Use a T-Shirt as a Template for This Cute Gathered Tier Dress

7 Materials
3 Hours

I’ve been loving all those cute gathered tee dresses that are totally in style right now. I wanted to make my own and customize it to fit just right for me. This project allows you to customize everything, from the fit to the length and everything in between. I’ll show you just how easy it is to create a dress from basically nothing! Check out my step-by-step tutorial below to get started now!

Gathered Tier Dress

Tools and Materials:

Loose-fitting t-shirt (to trace for a pattern)



Measuring tape

Fabric scissors

Fabric chalk

Sewing machine

Use a loose fitting t-shirt
Create a Pattern for the Top of the Dress

I lay the t-shirt on top of my fabric and folded the bottom bit up a bit. This top part of the dress won’t be the full length of the t-shirt, so make sure to make the pattern accordingly. 

Fold the sleeves

I also folded the sleeves under themselves, as they will be cut out as a separate piece later. When tracing the shirt, I added an extra inch and a half seam allowance, as I wanted the dress to fit a little more loosely than the shirt itself.

Cut out the pattern

I traced the shirt with fabric chalk and then cut out my pattern piece.

Cut out the back of the dress

To create the template for the back pieces of the dress, I folded the top piece I had just cut out in half and traced it, adding an extra one-inch seam allowance along the part that would be in the center. By creating the back of the dress in two pieces rather than one, it will be easier for me to get in and out of the dress.

DIY Pattern Making

I cut out my pattern piece and used it to trace the second piece for the back of the dress. This time I didn’t need to add an extra seam allowance, as I already had it in the first piece. When tracing this piece it’s important to make sure that the right sides are facing each other.

Create the Collar
Create the Collar

Using a tape measure, loosely measure your neck. For me, this was 18 inches. I also wanted to add a tie at the back, which would be 20 inches. I wanted the height to be one inch and it would be folded over, so I needed it to be two inches wide. Finally, I needed to add a seam allowance for the collar, which would be one inch. In the end, I cut out a piece that was 38 inches long and 3 inches wide.

Sew the Top Together
Sew the Top Together

I lay the front panel in front of me with the good side facing up. Then I pinned one of the back panels in place with the right sides facing each other. I sewed a straight stitch along the side and shoulder seam. 

Add the other back panel

Then I repeated the process with the other back panel.

Close the back seam

Next, I closed up the back seam. I folded the shirt so that I could pin the two pieces of the back of the dress together with the right sides facing each other. Then I pinned along the edge and sewed up the back, stopping about four inches from the top.

Add a double-fold

Then I did a double-fold along the last four inches of the top of the back pieces and hemmed them.

Add a Collar
Add a Collar

I folded the 38x3” piece of fabric I had cut out earlier along the long end. Then I sewed it as close to the edge as possible, leaving the two smaller edges open.

Turn it inside out

Then I attached a safety pin to one end and pushed it through the inside of the fabric, turning it inside out. 

Sew the edges

I folded the edge of the short ends inwards and sewed them down.

Attach the Collar to the Dress
Attach the Collar to the Dress

I turned the top of the dress so that the right side was facing out. Then I folded the collar piece in half to find the center. I aligned the bottom edge of the center of the collar, the part where the seam was, with the center front of the top and pinned it in place. 

Sew the collar in place

Then I continued pinning the collar down along the neckline of the dress until I got to the end of the neckline. Remember that you will have extra collar material, as it will be used for a tie as well. I sewed along the edge and the collar was done! Before you move on to the next part, try it on to make sure that you’re happy with how it fits. I ended up making a few adjustments at this point to make it fit how I wanted it to.

Prepare the Gathered Tiers
Prepare the Gathered Tiers

This part will be a little different for everyone depending on your body type and the length you want your dress to be. I put on the top and then, standing as straight as possible, used a tape measure to measure down to the length I wanted my dress to be. I needed to add 18 inches to my dress. I cut this in half, to 9 inches, as I wanted to add two tiers. I also needed to account for my seam allowance, so I added 2 inches to each tier. This meant that the height of each tier would be 11 inches. 

Determine the size of the tiers

The width of the tiers also depends on your personal preference. If you don’t want a lot of gathering, measure the bottom of the top and multiply it by 1.25 to get the width you’ll need for the first tier. If you want it to be very gathered, multiply it by 2 instead. I decided to go with multiplying it by 1.5. The bottom width of my top was 23 inches, so multiplied by 1.5 it was 34.5 inches. I also added two inches for a seam allowance, bringing me to 36.5 inches.

Cut out the tiers

Using a measuring tape and fabric chalk I sketched out my 36.5x11” rectangle and cut out two identical pieces. 

Add a second tier

For the second tier, I knew that the height would be 11 inches, like the first, but since I wanted a gathered effect at the top, I needed to multiply the width of the first tier by 1.5, bringing me to 54 inches. I cut out two pieces of 54x11” fabric.

Sew the tiers together

Next, I sewed each tier together on the short ends, with the right sides facing each other, basically creating two tubes. 

Add a straight stitch

I also added a straight stitch along the top end of the tube. This will basically act as a basting stitch, allowing you to gather the fabric to match the tier above it. Make sure not to backstitch at any point, as this will prevent you from being able to gather it.

Gather the fabric

I grabbed ahold of one of the threads and started to gently pull it, gathering the fabric as I went. Make sure not to pull so hard that the thread snaps. If this happens you have to remove the thread and stitch it again.

How to Make a Tiered Dress

I continued gathering the top of the tier until its width matched the bottom of the top I had created. 

Step: Connect the Tiers to the Dress

Once I had gathered the first tier to the right circumference, I flipped it inside out and pinned it to the bottom of the top, with the right sides facing each other. 

Sew the tier in place

Then I sewed it in place. Make sure to sew below the stitch that you used to gather the fabric so that it will hide in the seam and not be visible from the outside of the garment.


I repeated the process with the second tier. As you can see, I shortened the second tier a bit to make sure that I had enough fabric for my sleeves. You can play around with the length of your dress until you’re happy with it.

Add Sleeves
Add Sleeves

I started by folding over my fabric with the right side facing me. I wanted my sleeves to be a bit on the longer side, so I folded accordingly.

Trace the armhole

Then I lay the dress on top and traced the armhole onto the fabric with chalk.

Extend for a seam allowance

Once I reached the bottom of the armhole I extended it out about an inch and a half to account for the seam allowance when joining the sleeves. 

How to Make a Sleeve

Then I drew a straight line to the edge of the fabric, parallel to the top fold of the fabric.


Next, I cut out the fabric.


I folded the sleeve in half and lay it on the dress, with the right sides facing each other. I pinned the folded edge of the curve of the sleeve to the shoulder of the dress. I’ve found that the easiest way to pin the round sleeve into the round armhole is to start this way and pin as you go.

Pin the sleeve

I pinned around the entire sleeve. 

How to Create Sleeves

If you want to, you can turn the sleeve right side out at the point to check that it’s sitting properly on the dress. 

Sew the sleeve on

I sewed the sleeve in place.

Seam the edge

Now to deal with the seams of the sleeve. I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is to fold the sleeve so that the right side is facing the dress and to pull the straight edges of the fabric to meet. 

Pin the edge

I found where the sleeve was stitched to the armhole and sewed straight down the sleeve from there. Make sure not to accidentally sew the rest of the dress in the process. 

DIY Sleeves

This is how it should look at this point. I repeated the process on the other sleeve and now all I had left to do was add some finishing touches.

Add Finishing Touches
Add Finishing Touches

It’s up to you how you finish the sleeves and the bottom of the dress. You can add a gathered stitch to the edge of the sleeves if you like. Whatever you do decide to do, make sure to zig-zag stitch or overlock the edges of the fabric to stop them from fraying. I chose to hem the bottom of the sleeves and the bottom of the dress. 

DIY Gathered Tier Dress

I just love how this dress turned out. It’s so much fun and it just makes you want to twirl all day! How would you customize your own DIY gathered tee dress? Let me know in the comments below!

Suggested materials:
  • Loose-fitting t-shirt
  • Fabric
  • Pins
See all materials

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