The shirred dress has become a summer staple after appearing on fashion blogger Instagram accounts and then the high street. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen other styles that have had their ‘Insta-moment’ such as the off-the-shoulder dress but we think the shirred dress will be around to stay for summers to come. These dresses are so appealing because they are an easy and comfortable fit for different body shapes and bust sizes. Shirring comprises of several horizontal lines of elastic thread on the inside of the garment that gather the fabric together. Positioning shirring at the wrists can give a lovely billowing sleeve or at the waist and bust a custom silhouette. As with many trends we see that translate from the catwalk to the high street, you can now recreate this style for your handmade wardrobe. Here we have brought you our favourite indie sewing patterns which have a shirring element and some top tips on mastering this skill for yourself.
The Dayo Dress from Sewing Patterns by Masin, reviewed by Rachel at The Fold Line
The Dayo dress was my first summer make this year and it’s been a great addition to my handmade wardrobe. I found the instructions for this pattern really good, with detailed descriptions and digital illustrations. The design features that sold this pattern to me were the ‘neckline tucks’, which effectively act as mini bust darts and also the shirring at the waist and wrists. As I had a bit more fabric than I needed I added an extra tier to the bottom of the dress.
I did need to do a full bust adjustment, and I enjoyed the challenge of figuring this out using those ‘neckline tucks’. The end result was spot on and after I made a toile of the bodice (making my usual changes – including narrowing the shoulders and shortening the bodice) I jumped straight into making the dress. I would definitely recommend a drapey fabric for this dress, I don’t think it would work well in anything structured – a viscose or crepe would be perfect.
I decided to do French seams for this dress as I’m making it for a wedding next year and wanted to spend the extra time on getting a good finish. I’m really glad I did as it looks beautifully finished inside. If you haven’t tried shirring before I would definitely recommend practicing it on some scrap fabric, it look a couple of tries before I got the hang of it!
Notes: I made a size M and my body measurements are bust 39″ (needed to an FBA), waist 30″ and hips 39″.
Dayo features balloon sleeves, neckline tucks, a back split and shirring at the waist and around the cuffs. Timeless, Dayo can be worn casually or dressed up, depending on your fabric choice and accessories. Dayo will look pretty in any lightweight, woven, non-stretch fabric. Best suited are fabrics such as rayon/viscose, cotton poplin, voile, chiffon, crepe, satin, broderie anglaise.
Sizing: XS – XXL (approx. UK 8 – 20). Format: PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.
Top tips for shirring a handmade garment
- Always practice shirring on the fabric you are going to use for your project. The shirring process with gather lighter-weight fabric more. Much heavier fabrics such as wool or canvas won’t gather as the elastic will be too weak. It’s best to know how’s it’s going to turn out BEFORE shirring your top or dress.
- When setting up your sewing machine, change the stitch length to longer e.g. 3-4. A longer stitch length creates more shirring as more fabric is being gathered.
- We would recommend hand winding your bobbin with elastic thread. There is a debate about whether you should stretch the elastic slightly or not to get the right tension. Ultimately every machine is different, so take your time to test this out.
- I left a long tail of elastic thread before starting sewing (and also at the end) around the waist as I found I needed it to make sure I could fit into the dress after tying off the ends. It also means that your elastic is less likely to come undone. Using a walking foot will help with keeping the stitch length more consistent but if you don’t have one use your normal standard machine foot.
- Add shirring to the neckline, waist or wrists after you have sewn up the side seams. If you are shirring to just a small area within one pattern piece, this can be done before sewing the garment together.
- Don’t panic when you stitch your first line of shirring and you don’t think it’s had much effect, after you’ve added a couple more rows you will see the effect.
- You can hide your thread ends behind your seams with a couple of hand stitches for a tidy finish.
Indie shirring sewing patterns
Sofia is a wonderful mix of pretty and comfortable, featuring an elasticised, shirred bodice that allows for easy fit and wear. You will find full instructions on how to sew shirring. Choose from three garment styles along with several sleeve options, which can be mixed and matched to create different looks. The dress features a waist-length bodice and an A-line skirt with optional pockets and lining. Two top options are also included, allowing you to make a crop with a small ruffle hem, or a peplum top with a larger ruffle hem. Pair them with your favourite high waisted skirt or pants. Choose from four sleeve styles. Sleeves 1 and 2 are similar in style, featuring an elasticated puff shoulder and ruffled hem. Sleeve 1 is cap length, and Sleeve 2 is elbow length. Sleeve 3 is a bishop sleeve with an elasticated puff shoulder and rows of shirring at the wrist. Sleeve 4 is a bias-cut bell sleeve that is accompanied by a shoulder strap, designed to ensure coverage of bra straps.
Sizing: 0 – 18 (approx. UK 6 – 18) or 14 – 30 (approx. UK 16 – 32). Format: PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.
Asha is a sophisticated midi dress that will effortlessly elevate your wardrobe. It’s a regular fit with a slightly blouson bodice and flowy skirt which falls from the shirred waistline. Two bodices are included: one to use with the feminine, shirred cuff sleeve, and a sleeveless bodice. The curved hem gives this style a totally up to the moment feel.
Sizing: UK 4 – 16 or UK 18 – 30. Format: Paper.
This flowy wrap dress fastens securely with buttons. Front and back pleats give the dress a relaxed fit. View A includes flutter sleeves and a midi-length skirt. View B features 3/4-length sleeves with shirring detail at the sleeve hem and a below-the-knee skirt length. This pattern includes separate pieces for A/B, C, and D cup sizes to help you get the perfect fit.
Sizing: US 0 – 20 with A/B, C, and D cups (approx. UK 8 – 20). Format: Paper or PDF.
This sweet dress or top features a cut-out scoop neckline, pockets, and shirring in the back for an easy, comfortable fit. Choose from two lengths (dress or top), scoop or cut-out scoop neckline, and sleeveless or cap sleeves to create a number of different styles. No zippers or closures are needed as the back is shirred, making this a wonderful project for the confident beginner!
Sizing: XXS – XL (approx. UK 6/8 – 16/18) and Plus 1 – 5 (approx. UK 20/22 – 30/32) with A/B and C/D cups. Format: Paper.
Gloria is a close-fitting dress with a sweetheart neckline. The slim-fit shaping is achieved with front and back waist darts, both on the bodice and the skirt. The front also features bust darts that start at the side seam. Gloria has voluminous sleeves with gathering along the sleeve cap and at the bottom, just above the close-fitting long shirred cuffs. The shirring on the cuffs starts 2 cm away from the hemmed edge, thus forming a ruffle at the bottom of the sleeve. The ¾ sleeve length can be adjusted with the shirred cuff. The dress fastens with an invisible zip in the centre back seam. Gloria is above-knee, mini length.
Sizing: EU 34 – 46 (approx. UK 6 – 14/16). Format: PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.
The Florence Blouse is loose fitted with raglan sleeves. The shirred cuffs are deep hinting at a dramatic Victorian shape at the wrist. Definitely a blouse for all occasions! Make in a lightweight woven fabric such as viscose, crepe and cotton lawn.
Sizing: Approx. UK 6 – 24. Format: PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.
The dropped shoulder and sleeve set this otherwise simple round neck, loose fitting top apart. The shaped sleeve is finished with a shirred and tucked cuff which is unique and beautiful. Dress this top up or down – Mimi is the perfect desk to dinner style.
Sizing: UK 4 – 16 or UK 18 – 30. Format: Paper.
Camille is a cropped (waistline), loose fitting top. It features two functional ties at the centre front and has no other closures. The sleeves sit above the elbow and feature gathering on the sleeve head. The bottoms of the sleeves are shirred to create beautiful full volume. Make in a light to medium weight fabrics that drape well such as linen, cotton, linen/cotton blend, silk, tencel, rayon.
Sizing: UK 4 – 16 or UK 18 – 30. Format: PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.
Passion is a blouse with a Victorian-style high neck. Two finishing options are possible: a smocked collar and cuffs, or a collar stand with flounces. Choose short sleeves or long sleeves with the same finish as on the collar. This slightly fitted blouse has no bust darts for a contemporary look. The patch pockets on the chest provide a lovely contrast to the classical style.
Sizing: EU 34 – 48 / US 4 – 18 / UK 6 – 20. Format: Paper.
The Phoebe Shirred is a retro, but trendy, shirred top add-on for the Phoebe Pockets or Phoebe Flares to make a shirred jumpsuit. It can also be hacked onto other garments, such as to make a sundress, or made as an individual top. Make in linen, tencel, crepe, rayon, cotton or ramie.
Sizing: 6 – 20. Format: PDF or PDF + printed copy shop.