A white woman with long brown hair put into pigtail braids wears a straw hat and a blue gingham dress while standing under a garden arch

Olive Hack: Tiered Tea-Length Dress

I originally wrote this post in mid-July. It has since cooled down a bit and we have seen some rain fall which my plants are super happy about!

This summer has been an incredibly hot one in Georgia. I mean sweltering H.O.T. For the past two weeks, we have seen no rain, and the temperature has consistently been in the 90's (30's in Celsius terms). But with the little rain, high humidity, and minimal wind, it's definitely felt closer to 100 degrees at the height of each day.

Even though I have lived in the South for the majority of my life (roughly 26 of the 28 years I've existed), the heat always hits me as a giant shocker. You'd think that I would have gotten used to it by now. What's worse is that I always am caught off guard in terms of my wardrobe in the summer, too!

Basically, my main clothing is perfect for Spring and Fall, and severely lacks for Summer or Winter which is silly considering our Spring/ Fall only sticks around for 4 collective weeks a year.

This year, I am attempting to do something different and actually sew pieces that I find I need as I need them. I haven't yet gotten to the point where I can foresee my future wardrobe needs (what an amazing talent to have!), so for now I am working on projects as I realize I desperately need them and sharing the ones I think you might like most!


The Olive Hack: Tiered Tea-Length Dress

I have had this particular hack on my mind for the longest time and finally got around to sewing it during my first week of my Social Media Break. It has quickly become my most favorite hack EVER as it's simple shape is so perfectly breezy for the summer sun!

For this hack, I took the top of the Olive Jumpsuit (Low-Back Version) and mashed it together with two sets of gathered tiers. Below I go through the math I used to determine the length + width of each of my tiers as well as how I sewed them together. Feel free to use this math to hack your very own Olive (or any other woven tank/ jumpsuit top/ dress top you might have!)


If you don't really want to get into the math of it all, I have created an expansion pack with the pieces already drafted out for you! This pack includes the printable files (both at home and copyshop), a Zero Waste Instruction guide (if you'd like to save on paper!), and a full set of illustrated instructions on how to put your garment together!

Let's Get Started!


The first thing you are going to want to do is measure the bottom edge of your bodice pattern pieces, both front and back. I wound up going down a size in this pattern since I didn't have to worry about getting my hips through the bodice into pants. This allowed the bodice of the dress to sit closer to my body without fear of my bust popping out every time I bent over while gardening.

Once you have your front + back bodice measurements, multiply them each separately by 2. This will give you the full front bodice hem measurement and the full back bodice hem measurement.

Next, you will need to determine exactly how many gathers you will want for your two separate dress tiers. This is a purely personal choice that is highly dependent on a) your fabric selection and whether it is lightweight and breezy or more structured and heavy, b) what you like in a gather, and c) how much fabric you have at your disposal as gathers require LOADS of material!

For my dress, I used this really fun Navy Gingham print that I picked up from Topstitch Stuido + Lounge (non-affiliate link) a few years ago. It's got a crisp hand feel, but is breezy enough to really float when I walk down a flight of stairs or get caught in a gust of wind. Because of it's lightweight nature coupled with my love for all things ruffly and my limit of 3 yards of fabric, I chose to make my 1st ruffle 1.8x larger than the bodice measurements and my 2nd ruffle 1.8x larger than the first ruffle. So my math looked a little something like this:


(Front Hem Width) x 1.8 = (First Front Ruffle Width)

(Back Hem Width) x 1.8 = (First Back Ruffle Width)



(First Front Ruffle Width) x 1.8 = (Second Front Ruffle Width)

(First Back Ruffle Width) x 1.8 = (Second Back Ruffle Width)


The next step is to determine how long you want each of your tiers to be. Again, this is purely personal preference. For my dress, I really wanted it to end at tea length, and I knew I wanted my first ruffle to be longer than my second.

To determine exactly how long I wanted each tier to be, I took a tape measure and stood in front of a mirror eyeballing the measurements until I was happy with the overall vision I was trying to create. I also made sure to add on an additional 1" (2.5 cm) to the length of each tier for my seam allowance.

What I came up with for my final measurements were:



Front Skirt - 17.5" x 20" (44.5 cm x 51 cm)

Back Skirt - 20.25" x 20" (51.5 cm x 51 cm)



Front Skirt - 31.5" x 12" (80 cm x 30.5 cm)

Back Skirt - 36.5" x 12" (92.5 cm x 30.5 cm)


Once you have your skirt pieces measured out (either on paper or directly onto your fabric), you have the option to draft a waist tie + belt loops as well as the bow-tie straps.

For the bow-tie straps, I used scraps bits of fabric and cut them on the bias to create 1/2" (1.3 cm) bias tape. If you want to learn how to create your own bias tape using scrap fabrics, you can check out this blog post!

I wanted my ties to be extra long so that I could make really nice, dainty bows, so I made my bias tape 82" (208 cm) long and then cut it into 4 equal parts (Don't cut your straps just yet! Instead, keep your bias tape it's current, full length).

I also wanted my waist tie to be a bit long so that I could make a really nice bow, so I made the tie nearly 3x my waist measurement. That way, I had the option of wrapping the tie around my waist up to 2x and still have enough to tie a cute bow.

Lastly, the belt loops. These are totally optional and I added them mainly to keep myself from losing my waist ties in my closet. I cut a strip of material exactly 2" (5 cm) wide x 18" (45.5 cm) long, which gives you up to 5 belt loops to play with.


These instructions are very brief and vary from the instructions I have written for the expansion pack. For more detailed instructions + diagrams, I have included a full set of those in the Olive Expansion Pack.

Awesome! By now you should have drafted your pattern and have all your pieces cut out in your fabric!

The very first thing you will do is prep your straps. Take your super long piece of bias tape and sew along the outer edge (the part that can open, revealing the inside of your bias tape).

If you want to keep your bias straps from stretching out over time, feel free to insert a bit of twill tape on the inside of your bias tape prior to sewing it shut. This will keep it from naturally stretching over time, especially if you plan to hang your dress up in your closet.

Once you have your bias tape sewn shut, cut it into 4 equal parts. You can do this by either measuring each piece out to 20.5" (52 cm) long, or by folding the bias tape in half and then in half again.

To finish prepping your straps, take one of the shorter ends of each of your straps, fold it down 1/2" (1.3 cm) and then again 1/2" (1.3 cm) and sew your folded edge down. Repeat until all 4 straps have one short edge folded and secured with stitches!

Regardless of what pattern you are hacking, you will need to put together your bodice top before working on your tiers. If you are using the Olive as your base pattern, this means sewing your darts, stay stitching your neckline, and sewing your front and back bodice pieces together at the side seams as well as their respective lining pieces. Basically you will want to follow pages 27 - 33 in your instruction booklet before meeting me back here to attach your skirt pieces.

NOTE: When it comes to attaching your straps, you will be basting one strap to each strap opening instead of basting one strap to the front and back of your strap opening.

Once your bodice is fully prepped, set it aside as you get to work tackling the tiered skirt.

Now, for my dress, I did add some inseam pockets. I had enough material left over to sneak some into this dress and I am SO glad that I did that! If you want your own pockets, you can literally use your favorite pocket pattern piece from any other pattern you might already own. For me, that was the Mathilde pocket piece. I just love the size of this pocket as it fits loads of things perfectly without being too bulky!

If you need help inserting your pocket pieces into your first tier's side seams, feel free to check out this blog post where I go through detailed steps on how to sew an inseam pocket!

Whether you are adding pockets or not, the next steps will be to attach your tier 1 skirt front to your tier 1 skirt back, as well as your tier 2 ruffle front to your tier 2 ruffle back along the shorter edges.

Tier 1 Skirt


Tier 2 Ruffle



If you haven't already, go ahead and mark the Center Front (CF) and Center Back (CB) points on both the top and bottom of tier 1 as well as on the top of tier 2. You can do this with a safety pin, tailor's chalk, or just a few snips from your scissors.

Before you dive into the gathering portion, it is easiest to go ahead and hem the bottom edge of tier 2, that way once all the tiers are attached to your bodice, you can immediately begin twirling in your dress!

Iron the bottom edge of your hem up 1/2" (1.3 cm) and then another 1/2" (1.3 cm). Sew along the inner folded edge.

Now it is time to gather gather gather! Starting with the top edge of tier 1, sew two parallel lines of stitches using a long stitch length (5.0) 1/4" (0.6 cm) and 5/8" (1.5 cm) from the raw edge. Make sure you aren't back stitching AND to leave nice long tails at either end of your stitches.

Gently pull the bobbin threads to create your gathers. Don't worry about how much/ little you are gathering tier 1 at the moment - you will be able to adjust your gathers once you attach this tier to your bodice top.

With right sides together (RST), pin tier 1 to your bodice top matching up your side seams and the CF / CB markings. Redistribute your gathers until they are evenly spaced all around your bodice top.

Using a 1/2" (1.3 cm) seam allowance, sew your bodice and tier 1 skirt together.

Repeat the last 4 steps with tier 2, but instead of attaching it to your bodice, you will be attaching it to tier 1.


Alrighty, now you can either choose to be done right here OR you can take a quick break with a glass of water and something refreshing to eat (if it's as hot where you are as it is here!) and then dive back in to sew up the waist tie and belt loops!


Once you are all refreshed, you can tackle the final bit of this hack! Let's get the easy bit out of the way first: the waist ties.

With RST, fold your waist tie in half lengthwise (like a hot dog!). Sew along both short edges and the long edge, but make sure to leave a small opening somewhere along the long edge of your tie. This is where you will turn your tie right side out!

Clip your waist tie's corners.

Using your fingers or a chopstick, turn your strap out through the little opening you left.

Press your strap, and then sew the little opening shut.

With RST, fold your belt loop piece in half lengthwise (just like you did with your waist tie!) and sew along the long, raw edge.

Turn your belt loop right side out using a safety pin or rouleau turner.

Press your belt loop and then topstitch both of the long edges.

Cut your belt loop into 3” (7.5 cm) long pieces. You should have approximately 5 belt loops in total.

Fold 1/2” (1.3cm) of each end of the belt loop to the wrong side of the belt loop.

Pin both the upper and lower belt loop edges straddling your waist seam. I wound up only using 2 out of the 5 belt loops because of the low back of my dress (They are both along the side seams), but you can choose to add your belt loops to the following areas:

  • One at the CB
  • One at either side seam.
  • One a few inches on either side of the CF of the dress.

Using a lot of small straight stitches, sew through all the layers of the fabric, securing both ends of the loop to your dress.

Et Voila (and there you go)! You now have a fully hacked Olive Tiered Dress with belt loops, bow-tie straps, and a waist tie! I hope you enjoyed this little hack and I would LOVE to see your own versions! Feel free to tag any of your Olive hacks on IG with #UTOliveDress #UTOliveHack





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