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Help with Poufy Skirt Layers

emisgran | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I’m making a girl’s size 6 dress from a pattern I bought in 1983.  It’s a Simplicity Cinderella pattern.  The skirt has 5 layers: 4 polyester organza and a lining of polyester satin.  I’m struggling to baste the layers together partly because the organza is so slippery.  The bodice has a basque waist, so the skirt pieces have a point in the front.  The circumference of the skirt is wide before gathering.  I used 12+ yards of ribbon and lace trim around the hems.  It’ll be just a cloud of a dress if I ever get skirt attached to bodice!

Any advice on how to do this accurately would be so helpful.


  1. ShannonG4d | | #1

    Have you tried using a fusible web to hold the layers together?  Something like Steam a Seam......but use a press cloth, as it might seep through the sheer fabric.  You could put it just inside the seam allowance area and press the layers together, fusing them, which would hold them in place.  It would also give a bit of stability to the seam allowance area, which would make it easier to sew to the bodice. And.....it would help with the fraying problem!



  2. emisgran | | #2

    That's a great idea!  And if I keep it inside the seam allowance, I won't lose the organza's wonderful gathering quality. 

    I've never used the basting tapes, either.  Would those work also?  I've always enjoyed handwork, so I haven't used some of those labor saving products. 

  3. Crafty_Manx | | #3

    When I sew on slippery (non-dry-cleanable) fabrics, I buy liquid starch in the bottle (not the canned spray stuff).  I give the fabric a soak in a bucket of starch and water (the starch amount depends on your fabric; you can always give it a second bath if it didn't starch enough the first time).  Then I pop it right in the dryer (don't go crazy on the heat if it's a delicate fabric).  If all is done right it comes out stiff as a board and no longer slips and slides all over the place.  Then I cut my pattern, sew everything together, and give the finished piece a run through the washing machine (or a hand-wash in the sink!) to get the starch out and the fabric becomes its beautiful, flowy self once again.

    If you're unsure of staining (scorching can occur from too hot of an iron), try it on a scrap of fabric first.


  4. Dove | | #4

    When I was doing custom weddings I had several like that.  Be careful in using any iron-on or starch--it will make the sheer fabrics hard to gather.

    Since the underskirt is a heavier fabric it probably isn't as wide as the sheer; you probably will have to gather it separately.  Run gathering threads (use at least 2 rows of stitching, parallel) through all layers of sheer together like a single fabric.  Gather sheers and underskirt to fit the waistline, then pin separately to bodice.  Stitch through all layers at once.

    When you reach the point at the front of the bodice, stitch to point and stop--don't try to pivot at the point--I don't care what the pattern says!  Skip a small space and continue on around, then go back and stitch to the point from the other direction.

    After the waistline it completed, go back and separate all the layers of sheer at the gathers to get that really puffy look .

    Have fun!

    1. rjf | | #5

      The costume designer I worked for had a trick for the point thingy.  She lined the point separately and put in a piece of boning.  The lining went just to the waist line so that when you sewed on the skirt, it was sewed to the lining and the rest of the waistline of the bodice.  I did that on a wedding dress and the point  lies flat and the skirt hangs nicely.                    rjf

      1. sanderson | | #6

        You can't believe what a gift this discussion is.  I volunteered to make a prom dress for a girl who works at the restaurant where I work.  She wants a cinderella poufy thing and I've been drawing and designing as we go along.  Well, zero hour is here and these details about the skirt are just in the perfect slick nick of time.  Today I made the whole boned bodice thingy;  DH bought 16 yds of horsehair braid to hem the skirt and tomorrow, after having made 3 try-on muslins to get the basque halter top right, it all goes together.  I think, if it all works, I'm going to go smoke a cigar and thank my lucky stars I'm the mother of 3 boys.

        1. Jean | | #7

          You'd better go hide behind the barn with that cigar. LOL

        2. emisgran | | #8

          I got back to the dress project last night, and followed the advice for gathering the 4 organza layers together, and the satin separately.  It's going well so far.  I'm hand gathering with extra fine thread, because the machine stitching leaves holes in the organza when I remove it.  I'm using 2 rows of gathering stitches, since this skirt is relatively small.  My daughter wants a similar skirt for her wedding gown (layers of sheer), so I imagine more rows would make sense on the big skirt.


          Hopefully, I'll gather and attach tonight. 


          How did you get your skirt layers assembled?  Sometimes there's just no way but to spend the time.


          You might not be off the hook because you have boys.  My mother-in-law made my wedding gown.

          1. sanderson | | #9

            I gathered each layer (taffeta lining, satin underskirt and fluffy netting) separately and zigzagged each to the same 1"gros grain ribbon cut to her waist size.  I did the gathering with upholstery thread in the bobbin...lightened up the top tension a bit.  The ribbon got sewn to the boned corselet along the line I'd drawn on making her waist. There is a hook and eye on the ribbon ends so when she puts it on she hooks that first and then does up the zipper. 

          2. rjf | | #10

            After your description, it's easy to see why they call it clothing construction.  It must be a source of great satisfaction when you can pull out a technique to make things work better and look better.       rjf 

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