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Women’s Shirred Maxi Dress Tutorial

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How to shirr your own fabric to make a shirred maxi dress:

shirred maxi dress tutorial

(Looking for more free patterns? Be sure to check out my free patterns and tutorials page here.)

We have a vacation coming up in a few weeks, so I want to get a few new t-shirts and maxi dresses done to take on our trip. So far, I have finished this simple shirred maxi dress.  

It is a super simple project and I and wanted to share the tutorial with you.  

Recommended Fabric:

I personally prefer wearing and sewing with knits, so these directions are for knit fabric, but you could easily use Voile, a Rayon blend, or quilting cotton. For best results, the flowy-er the better.  My fabric was some sort of polyester spandex blend. Silky feeling, stretchy and flowy.  


how to shirr fabric for a maxi dress

Materials needed to make a shirred dress

  • 2 yards of  58 to 60-inch wide fabric.
  • Elastic thread
  • 1/4 inch wide regular elastic
  • Clear elastic (for gathering)
  • ruler, tape measure, ballpoint needle, and other basic sewing supplies

(New to working with knits?  Check out my knit sewing tips in this tutorial.)

Step 1: Get measurements and cut fabric:

Measurement A:  For the length of the bodice, measure from your armpit to where you want the shirring to end.  Add 3.25 inches to this measurement.

Measurement B:  For the width of the bodice: measure across the fullest part of your bust.  Add 10.5/12.5/14.5 (for small/med/large) inches to this measurement.

Measurement C:  For the dress length, measure from where the shirring will end to where you want the dress to end.  Add 1.75 inches to this measurement.

Cut fabric:

Cut the bodice to measurement A by measurement B.  (If you are using a 44 inch wide fabric, you may need to cut 2 bodice pieces and sew them together.)

Cut the skirt:  48 inches at the top and use a ruler to make a gradual A – line skirt, measuring 58 to 60 at the bottom.  (If you are using a 44 inch wide fabric, you will need to cut 2 skirts pieces and sew them together.)


Step 2:  Sewing and shirring the bodice

Put the 2 short edges of the bodice, right sides together and sew to create a tube.

To create the casing on the top of the bodice, fold the top edge over 3/4 an inch and press.  Sew along the edge about 1/2 inch down.  Leave a 1.5 inch opening for the elastic. (If using cotton, you will need to fold the fabric over 1/4 inch first and press for a finished edge.) 

Adding a small elastic casing ensures the top will stay in place.

Using elastic thread, start shirring the bodice.  Your shirring lines should be about 1/2 inch apart.  

Keep shirring around and around until you are about 2 inches from the bottom.  (For a more in-depth shirring tutorial, check out my post, Simple shirred sundress.)

Step 3:  Gathering and attaching the skirt.

Because the skirt needs to stretch over our hips or shoulders, we will gather the skirt with elastic.  (If you use the traditional method of gathering, the waist wouldn’t stretch and the stitches would pop.)

Use the bottom of the bodice as a guide for how long to cut the elastic.  (The elastic should be the width of the bodice.)

Sew the 2 ends of the elastic together with a tight zig-zag stitch.  

Use a pen to mark the elastic in 4 equal parts.  Do the same for the top of the skirt.  

Line up the pins and sew the elastic to the skirt, (about 1/2 inch down from the top edge) stretching the elastic from pin to pin.  

If you need more help with this method, you can see more photos and better instructions on my ruffled sundress tutorial,

Gathers so nicely…

Line up the bottom of the bodice with the top of the skirt, right sides together.  

Make sure to line up the gathered elastic in between the last two rows of shirring.  Use a longer than normal stitch length, and sew the two pieces together, stretching the elastic a bit as you sew.

Trim any excess fabric.

Finish the seam and press the seam edge facing up.

Step 4:  Adding elastic and hemming

Use a safety pin and thread the elastic through the casing.  Try on the dress and adjust the fit of the elastic.  Trim excess elastic, sew together with a tight zig-zag and close the casing.

Hem the bottom of the dress if desired.  (You should have about an extra half-inch to work with, so if you choose not to hem, you might need to trim the length.)

You are done!

I love this dress for date night, but I’m torn!  I can’t decide which sweater I prefer.  The black, white or denim.  Which look do you like better?

Let me know if you make a dress, I would love to see your result!  

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