The Grown Up Way to Wear a Tutu: A Tiered Skirt Sewing Tutorial

Of all the things I love to sew, skirts are one of my favorites. Last summer I made a TON of maxi skirts. They were all over Pinterest and I just had to have them. I made one in a vibrant canary yellow, a versatile charcoal gray, the always classy black, and casual camel. Not only were they simple and cheap to make, but I could ensure that they were long enough for me. I’m 5’9 and sadly, a large majority of stores don’t sell extra tall skirts. If you know of a place that’s not crazy expensive, please let me know! This season, I’ve been playing around with mid-length skirts.

A few weeks ago, JoAnn was having a great sale where all their red tag clearance fabric was an additional 50% off. My approach to making clothes is to walk into the fabric store and find a print that speaks to me. You know what I mean. That feeling you get when you touch a fabric and start imagining all the things you could make with it. A pouch, skirt, pillow, shirt, etc. I digress. Anywho, I found this great black understated leopard print chiffon that I had to have. Just so you know, I have a thing for animal prints. Not the tacky kind, but the type with a touch of class and sophistication. I decided I would turn it into a tierd skirt, based on a tutorial I found a while back on Trash to Couture. Here’s what I created (thanks to Sabrina for taking this for me today):


First Steps: Take Your Measurements

I designed this to be kind of a high-waisted skirt, so bear that in mind. Measure your waist, then add 12 inches to your waist measurement. This number is the width of your underskirt. Because you’ll be cutting on the fold you will essentially have a really long rectangle.

I made the length of this skirt 20 inches and it fell to just above my knee when finished. Play around with the length if you want it longer or shorter. Just know that the bottom layer wil fall 2″ below the underskirt. For your elastic, subtract 2 inches from your waist measurement.

For example:

My waist measurement= 31″ + 12″ =  43″ for my underskirt.

31″ – 2= 29″ for the elastic

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 9.08.10 PM


  • heavyweight jersey fabric for the underskirt, cut to size (for my skirt I used, 43″ which is approximately 1 1/4 yards. I chose a charcoal gray fabric that was left over from one of my maxi skirts :-))
  • 3″ wide elastic, cut to size (this comes in black or white, I saw a great tutorial on dyeing elastic if you want to go that route)
  • 2 yards of lightweight fabric (a chiffon, or sheer polyester–I used chiffon) for the tiers of the skirt
  • 2 packages of double fold bias tape, 1/4″ wide in a coordinating color
  • matching thread


1. With your underskirt fabric folded in half, fold your fabric up into thirds. Ignore the stitching, it was from my maxi skirt.



2. Press the folds.


3. Let the underskirt cool as you cut the tiers of the skirt fabric. For the top and middle layers, cut the chiffon (or other fabric of your choice) so that it is 9 1/2″ high. For the bottom layer, cut it so it is 8 1/2″ high. I folded my fabric into thirds (to make cutting easier) and used my rotary cutter and mat for this part. Essentially you want the tiers to fall about 3 inches below the creases.

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 9.14.22 PM

4. Next we sew the bias tape onto the bottom edges of the tiers, just like sew :-). Do this on the bottom edge of all three layers.


IMG_0074For a detailed tutorial on applying bias tape visit Smashed Peas and Carrots.

5. Next, using the longest stitch on your sewing machine, run a line of stitches down the top of each of the layers.


6. Pull one of the threads to gather the fabric so that it fits onto the underskirt. Distribute the ruffling evenly and pin to the bottom crease. Sew the tier to the skirt. Repeat for each layer. For the top layer, pin the fabric so the edges match.


7. Now it’s time to sew up the back seam of the skirt. I pinned each of my layers to the underskirt first to make sure everything was flat.


Then, with right sides together, I pinned both edges together to form the back seam (I took out the stabilizing pins so there weren’t too many) It’s okay if a little of the skirt part peeks out.


Just make sure the edges of the tiers line up.

8. Sew with a generous 5/8″ seam allowance. Trim the edge.


9. Next sew your elastic waist band together with a 1/2″ seam allowance.


9.Turn the skirt right side out and pin the elastic to the skirt – lining up the seams – so that the elastic edge is on top of the right side of the skirt. See below:


10. To pin the skirt to the elastic, fold the skirt and elastic in half and match up the folds.



11. Repeat the halfing and pinning until you’ve pinned in about 8 to 10 spots.


12. Sew the elastic to the skirt by stretching the band as you sew. My technique is to hold where there is a pin and stretch from the front and back as I sew until I reach a new pin.

IMG_0090See how I’m pulling? I couldn’t take a picture and pull from both sides, but you get the idea. Readjust and sew until you make it all the way around.

Ta dah! You’re done. Now go strut your stuff in your pretty new skirt!

IMG_0108Photo credit: Toby (my boyfriend <3)


4 thoughts on “The Grown Up Way to Wear a Tutu: A Tiered Skirt Sewing Tutorial

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