Rainbows in January: Back Tie Dress Hack

Need a cure for the winter lockdown blues? Love a good pattern hack? If you’ve answered yes to one of these questions then keep reading and I’ll walk you through the process of turning your Back Tie Dress into a cheery dress with rainbow tiers. This dress hack is the perfect cure for the winter lockdown blues! 

I made the children’s version of the Back Tie Dress pattern for my daughters who love rainbows. But if you’re the one in need of a cheery rainbow dress, the instructions are just as applicable for the adult version of the pattern.

Step 1: Make the Bodice

Make the dress bodice according to the Back Tie Dress pattern instructions with any necessary alterations for the perfect fit. The bodice should be made in a solid red color in order to follow the colors of the rainbow.

Step 2: Measure Dress Length

Measure from the bottom of the bodice to the length that you would like the skirt to be. You can make your dress in any length. My girls love maxi dresses so I went with a skirt length of 25 inches which is the length from the bottom of the bodice to the bottom of the dress. 

Step 3: Calculate Tier Height

Once you have your skirt length measurement, divide by the number of tiers to find the height of each of your tiers. There will be five tiers for each of the remaining colors of the rainbow. 

25 inches / 5 tiers = 5-inch tiers

Next we’ll need to add a half inch seam allowance to the top and bottom of each tier because we’ll be sewing the tops and bottoms together. 

5 inch tiers +1/2 inch seam allowance +1/2 in seam allowance= 6-inch tiers

We will cut all five of our rainbow tiers 6 inches high.

Step 4: Calculate Tier Width

The tier width measurement determines how much volume each tier will contain once gathered. I used a tier width of 1.5 times the original bodice width but you could make your tiers extra voluminous and multiply by any number.

To calculate tier width, lay your finished bodice flat on a table and measure from side to side as shown in the photo. My bodice measures 22 inches so lets multiply the bodice width by one and a half times to get the width of the first tier. 

In the finished dress, there’s a little gap between the two back edges. The gap is small and the 1.5x calculation more than allows for it so I didn’t worry about adding that into my measurement.

22 inches x 1.5 = 33 inches wide

We’ll repeat this process another four times to find the width of the other four tiers. My final measurements for each tier along with color are as follows. 

Step 5: Cut the Tiers

Now it’s time to cut out the tiers according to your final measurements. Be sure to cut each tier as a different color if you want the rainbow look. 

If you have fabric that is long enough, you could cut each tier in one long rectangular piece. If you are making this in the adult size, you may need to cut two rectangles half width and join them together at the short ends. 

Step 6: Join Short Ends of the Tiers

Pick up the piece(s) for a single colored tier. I recommend starting with the orange tier. Place the right sides of the short ends of the fabric together and stitch at a ½ in seam allowance and press the seams open. Your tier should now form a large loop. Repeat this process for all of the colored tiers. 

Step 7: Sew Gathering Stitches

Sew two rows of gathering stitches around the top of the first tier. The first row of gathering stitches will be sewn at a ¼ in from the raw edge. The second set of gathering stitches will be sewn at ¾ in from the raw edge. Repeat for all of the colored tiers.

Step 8: Divide into Quarters and Mark with a Pin

Pick up the orange tier and divide the top of the tier near the gathering stitches into four points marking each quarter point with a pin or clip. Repeat this process for all of the colored tiers until they’ve all been marked with quarter points. 

You will also need to find the quarter points for the bottom of each tier. Pin or clip to mark each quarter point for the bottoms of each tier. You will not need to mark the quarter points for the purple tier as it will be hemmed instead of attached to another tier of fabric. 

Step 9: Match the Quarter Points 

Match the quarter points from the tops of the tiers to the hem of the tier below. I find it easiest to start with the last tier, purple. Pick up your purple tier and blue tier. Match the quarter points from the top of the purple tier to the bottom of the blue tier pulling the gathering stitches on the purple tier as you go. Once the top of the purple tier matches the bottom of the blue tier in size, pin or clip the pieces together. 

Stitch the tiers together at a ½ in seam allowance. Repeat for the other tiers. Just be sure to attach the tiers together in rainbow order! 

Step 10: Attaching the Skirt and Bodice

When you’ve assembled all of the colored tiers together you should have one colorful skirt! 

To attach the skirt to the bodice, measure the width of the back skirt pattern piece. Mark this measurement on the top of your tiered skirt on the portion of the skirt that you would like to be the back.

Fold the lining part of the bodice up away from the main part of the bodice. Place the main bodice fabric right sides together with the skirt. Gather the skirt to fit the bodice, leaving the marked back section free. Stitch the skirt front to the bodice using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Press the seam allowance up into the bodice.

Make a small snip into the skirt seam allowance just inside the bodice on either side so the back skirt seam allowance is now able to move freely. Fold the back skirt seam allowance wrong sides together (towards the inside of the garment) and press down 1/4 inch. Repeat and fold and press down another 3/4 inch. Stitch close to the folded edge all the way along. This creates a casing for the elastic.

The skirt will be too big. Don’t worry, we will fix this!

Fold the bodice lining under by 1/2 inch, press and stitch down, making sure all the seam allowances are nicely tucked inside the bodice.

Slip a piece of elastic through the the back skirt casing. Stitch it down at once end. Try the garment on the person it’s for and pull the elastic as tight or loose as you want it. If you are making this dress for someone who isn’t able to try it on, the approximate elastic lengths for each size are listed in the pattern and you can cut your elastic accordingly. Stitch it down and cut off any extra.

Follow the Back Tie Dress pattern instructions to thread your straps through their casing. Hem per the pattern instructions.

Step 11: Enjoy!

Your new rainbow dress is the perfect remedy for the winter lockdown blues. Wear it around your house and dream of sunny days. Brighten my day and share your rainbow dress on Instagram by tagging @RebeccaJPage or joining our Facebook community

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