Tiered Skirt Math

Tiered skirt w/elastic waist is all just math.  With a waistband and a zipper and button you… do the math and then do the waistband/zipper/button, it’s not a lot different.  I get mad compliments from my tiered skirts, and they embarrass me, because easy-to-make doesn’t even cover it.


First tier:  Enough to go ’round your waist and tummy with some spare for sitting and whatnot.  Consideration:  How much gathering (aka bulk) you’re going to have at the waist from the gathers.  This has to do with the fabric you’ve chosen and how much difference you have from the figure-flattery point and your waist.  I find that the extra 12″ or so gathers up just fine on an elastic skirt/light fabric, but I would do a waistband/shaped top tier for bulky fabrics.

Basic figure flattery?  End the tier just above where you’re widest, so it can give you a better illusion of waistedness.  For me, since my bulk is in my belly, that’s a fairly short first tier*, I keep it at 4″.   Add an inch for your seam allowance top and bottom, and a couple of inches to wrap ’round the elastic for a waistband.  (For me, this becomes a 7″ tier).  I like the math easy, and so I just cut a 7″ tier, then cut it in half (side seams are better than one seam IMO).

The rest of the way is determined by how long you want the skirt, and how many inches from your figure flattery point to your hem length you’re going to want.  Add an inch per tier for seams (top and bottom, 1/2″ each).  I don’t like to have the tiers the same width, I think it’s better to mix it up, and to have the bottom tier the longest (from more or less my knee height) but it’s TOTALLY up to you.  Where do you want your lines?  Put ’em there.  I like a very long skirt, it makes a nice triangle and looks dressier.

Wait for the complexity, ladies…

Second tier:  I cut 2 strips of whatever fabric width (keep it simple!) at 10″

Third tier:  I cut 3 strips  at 9″

Fourth tier:  I cut 4 strips at 16″

Sewing directions:  Start from the bottom tier.  Sew your strips together, finish the insides.  Hem the bottom tier after you sew it, before you gather.  (If lining with tiers, be sure to hem the lining tier shorter than the top tier).

Once all tiers are sewn but not attached to one another, gather and sew together.  Sew the 4th to the 3rd, the 3rd to the 2nd, the 2nd to the first.  This takes a long time and is annoying, but complex it is not.  “Am I ever going to be done…”

Fold the first tier over and create a tube to stick your elastic in, leaving a bit open to stuff the elastic in as usual.

Cut a *good, tight* elastic waist for yourself – it has to hold up a lot of skirt, don’t even think about using soft elastic here.  Stuff it in, sew it up, try it on and make sure it’s tight enough.  When properly done, sew up the open bit.

There, you have a tiered skirt.    No fitting other than “is it falling off my waist” and what measurements you did ’round your widest bit in the beginning.

I’m using cotton gauze, which suits tiered skirts well because it shrinks up and woggles about and is generally imprecise.  It’s also cheap and very lightweight and thin.  This particular batch shrank more than any has *ever* shrunk up, which was a bit scary.   It was originally 55″ wide, ended shrinking to 44″ (of course it will stretch, and stretch a lot).  That was expected, nature of the beast, but it shrank vertically quite a lot, which I wasn’t expecting.

Since I had to go back for more fabric, my first idea of making a knee-length lining changed to a full lining.  Creates more volume, is more modest and prettier.  Heavier though, and of course more expensive, because more fabric = more money.  It all works out in the end, I’ll wear this to bits.  Cotton gauze in SoCal is nearly a 12mo fabric.

Well, off to sew a lot of long straight seams!  😀


*First flattery principle:  NEVER let anything cup over bulges.  Skim, don’t cup.


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