How to Make A Dress With A Tulle Skirt

As you readers know, altering garments is my focus, not constructing them.

But, I just got a great question from a reader and I would love your input in helping her.

I’d love your thoughts on the tulle (netting) fabric. Do you have some tips on how to expedite the process and make that skirt bottom look even without a lot of heartache? Do you use a rotary cutter or what is your secret? Thank you ahead of time! Linda

Here is what she wrote:


My daughter will be wearing this C version (green full length dress in the photo above) and I have been asked how much it would be for me to do all 8 dresses. I’m a little concerned about the skirt material.
I’ve made tutus for dance costumes, but not for dress. I would love any hints or advice you can give. I have no idea what to charge above materials, so if you can, give me a suggested $ amount to ask for. Because it’s for a wedding I’m a little nervous. I sew well, I just haven’t worked with this style.
Thank you, your blog is fantastic for referencing “how to” do different projects.


20 Responses

  1. Depending on what area of the country you live in I would at least charge $100.00 to make that dress. The materials will probably be around $100,00 (on the NE coast) It would be probably better to do the hem while the girl is wearing it and remember that it will bounce back up because of the fullness so think longer first than shorter. All that fullness brings the layers up. It cuts pretty well when she is wearing it and it’s great that it doesn’t ravel.

  2. Cool question and I applaud your bravery. I had a prom gown about 5 years ago that had 5 layers all floor length and they were all about 5-6 yards per layer to make it the fullest gown I had ever hemmed.
    I started from the closest layer to the lining. ( meaning the last layer under all 5.)
    I hemmed using my serger without any thread or needles. using the cutter I trimmed them 1 at a time. It cut excellent.
    The other thing someone else had shared me was that if you start from the bottom it can lift each layer, so you may not have to take the same amount off of each row. Hope this helps. I only charged 40 for the hem,
    but it should have been more.
    Another tip is to measure the waist to floor and try to pre cut your layers , then you may not have to hem as much.
    Have fun, hope this helps
    Judy H sewing and crafting in NH

  3. I understand that! When I have done a wedding, I measure hem from the floor up since not everyone is same height. Since the material stretches and slides I usually cut with rotary cutter and can cut four layers if cutter is sharp and I lay another mat over the material to decrease slipping. As far as cutting out the sides, it looks like it is gathered enough that being a little off wouldn’t show. If you use scissors, use long cuts on single material. The fullness of the skirt won’t show too much imperfection. Think of it as a long tutu! You should do well

  4. Tulle just needs to be cut. You can use a rotary cutter, but you don’t have to. It doesn’t show much if it’s not perfectly even, just look at any commercially made dress, it will be worse than anything a good seamstress would make.

    A dress like that takes A LOT of fabric and a lot of tulle. I would go to a fabric store and price it all out – for everything that’s needed – and then add in a charge for your time. I’ve made 6 matching dresses several times, but never 8. It is time consuming and gets boring to do the same thing over and over again. You need to come up with a method to keep things straight since all the material is the same and the sizes may differ. I found that waiting until patterns were on sale for $1 and buying one for each girl was the easiest (unless you have two that are pretty much the same size that you don’t need to copy off the same size twice – never happened for me). It’s a doable project and one that can give tremendous satisfaction, but it is not an easy task, just because you know how to sew. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time.

    One more caveat, no dieting after measurements are taken and dresses are made!! Having to alter a dress because a bridesmaid decides to lose weight more than doubles your task. I was doing dresses for very little time charge for my daughter’s bridesmaids, big mistake. Your time is worth something even if you don’t sew professionally.

    Good luck!

  5. When I sew from scratch, I expect the person who wants the dress made to purchase the pattern, fabric, and notions. If they need help I can accompany them or give them advice. Then I would charge at least $30/hour for labor: fittings, cutting and sewing all a part of that charge. I’ve had my share of dress and gown hemming and have developed fees specific to hemming.

    • I also charge $30 an hour for labor. That dress will take at LEAST 8 hrs, if not more. Remember fittings take time too 🙂 The EASIEST way to deal with tulle skirts is know the length beforehand. I mean, make them the proper length the first time and you don’t have to come back later and trim for length. I would charge $250-$300 labor for that gown. You could allow a discount for multiples. This is not WALMART or DAVIDS’ BRIDALS where everything is made overseas with cheap labor. Put a VALUE on your talents and if they don’t want to pay, that’s their problem. I don’t do much custom work because it IS expensive. I am a professional, talented seamstress and I DESERVE to make what I charge, no excuses made 🙂

      • I too charge at least $250 for labor plus materials. I get the pattern because then I know it will fit. For alterations I cut the layers separately starting with inner layers. I pin Lining 1 inch shorter than satin layer and cut crinoline a half inch shorter than that. Next I pin the satin layer only and measure it 1 inch shorter than than finished Tulling length should be. After satin hem is sewen I hang the dress from a hook in the ceiling and cut the Tulling layers individually 1 inch longer than satin, starting with layer closest to satin. The finished length is usually 1/2 inch from floor.

  6. THANKS to everyone, you gave me some great information!

  7. Tulle is “difficult ” fabric….I would charge $150.
    Measure the client in the gown from the waist to the desired hem length,mark it, then cut with a rotary…..

  8. Years ago I tried making a witch costume for my little niece which had several layers of netting and I planned to make me a matching one. I had the worst time trying to sew all 3 layers of tulle together and then gathering the fabric. I couldn’t tell if I had all the layers together to stitch. Needless to say my material for my dress is still in the box. It will never get sewn now. IT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT FABRIC I HAD EVER WORKED WITH.

    I did have to shorten a pageant dress with 9 layers of tulle and I started on the inter most layer and tried to cut it to the floor. I stood the girl on a picnic table since it was in the summer and let the edge fall over the edge of the table and trimmed it with scissors. She would slowly turn for me when necessary. Then I would go to the next layer and so forth. I took special care doing the outside layer as it was the layer that actually showed the most. I also pinned the outer layers up and out of the way while cutting each individual layer. With 9 layers of tulle and netting by the time I was finished you could not tell if the cutting was perfectly straight.

    I would say if you are making the dress from scratch just figure out the finished length of the skirt and be very careful when you cut the layers out and it may not need to be trimmed.

    Glad it is you and not me making these dresses. Charge enough because they will be time consuming.

    • When I shorten gowns with multiple layers of tulle, I pin the layers together approximately right above the area I need to shorten. I feel comfortable cutting without an actual mark because I have done hundreds of these. An idea would be use that blue painters tape to mark your cutting line. I cut ALL layers at one time with LONG cuts. If the edges aren’t EXACTLY matched up, it is not noticeable. Think SMOOTH, because, yes, a jagged line IS noticeable especially on a short hemline.

  9. I am not shore where you live but $150 is not enough to make that dress. Not Australian dollars anyway.
    You alway cut from the floor up to the dress not waist down to the hem, as one other person said.
    I am a dressmaker and designer and I have done many dresses.
    Good luck

  10. I am sewing Dress A of this pattern,,, material alone is about 120.. not to mention the time lol

    • Yes 🙂 Those tulle skirts take YARDS of tulle. Four looks okay but I made my niece a prom gown and we did seven layers. I also added an attached crinoline for fullness. That was an additional MASSIVE yardage amount of netting. At 50 cents a yard on sale it still adds up=fast 🙂 No labor charge of course, she’s my niece. I didn’t even receive a thank-you note. Obviously, that was the LAST thing I made her 😦

  11. I use tissue paper or wax paper if I need to machine stitch tulle or chiffon. Sometimes it’s still easier to hand-gather it, though.

  12. Practical considerations for working with tulle.
    I always use buttonhole twist in a different color from the tulle so you can see what you’re doing and that thread never ever breaks when you are trying to gather large quantities. I should have mentioned I do it by machine with a large stitch.
    This speeds the process up dramatically.
    I leave the gathering thread in until I sew the skirt to the bodice.
    Of course you do need a large work surface for this process.
    As for the hem, I suppose if you had a surger with a cutter on it, you could use the no thread or needle method just cut it evenly but I usually just use scissors it depends whether or not you have a good eye

  13. It was helpful to me to read through each of these replies, as it bolstered my resolve with the project I have at hand. I have been asked to shorten a prom/pageant dress which will be worn in an upcoming competition. The young lady wants it to be knee-length, rather than floor-length. It is yellow, and mostly tulle. It looks like Belle’s gown (“Beauty & the Beast”). Anyway, from outer to inner layers, here’s the line-up: 4 layers of yellow tulle, with beads and sequins on the uppermost layer (they will not be in the scissors’ line, fortunately); 1 layer of net; 1 layer of yellow polyester lining; THEN…1 layer of yellow poly lining, to which is attached two (2) tiers of net. Total: 9 layers to adjust. It is a daunting task! I’m most concerned about that poly/2-tier net thing…I am wondering how that will work out since it is designed for a floor-length gown. I initially assumed that I would have to detach it from the waist, and bring the entire thing up to the waistline, PLUS cutting off some lining fabric from the bottom. Can you all visualize this? Can you give me any advice? I’m game to do it, even though it will be my first time. OR…should I find someone who’s been down that road already, and hand it off? I welcome any and all comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Since this is your first time altering such a dress, my advice is to pass it to someone who has done this type of alteration before. Nine layers is a lot for your first time altering this type of dress. But, if you decide to take it on, I would cut off just a little of that poly/2 tier piece and practice on it. The poly will probably need to have a rolled hem or tightly serged edge on it so it doesn’t ravel, if I’m understanding you correctly.

    • I agree with sewfordough….leave this job to a PRO 🙂 If you insist on doing it yourself….Sounds like a typical ballgown. I have shortened a lot of those 🙂 A FEW to knee-length 🙂 Measure DOWN from the waist, not UP from the bottom when you are shortening to knee length. You DO NOT have to take it apart…. Just measure DOWN, example…18″ long skirt….. ***** REMEMBER, it’s FLUFFY so allow EXTRA LENGTH 🙂 Make it a couple of inches LONGER than the client THINKS it should be 🙂 You are just doing ALOT of trimming of all of those crinoline layers and ruffles 🙂 LINING needs to be long enough to protect the wearer from that NASTY scratchy crinoline netting. BUT…. I suggest a ‘hand-off’ on this job. NEXT job when the client needs a few inches shortened you can perfect your skills 🙂 GOOD LUCK from Cheryl 🙂

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