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Shirred or gathered bodice on wedding gown

sew_blessed | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I am making my daughter’s dress, and have had to combine patterns to get the style she wants.  I am on my third muslin; she would like a shirred or gathered bodice above a fitted empire waist.  I am working with silk satin and silk organza (I have yet to make my first cut-eek!)  I did sample shirring on half the bodice and one sleeve of the most recent muslin, and it was very labor-intensive: steaming segments stretched and pinned into tiny pleats on the ironing board.  What is the best way to get that soft look of tiny fabric folds from waist to shoulder, without parallel stitch lines?  I see it in the bridal dress shops, and photos, but am not sure how to achieve it (without hours of pinning.)  I would be grateful for any ideas – just 3 months to go!


  1. User avater
    sheri_sews_n_sews | | #1

    Tiny shirring

    I can help you.  In a bodice that will be shirred, in the silk fabric you are using:

    silk satin is a very resilient fabric: it doesn't crimp fold or shirr easily.  Sorry!

    If I had to do this, I would make a rectangle of fabric, about 2 1/2 times

    the finished bodice width, fronts and backs, and longer than the finished

    width. I would pleat fold the pleat/gathers according to marks with chalk

    top and bottom that are matching vertical.  Then, pleat the fabric and

    pin into a cardboard cutting board top and bottom of every pleat. STraight in.

    Then, when you have the long piece all pleated, then, press it and if you

    want pleats, use a organza silk press cloth, and tons of steam and

    pressure, or wet the cloth gently to provide steam. The iron doesn't have

    to be hot, remember it is a fiber like your hair. If you want soft fold, then

    just basically hold a steam iron above the pleats and steam them. You

    then will leave this pleated steam fabric for a day. It will shrink, and

    assume the folds during the curing process. After this then, you can

    baste the folds closed with a silk thread from the back just the

    under pleats top and bottom, and even a little bit down past the

    seam lines about 1/4 inch to help maintain the shape of the bodice.

    Remember to make a muslin first in the soft fit as the pleats will

    pop open if the bodice is too tight. Don't make the dress hang

    from the bodice, it must be self supporting by the waist and above.


    1. sew_blessed | | #2

      Tiny shirring

      Thank you so much, this really helps.  I am shirring silk organza over the silk satin, so it should hold the folds better than the heavy satin would.  On the muslin I tried to cut and spread the pattern pieces first to get an approximation of the shape first, and then gather top an bottom-it worked but what a nightmare of pinning! 

      The last comment helps, too.  On the first muslin, she complained that it was too loose in the waist; turns out her complaint was the weight of the fabric from her shoulders, and she thought fitting the waist snugly would solve that.  Now I can convince her of the need for the proper underpinnings.



    2. K-az | | #5

      Shirring or gathering bodice

      ok  let me start by saying this is gonna sound a lilttle stupid may be, i've looking tutorial or books on how to make shirred bodice for ages, i know how to make the normal  simple ones useing elastis threads, but i'm interested in how to make it on a fitted  gown bodice, and i'm at loss there, the pictures i saw on the internet seems to be all well fitted, no darts, no seams on the front, well atleast nothing that shows anyway, sometimes it looks as if theres a corset underneath, and the fabric is draped on top it it, does it makes sense..? how do i make one of those?  and how do i make the linings and how to go about the cuttings, measurements, and how do i make it clinging to the body and not hanging or bulky... etc etc tutorial videos would be so helpful if anyone has it. i'm so dying to know how to make it..plus my sister is getting married soon and she wants shirred ot gathered bodice...please help.

      Thank you


  2. Teaf5 | | #3

    I, too, am making my daughter's gown of silk, with ruching in the midriff and bodice.  I have had good success using fusible webbing and a DRY iron, no steam around the silk!!  I took out the organza interlining, as it made the pleats way too puffy.  I made the base bodice out of the same fashion fabric, interlined with batiste and will line it with batiste.  Of course, I did many samples of each step:

    Then, I made a copy of the bodice pattern piece, slashed it every inch or so in the direction I want the final pleats to lie and traced a new pattern for the ruched layer.  It is about 1.5 times the width of the finished bodice, but it could be twice as wide, if you want it very full.  I used a ruffler foot on my sewing machine to pleat the bottom edge, and then hand pleated and tacked the top edge, as I am going for irregular rather than linear pleats.

    I cut a piece of un-backed fusible webbing the same size as each base bodice piece, then lay the ruched piece over top, machine basting the neckline edge and lower edge of all layers together.  Then, I pinned it to the ironing board and used my fingers to shape the pleating, using pins to secure it at the top edge.  

    When it looked the way I like, I gently pressed the nose of the iron into the recesses where the pleated fabric touched the base fabric.  Since it's just tacked lightly, it's possible to tug it out if necessary.  At this point, I will pin and baste the lining over the ruching and stitch it.  Just 5 weeks to go till the wedding, and I'm also working full-time--yikes!!  Good luck to you!

    1. KharminJ | | #4

      What a project!

      Good Stitching to you! (Both of you)

      and Bright Blessings, whenever you need 'em ~


    2. KharminJ | | #18

      Hi, Teaf!

      Hey - just saw you just posted in another thread - How's things going??? It's so good to see a familiar name here ~

      I hope your daughter's wedding (and the dress!) worked out the way you wanted them to? 

      Bright Blessings to you and yours!  Kharmin

  3. lou19 | | #6

    You can learn so much from a vogue pattern

    My advise is to buy several patterns on ebay similiar to what you like and learn how it's done.

    As a dressmaker designer for over 20 years I still buy patterns,  and study them to learn new pattern making and construction ideas!

  4. Julie18 | | #7


    I came here for help with this exact problem.  I am making my own gown-wedding is 5/5/12-  I had almost finished my muslin (of a gorgeous ballgown with a HUGE skirt, when I realized the fabric I ordered was NOT what I ordered, and now have to start all over.  I tried on a gown in a bridal shop last year, MoriLee 2511-and my fiance is in LOVE with this gown.  You can see him melt whenever he sees a picture of it.  So, now, since I have to start all over, I may as well make the gown o' his dreams.  I have figured out the bodice/boning/fit and the corset closure, but I am clueless on this slightly pleated (ruched) asymetrical bodice and the elaborate beading encrusted at the top.  Any help would be appreciated.  I dont really see how this gown could be constructed by a home sewer as one piece, but I may be wrong.  My plan was to build the bodice, then attach the skirt to the underside, with wide waist stays, then drape the front of the bodice with bias cut fabric lightly pleated, sew up the sides and the back, and then add some sort of lace or beaded applique to the bustline.  Does this sound like the right way to proceed????  I had planned to use crepe back satin, but that may not be the correct type of fabric for this gown.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much for all the wonderful posts, they have been very helpful so far


    1. KharminJ | | #9

      you have a picture?

      Hi Julie ~ 

      That sounds like a beautiful dress ... could you attach a scanned or linked picture here, so we can see where your problem is? It's hard to picture it from just words!

      (just copy the address of the photo into your reply for a link; or if you have the photo on your computer or a photo storage site, include it at the bottom of the reply screen, in the "attach files to this comment" box....)

      Bright Blessings!  Kharmin

      1. Julie18 | | #15


        Am I just a glutton for punishment or what????  Is saving myself hundreds of dollars on that darn dress worth the agony?!  I came back to read all the posts for inspiration and encouragement.  Right now I have torn up muslin gowns  and pattern pieces  (along with little drops of blood and dried tears)  all over my sewing room.  The days are ticking away and I'm no closer to a gown.  I have purchased 3 or 4 patterns and just can't seem to make it work. 

        Thanks to all of you for all of your ideas and different techniques.  When I get the courage to pick up this project again, I will try to pleat my satin before cutting the pattern pieces (which it looks like I'll be drafting myself-as the Vogue pattern I just bought looks utterly retarded-I just cut and pinned that hot mess last night.---After two hours of careful ironing, pinning, and cutting in my hot sewing room, I just slammed the door and headed for  the porch with a margarita without a backwards glance. 

        I know you've all been here before.  Having an important project that just seemed to fight you every step of the way.  I will win, and will keep reading all of the related posts to make sure I do.  Thanks to all for your expertise.  (I can do this,  291 days until the wedding)

        1. KharminJ | | #16

          Happy Thursday ~

          Julie ~ I hope the break-an-a-margarita helped yesterday!

          It's been miserably hot here, too... today's less humid, at least... :)

          Bright Blessings ~ Kharmin

          1. KharminJ | | #17

            Hey, Julie ~

            I just tried the Search box at the very top of the page - for "shirred bodice", and came up with several antique threads ... this one has a couple of photos and some pretty good *sounding* instructions... might be some inspiration here, too:

            http://forums.threadsmagazine.com/gatherings/patterns/top-shirred-front - photos are in a response near the bottom

            ~  Newark Dressmaker Supply is still in business (hooray), but are closed already for the weekend tonight - this product http://www.newarkdress.com/e52.html  *might* be of help (no photo, though) - stitch it into the side seam allowances, then gather the elastic and restitch. Found it in a discussion of smocking - which is not what you're looking for at all...

            ~  But writing that^^^ reminds me of a drapery-making notion (you may be able to find it at a large JoAnn's, if you don't have a custom drapery shop nearby)  - I think it's called "gathering tape" or similar.  There are several rows of string run through a tape, to sew into the top of the drapes. Then ALL of the strings get pulled up together (just like the 'gathering threads' on a skirt waist). Maybe using a narrow version of that in the side seam allowances would save some of the pinning? 

            Good Saturday to you!  K

          2. KharminJ | | #19

            Julie ~ how's the dress coming? ;)

            Just checking in  - wondering how your 'Julie vs. the Wedding Dress' adventure is coming along?

            Seems like we've been having better sewing (anything inside!) weather lately, anyway...

            Bright Autumn Blessings ~ Kharmin

  5. djackman | | #8

    have you tried a pleating board, they used one on project runway and i want so much to find one and give it a try. I have the simplicity costume pattern 2172 and the skirt looks like it has about a millon pleats around the bottom. But if you had one it might make the shearing easier. Maybe.. i havn't found one yet.

  6. KharminJ | | #10

    Oh that's GORGEOUS!

    Ooooh Yum-Yummy -- *I'm* drooling here - all over the keyboard!!!  LOL ~ http://www.morilee.com/bridals/bridal/2511

    - and letting the ol' thinker think about possible approaches ...

    meanwhile, will you really be able to re-use parts of the 1st muslin, or would it be easier, ultimately, to start from scratch for this one? (Just thinking to conserve energy and aggravation for ya... )

    Happy Saturday!  K

    1. Julie18 | | #12

      Already ripped the bodice apart and rebuilt it.  I used a piece of my giant skirt cut on the bias for the ruched middle-I actually gathered it and sewed it to the front only.  Then  I will do two smaller pieces for the back.  My dear fiance won't know the difference between ruching and gathering anyway.  I have a beautiful lace table cloth that was actually a wedding gift from my grandparents to my mom and dad for their wedding, which is sadly a victim of moth holes and gravy stains--but, there are beautiful motifs in it which will fit perfectly over that bodice.  Thanks for all the suggestions,  I will keep you posted.  :-)  I will post pics of the progress if I can get it to work.  LOVE this board!!! What a bunch of helpful and creative people I have found here!!!!

      1. Julie18 | | #13

        I'm a dork

        I meant to say he won't know the difference between ruching and pleating.  What i've done so far will probably work fine.   will just make some pattern pieces out of tissue for the outside of the dress for the gathered overly to elongate the bodice to hip level.  I'm starting with McCalls 5321 or the top and Vogue Retro 8729 for the skirt by the way. 

        I posted a pic of the almost complete muslin---Waaaaa!!!! and the newer version I did in my secret lab this morning.  Disregard the broken window, LOL  I don't live in a crack house.  My son threw a dart at that nice new window--grrrrr- and I still haven't gotten a replacement for it. 

      2. KharminJ | | #14

        the pics won't open ...

        Hoping that by Replying to the previous post, you can still "edit" your I'm a Dork one. :)

  7. KharminJ | | #11


    From here, it looks like the only part that's really asymmetrical is the beading and the grabbed-up side of the skirt? If so, the beading could be an overlay, constructed and decorated separately (and later :) )

    Also worth considering... making -and wearing- the bodice and skirt as two separate pieces. Might simplfy design, construction, dressing and undressing! 

    (I know this ^ all isn't directly addressing the 'ruching' - just trying to break the whole thing into more-bite-size pieces - to make it easier to approach individual parts and challenges...)

  8. jonathan2340 | | #20

    Wedding gown always should be in the white color. You will definitely look good and unique in this kind of gown. If you are a wedding girl then no doubt you should wear white color gown. If you also wear casual cloths as well as professional cloths then you just need to wear leather outfits such as leather jackets, leather blazers, leather pants, women leather skirts etc. Buy all kind of leather outfits today to get latest trendy look and look stylist and beautiful in the term of fashion.

  9. Elizabeth822 | | #21


    my sister's wedding dresses was bought online from dressfirst.com.It's not bad and the good service.

    premium quality.

    you can have a try.it is the site


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