Creative articles about sewing

Tier Dress and Bolero Hoodie for a teenager

mia-3Hello seamstresses! This is a project for those of you who would like to try a very simple self draft project! You will need to have some experience of sewing to attempt this, but not a lot. Drafting my own patterns is something I have always done but I know that many people are nervous about approaching something so unstructured. So, I have put some detailed instructions together for you to help you along every step of the way.

Mia-1tier-dress-1Finding a posh wedding outfit that isn’t too girly for my tomboy daughter is quite a challenge. After a bit of scribbling in the sketchbook, I came up with this which I felt would suit her shape and her tree climbing abilities! Having got approval on the design, I then found this FAB geometric viscose. It has a lovely feel, it drapes really well and, best of all, doesn’t involve any pink! (It’s from Fabworks Mill Shop should you be tempted and I think it is still in stock at the time of writing this – May 16)

The dress is straight forward to make – no readymade pattern required. I have to admit that I didn’t even make my own paper pattern for this first part. Whoever you are making your dress for, you will need the child to hand so you can take a few measurements. And, if you are planning to make the bolero cardi as well, you’ll also need an existing hoodie that fits them so you can cut a rough pattern from it.



For the BODICE, cut a rectangle: WIDTH that is slightly (5cm / 2 inches) wider than the widest part of the chest or tummy and LENGTH from top of the shoulder to about crotch level. (It’s not critical – you can adjust the length later.) Fold the fabric in half lengthwise so you get a mirror image and cut in a neckline and sleeves – just draw around something that already fits them. Slope the shoulders down slightly.

Sew along the shoulder seams and check it will pull over her head. If it doesn’t – don’t panic – just cut the hole a bit bigger! Sew down the sides and check the arm holes fit ok. If they are too small, just a cut a little bigger. If they are a bit too big – again DON’T PANIC – resew your shoulder seams a bit further down and recut your neckline lower.


tier-dress-3You will also need 2 wide strips of fabric approx 23cm x 150cm to form the tiers. With a loose running stitch, gather each of your strips until they are the same length as the width of your bodice rectangle. (Here is a tutorial for a slightly more proper way to gather your fabric in case you’re having problems) With right sides together, sew the first gathered strip to the bottom of the bodice. This forms the lower tier. At this point you can alter your final length by cutting this tier shorter or longer.

Try the dress on the lucky child and mark where the waist sits. With right sides together, attach the second tier here (to the waist line). Sew up the open sides of your tiers.

tier-dress-2I then added ribbon to the waist just where the top tier joins the bodice. I also and ran some elastic around the inside of the dress by hand to gather it in a bit – but this isn’t necessary if you like a looser look.

The neck and sleeves I just finished with bias binding made from the remnants of the geometric fabric. There is a tutorial here on my own website about how to make bias binding. If you don’t already know, it is an invaluable little piece of knowledge that you will use throughout your dressmaking life.

I solved the “what to wear over it” issue with a slightly poshed-up version of a hoodie. Mia feels too old for cute cardigans and is much more at mia-4home in trainers and hoodies. So, I used sweatshirt fabric but cropped it shorter that a normal hoodie, more like a bolero.  The rounded corners and the silky lining to the hood matching the dress gave it a more stylish look than your usual hoodie.


Here’s the “How to”:


The fabric I used is standard sweatshirt material. For this stage I would make yourself a paper pattern before you start cutting the fabric. Greaseproof paper or wrapping paper are fine to use. Cut around the body of an existing hoodie that is a good fit – you need a back panel and a front panel. Then crop the bottom to make it much shorter – about waist level. I drew around a side plate to make the front curves.Screen-Shot-2015-05-15-at-13.58.19

Cut 2 pieces of EACH of the two front panels and just one back panel. Then, right sides together, sew the mirror images of the fronts together, turn back out the right way and press to give a really neat finish on the curves. You need this double layer on the front as it flaps open to form lapels as you can see on the picture. Attach the two fronts to the back panel and hem the back section at the bottom.

I also cut round the hood of the existing hoodie – you need 2 of a shape like this one in each fabric. Once in the sweatshirt fabric and again in the silky fabric. You put your 2 hoods right sides together and sew leaving the shoulder join edge open. Zigzag or overlock together along the open edge once theScreen-Shot-2015-05-15-at-13.58.31 right way out. Attach the hood to the main garment. If you look at how most hoodies are made you will see that this seam is covered over with a pretty contrasting or coordinating tape.


The sleeves were very simple. Again I followed the existing hoodie sleeves but cut them off above the elbow – no need for the ribbed cuff this way. Just hem in the usual way. Remember that this type of garment is a very relaxed shape and a perfect fit is not critical. The thick fabric is forgiving and easy to manage and the loose shape gives you plenty of room for manoeuvre.

meg7My daughter was thrilled with the dress in the end, and was particularly pleased with the casual style of the hoodie. I think she looks gorgeous too – but then, I’m biased (no pun intended!) In fact I ended up making another version for my other daughter – see left. The fabric is a brighter version of the same design and suits her sunny personality. They were both pleased with the matching but unmatching element I think.

Good luck with your own version!

Difficulty level: Intermediate
Time to Complete: Weekend
Used Material: elastic, fabric, paper
Used Products:
Reverse Pattern Foot #1
Reverse Pattern Foot #1

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