my money’s worth by a hundredfold!!

Anyways! I’ve put together a little tutorial on how I made these. Click below for the details!

WARNING: VERY picture heavy post here!
Materials Needed:
  • Basic Bodice Pattern (I used McCalls 5793, size 3)
  • Fashion Fabric (approx 1.5yds) *Ruffles*
  • Lining Fabric (approx 1.5yds) *Tier Extenders*
  • Contrasting Fabric (approx 1/4 yd)
  • Invisible Zipper
  • Basic Sewing Supplies
One of the things I considered when planning these dresses was the need for the ruffled fashion fabric to overlap and hide the seam of the ruffle below. This meant that the fashion fabric ruffles would be longer than the tier extending lining fabric. I also wanted the skirt to widen with each tier as it extended down from the bodice to the hem. I sat with my calculator (well, my phone really) and figured it all out. This is all based on the measurements for the size 3 bodice from M5793 so it may not be exact for everyone, but here are my details:
I figured an increase in width of 50% for the extending tier and and increase of 100% for the ruffle tier would give me nice, full ruffles while increasing the width going down.
  • The TOP Tier – closest to the bodice: I measured the bodice width, which was 23.25”. I cut my strips of lining fabric (tier extenders) at 34.875” (rounded up to 35”) and the ruffle fabric at 46.5”
  • The MIDDLE Tier – now based on the EXTENDER PIECE FROM THE TOP TIER (35”) I cut the lining fabric (tier extenders) at 52.3125” (rounded up to 52.5) and the ruffle fabric at 69.75” (rounded up to 70”)
  • The BOTTOM Tier – now based on the EXTENDER PIECE FROM THE MIDDLE TIER (52.5) I cut the lining fabric (tier extenders) at 78.46875” (rounded up to 78.5”) and the ruffle fabric at 104.625” (rounded up to 105”)
The width of each Ruffle Strip (fashion fabric) was 7.5” inches and the Tier Extenders (lining fabric) was 6”.
To figure this out yourself, start with the width of your bodice, multiply by 1.5 for the Tier Extenders and then multiply by 2 for the Ruffle Fabric. Use the previous TIER EXTENDER to repeat the process for the following tiers, working from top to bottom. Does that make sense?

I didn’t document the actual bodice construction, but it’s sewn in the usual way.

After the bodice is sewn up, with your contrast fabric, cut a strip that is equal to the length of the bodice and 5.25” wide. Fold in half, press well. Stitch to bottom edge of bodice, keeping the lining clear and then topstitch close to the folded edge of contrast fabric.

Next, prepare your Ruffle and Extender strips for gathering and attaching to the bodice. Each tier is prepped a little differently, so we’ll take them one at a time.


TOP TIER (closest to the bodice) – Both the ruffle fabric and the tier are left flat – not sewn together on their short ends. This is to allow for the zipper. One of the long sides and the two short sides of the ruffle fabric should be hemmed. I used my narrow hem foot on my machine, because it so super quick and easy.


After the three sides of the Ruffle Fabric are hemmed, gather the unfinished edge of both the ruffle and of the tier extender piece for the top tier.


Pin the Ruffle Fabric to the bodice with right sides together, adjusting gather to make it fit. IMPORTANT: Begin pinning the Ruffle fabric to the bodice 5/8” away from the center back of the bodice piece. This will prevent the top tier ruffle from being caught in the stitching related to the zipper.


Then, layer the Top Tier Extender Fabric over the Ruffle Fabric, with it’s right side facing the right side of the bodice.


The Tier Extender piece should go all the way to the center back of the bodice.


Stitch through all layers. Gently press seam allowance toward the bodice. It will look like this:


Now it’s time to insert the zipper. I’m not going to be exhaustive on invisible zipper insertion, but here are some photos of the process. When inserting the zipper, keep the Ruffle Fabric clear of the zipper and attach the zipper down the bodice and onto the top extender tier.


To get a nice, clean, 100% by machine finish on the bodice lining, turn the lining around to face right sides together with the bodice and stitch close to the zipper with a regular zipper foot.


Now, moving on to the middle tier! This is what the dress should look like now:


As with the top tier, we need to hem one of the long sides of the middle tier ruffle fabric. With the middle and bottom tiers, the ruffle fabric and the tier extender are sewn right sides together down the short ends, creating a long circle of fabric. Gather one of the long ends of each layer. Pin the Middle Tier Ruffle Fabric, right sides together with the Top Tier Extender. Layer the Middle Tier Extender over the Ruffle Fabric and stitch through all layers all the way around, including over the little tail end of the zipper.


Repeat the steps from the Middle tier for the Bottom Tier. Attach in the same way. There is only one variable with the bottom tier. It does not require and Extender underneath, depending on your type of fabric. Mine was a light cotton lawn with a burnout design to it, so I chose to include an extender tier under the bottom ruffle to act like a lining and keep the color seen through the burnout design consistent. If this is not the case for you, the lining fabric/extender piece can be omitted for the bottom ruffle.

The last little detail was to finish the bodice lining. I turned the dress inside out, pinned the lining down and stitched it from the right side, underneath the top ruffle. It worked out perfectly, as it’s not seen from the right side. It’s not perfect on the inside, but it saved me from hand stitching, so… yeah, that’s what I did! I also ran the seam allowances between the tiers through the serger to finish off those seams.


The dress that inspired these had three little fabric flowers centered on the contrast band on the bodice, so I made some simple gathered fabric flowers and tacked them down by hand.


And that’s it! 


The girls were super tired tonight and not up to modeling, so no photos of them wearing them, maybe I’ll get some by the weekend.

Well, I got my hour of sewing in on Monday, so the week is off to a good start! How’s everyone else doing on their KCWC?


  1. Absolutely beautiful!!!!!! :) I'm not officially doing kcwc but I did get the pattern cut out for my daughter's Snow White birthday dress. :)

  2. Thank you very much for great tutorial!

  3. Such a lovely dress! Great tutorial!

  4. Excellent tutorial...thanks for sharing, wanna make one for my niece for sure!

  5. wow, thank you for the excellent tutorial. I have always wondered how to insert the zipper with the tiers. You are awesome!!! Love the fabric choice too

  6. süper olmuş güle güle giysinler :)

  7. Beautiful dress. I really appreciate the heavy pictures with the tutorial. Thanks

  8. This is very nice tutorial, thank you for linking!

  9. How beautiful work! I feel inspired ...
    Greetings from Brazil

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  11. Love this! It was featured as one of today's top designs over at SewSet! Thanks for sharing :)


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  13. Thank you for this tutorial! It helped me sew a Holiday dress!

  14. I love this dress! so beautiful!

  15. Lovely dress and a wonderful tutorial. This is a treasure to find, as too many how-to's available online are posted by people who don't know how to sew or don't yet know what makes a garment "well made". Thank you!

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  23. Lovely dress material and a wonderful tutorial. This is a treasure to find, as too many how-to's available online are posted by people who don't know how to sew or don't yet know what makes a garment "well made". Thank you!


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