Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns

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Reynolds Gathered Waist Dress Hack

Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns

When I was dreaming up pattern hacks for our new Reynolds Top and Dress this was the first design I sketched. How can I not add gathered tiers to this wide-strap tank design?

Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns

This gathered waist dress hack is very simple to achieve and it can be easily customized for your preferences. It also makes an excellent maternity dress! I chose to cut my pattern at the waist and add two tiers, but you can cut the pattern literally anywhere and add as many or as few tiers as you want! See some of the options we have illustrated below.

Reynolds Gathered Dress Hack Tutorial Line Drawings

You will need additional fabric to make this hack and it all depends on how many tiers you want to have on your dress. I recommend laying out the pattern pieces, calculating how many tiers you want and how much fabric they will require, and then purchasing accordingly. 

Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns

How to add gathered tiers to a pattern

Decide where you want to cut your pattern to add your tiers. I cut mine around the top lengthen/shorten line on Reynolds. You want to mimic the curve of the top or dress hem when you trim the pattern rather than cutting straight across. I just eyeballed this and trimmed it a bit at the side seams later on. 

Line illustration of where I cut the bodice for my hack, with suggestions for other placements.
Close up of Reynolds Bodice

Sew the top using the pattern instructions, skipping the hem. 

Sew your Reynolds as directed except for the hem.

Measure the width of your top hem and multiply that by 1.33. This is the width you want to cut your first gathered rectangle. You can multiply it by 2 for even more volume, but I find that making each tier ⅓ larger than the previous one is a nice and manageable amount of gathers. 

To get the size of your gathered skirt panels, measure the bottom of your Reynolds Top front and back.
Take that measurement and times it by 1.33. This is the width of your rectangle. I made my first tier 15 inches tall. You can adjust your tiers to suit your desired length.
Each tier needs to be wider than the last to make the gathers. Times the width of the last tier by 1.33 to get the next width of the next tier.

The lengths of your rectangle tiers are up to you. I made both of mine 15” and I did a 1” (2.5 cm) hem turned under twice so my second tier looks shorter. The tiers don’t have to be the same length at all! Here are some inspiration images I found when dreaming up this hack:

Inspiration Dresses
Sources (left to right): Narachic, Realyiyi, SooLinen

As you make each tier, you may find that the width required exceeds the width of your fabric. If this is the case, you will need to piece together your rectangles out of smaller pieces. Most seams will not be visible once the fabric is gathered, especially in a print.

Add seams to your rectangles if the width exceeds the width of the fabric. Try seams in the middle of your rectangles or divide the rectangle into thirds.

We like to sew 3 lines of basting stitches across the top of our rectangle pieces and leave long thread tails. One should be at 1/4″ (0.6 cm), one at 1/2″ (1.9 cm), and one at 3/4″ (2 cm). We are going to sew at 5/8″ (1.6 cm) and remove the 3/4″ (2 cm) basting stitches after. If you prefer to sew gathers with 2 lines of basting stitches, that works too! 

Sew three lines of basting stitches along the top edge of your rectangles. 1/4 inch from the top. 1/2 inch from the top. 3/4 inch from the top. Leave thread tails on either side.

Check out our post all about how to gather fabric! We have some tips and alternative methods you can try. 

Close up of gathered tiers.

Grab the bobbin thread from each of the three stitching lines and pull them to gather the fabric. Continue to gather until the width of the rectangle matches the width of the piece you are sewing it to. 

Pull the bobbin thread tails gently to gather the fabric. Pulling all three simultaneously will help to keep the gathers even. Gather until the gathered edge equals the original measurement of the bottom edge of the bodice. Repeat for the other rectangle.

Sew the rectangles together at the side seams. Finish seams and press to one side. Continue to make tiers until you are happy with the skirt!

With right sides facing, sew the sides of the each tier together.

Attach the gathered tiers together and then to the bodice. 

Sew the tiers together one by one. Press seam allowances up.
Sew the tiers skirt to the Reynolds top/dress bodice. Turn the hem up twice and topstitch.

This is one of my favourite hacks because it is so simple and fun to play with. I have made several gathered waist dress pattern hacks in the past and this certainly won’t be my last! I would love to make another Reynolds dress with a single gathered tier that starts around the knees and goes to the floor—so dramatic and fun! I also think a Reynolds top with a gathered peplum would be so cute! 

Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns

I hope you try this gathered waist hack on Reynolds or any other top or dress pattern! I made this version in a handwoven cotton from Blackbird Fabrics. Tag me in your makes on social media or email us with photos, we love to see what you have been up to. 

Reynolds Gathered Dress Tutorial from Helen's Closet Patterns
About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

13 Comments on “Reynolds Gathered Waist Dress Hack”

  1. So the idea is to cute and sew each part separately and then sew it to the main part. My English is not so good . Is this idea ok??. Thanks a lor

  2. Thank you so much for this super helpful tutorial, Helen. I’m making this hack right now in a blue linen and am so excited 🙂 I had a question or two – if I add inseam pockets, would I add these to the appropriate tier before or after gathering? Should I anchor them to the gathered seam? And, also, do you add seam allowance to each tier? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lulu! Yes, I would add the pockets to the tier you want them on and I would put them in before gathering. Anchoring them into the seam is a great idea, too! You can do the anchoring after you gather so you don’t gather your pocket bag.

      Happy sewing!

  3. This is a lovely hack. It’s such a versatile pattern. I’ve had it a week and have already made a top (as a wearable toile), a tunic-length version and a knee length dress which I’ve made a little more streamlined.

    I was wondering about adjusting the neckline, because it’s such a useful pattern for showcasing nice prints but I don’t want it to always look obvious that it’s the same dress. Do you think it would work with a slightly scooped or a v-neckline at the front? Would I need to pinch much out at the neckline on the adjusted pattern to keep the fit on the shoulders? Are there any posts about neckline variations planned?

    1. Hi Lleucu,

      Great ideas! I do not have neckline variations planned at this time but I will add them to the list of potential hacks. I think it would be easy to raise/lower the neckline on Reynolds but as for making it a different shape, I have no experimented with this, As you said, it has potential to distort the fit across the bust and the shoulder straps. I do think it is possible but some testing is needed. Muslin first!

  4. I love this pattern and this hack. What would you recommend for finishing the seams where tier is sewn to bodice and tier to tier? Could you French seam it, given the gathers? I don’t have a serger…

    1. Hi Crissy,

      You could totally french seam here, although it is a bit bulky with all those gathers. I would suggest zig-zagging the raw edges or using an ‘overcast’ stitch on your machine. It mimics a serger finish. Another option would be to bias bind the seams with a lightweight binding.

  5. Hi, Helen! I love this hack! I have a question — when you talk about the bodice and say,” mimic the curve of the top or dress hem when you trim the pattern rather than cutting straight across” wouldn’t this make the hem crooked at the bottom? I’m not sure it matters! Yours looks perfect but my brain is having trouble visualizing the hem as straight across the bottom. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Amanda! Great question. We need the slight curve in the hem to ensure the bottom of the bodice curves around the body without coming to a point at the side seams. We want a smooth transition from the front to the back. Then we can attach the gathered rectangles to the curved bodice and they will mimic that same curve as they hang. I hope that helps!


  6. I meant will making a curved bodice bottom make the final hem of the tiers of the dress crooked? Thanks!

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