noelle o designs

creativity + sewing + upcycling inspiration

make a tiered skirt
design, fabric, projects, sewing, tutorials

skirt tutorial elastic waistband

An easy step-by-step skirt tutorial elastic waistband,  a tier skirt with three layers of fabric. Learn techniques in gathering with a basting stitch and installing an elastic waistband. This project is meant to be adaptable to any sized girl or woman.
make a tiered skirt how to, skirt tutorial elastic waistbandStep 1:  Choose three fabrics to work with (at least 1/2 a yard) will make any sized skirt. Arrange the fabrics by layer. For sizing, measure waist, hips and length. Based on total length, (in this case I wanted the skirt to be 22 inches long) I cut the top layer 10″ wide, 2nd layer 8 inches wide, and bottom layer 9 inches wide. Based on waist size, (in this case, a  36 inch waist) I cut the 10 inch wide top layer to be 39 inches long. A bit of wiggle room and space for the hips.  Add 6 inches on the width to the 2nd layer and 6 inches or more of width for the bottom layer. The layers should look like this when laid out next to each other:

make a tiered skirtStep 2: Because the widths of most fabrics (45″ to 60″) aren’t long enough accommodate the 2nd and 3rd layer to be a single piece, I cut the two longer bottom layers so they’ll have a seam on either side. The top layer is one piece and the seam will be in the center back.

serge the edgesStep 3: You will want to ‘stay’ or finish all of the edges of the three tiers. If you have access to a serger (above) serge all of the edges and each tier so it makes a loop. If you don’t have a serger, you can zip zag stitch around the unfinished edges.

all edges serged When all edges have been serged or zig zag stitched and the ends connected to make a loop of each layer it should look like the above picture.

making a dartStep 4: To narrow up the waist of a woman’s skirt, (no need to bother for little girls) add two darts in the back, 6 inches or so out from the center back seam. Make the darts about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long. This will take away some of the need for gathering the waist and will make the elastic waist fit better and look less bunchy.

match the lines and sewStep 5: With the right sides together, match up the dart lines and sew along your marked line.

darts and center back of skirtThe darts should look like this when finished, about 6 inches out on either side of the center back seam.

turn right side out and pressTurn the fabric right side out and press the darts flat with an iron.
baste top edges of tier 2 and 3Step 6: With the longest stitch length on your sewing machine you can set, ‘baste’ the top edges of tier 2 and 3. Begin and end in the center back of the layer. Leave the threads a few inches long so gathering will be easier, especially as you begin gathering.

gather the basted edgeStep 7: By pulling the thread on either side (but not both) of the basted stitch, gather the top of the layer, working around the looped layer to make the gathers even all the way around.

Step 8: Place the bottom of the top tier and the top of the 2nd tier layers, right sides together. Placing the center back seam of the top tier and the center back (and where you began your basting stitch) together and pin into place. Adjust gathers so the layer lengths match up and the gathers are distributed evenly all the way around the loop.
sew layers together, gathered edge on topStep 9: Beginning at the center back and where your basting begins, sew the two layers together. Put the gathered edge on top as you sew so you can keep an eye on the gathers as you sew over them and control the evenness.

turn right side out and pressTurn the seam right side out and press flat. Iron with the seams facing up on the inside so you can top stitch all the inside layers together in a future step.

repeat for the third tierStep 10:  To connect the 2nd layer the top of the third layer, repeat step 7- 9.

Step 11:  Top stitch around the outside of both layers (above).
measure for the elastic waist, skirt tutorial elastic waistbandStep 12: Measure the waist of the girl who will be wearing the skirt and cut the elastic 3 inches shorter than waist size.

Step 13: Make the casing for the elastic by ironing over the top tier of fabric the width of the elastic and an extra 1/8 of an inch. (In the picture above, I ironed over twice so the unfinished seam in buried. This is a good idea if you didn’t serge the edge. Otherwise, you can leave the serged edge exposed and only fold the waistband over once when making the casing for the elastic.)

sew a sleeve for elastic, skirt tutorial elastic waistbandStep 14: Beginning at the center back (mark the center back with ribbon, a label if you like) sew closely to the edge all the way around the waist but stopping about 3 inches from sealing the casing is completely closed.

use a safety pin to guide elastic, skirt tutorial elastic waistbandStep 15: Take your piece of elastic and using a large, easy to grab safety pin, guide the elastic through the gap you left in the casing until it makes it all the way around and back to the opening.
sew the ends of elastic together, skirt tutorial elastic waistbandStep 16: Making sure the elastic is not twisted inside the casing, place one end of the elastic on top of the other end, with about 1 inch of overlap and sew the ends of the elastic together with a repeated back and forth stitch.

sew closed the waistband opening, skirt tutorial elastic waistbandStep 17: Pull the sewn together elastic ends up into the casing and sew the gap closed.

iron the hem into place, double foldedStep 18: For the bottom hem, iron the hem into place (to be the skirt length you desire), double fold (pictured above) or single fold (if your edges are serged) into place and top stitch all the way around.

sew rick rack to a tier of the skirt Step 19: If desired, sew rick rack, lace or ribbon around layers of the skirt for detail and emphasis.

3 tiered skirt with gathering and rick rack

Well done!


  1. kalamitykelli

    March 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Wow! Those colors and patterns look so great together! You did a great job!

    1. NoelleOlpin

      March 12, 2013 at 7:58 am

      I can’t really take credit on this one, the colors and the ‘Sew Wow Sew Now’ fabric were picked by a customer. She did a great job!

  2. Totally Simple to Make Tiered Dresses and Skirts | Blackle Mag

    May 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    […] instructions on how to make a simple tiered dress happy together provides a guide, and noelle o designs has a tutorial and pattern for designing a tiered […]

  3. Angela

    May 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

    thank you! At last I learn something from your website. great job!

  4. DaniD

    June 8, 2013 at 12:36 am

    I knew my 9 year old daughter has a 22 in waist, but she was at school and the skirt had to be finished today. I followed the example in the instructions and added 3 inches to the top tier so it would have “wiggle room.” Bewarned, we don’t all have the same body!! Measure butt and thighs before you determine the size of the top tier! I had to start all over and our top tier had to be 28″ even though she has a tiny waist and has not yet grown womanly hips.
    Also note, I would guess from looking at the picture example that she has added more than 6 inches to the second tier and more than 6 inches to the bottom tier. Six inches is going to give you hardly any gathering at all. Just FYI 🙂 You might try adding 8-9 inches.
    Thank you for the instructions and pictures! It helped me so much today!!

    1. NoelleOlpin

      June 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

      Thanks so much for this very helpful comment!

      True- measure the gal before determining the width of the tiers.
      I’ve made the tiers so wide before the skirt looked like it was meant to have a hoop underneath, and too little fabric on the tiers is even worse.
      Yes, think about how gathered you want it and add inches accordingly.

      Thanks Dani!

  5. Incredible Costume Ideas for a Western-Themed Party | noelleodesign

    October 4, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    […] accessories, thrift and costume shops carry a range of options for you and your kids. Cowboy hats, 3 Tiered Skirts, chaps, neckerchiefs, bolo ties, leather belts and even boots are often available, with different […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.