Tuesday 26 October 2021

How To: Frilly Shoulder Straps 2 Ways - Using Shirring and Cased Elastic

This is a quick and easy one, and adds a really pretty & delicate detail to add to any top or dress. I got lots of requests for a tutorial for the whole dress - that might be coming later on - I'm finding these mini guides are more suited to my current job as milk barkeep:)

I've made the same dress twice recently, with the same style straps achieved in two different ways; using rows of shirring, and with a double casing of narrow elastic. Below are both methods.

Tutorials take a lot of time & effort to create, and I choose to make mine available for free. If you enjoy this guide, you can support my work with a donation that feels right for you, here.

A couple of things will play a role in how this style of shoulder strap turns out:

1) The type of fabric you are using. This will impact how 'dense' the shirring will become (a lighter fabric will allow itself to gather more). It will also determine how much the straps will stretch out when worn, from the weight of the fabric = the weight of the dress. If working with heavier fabric, I recommend the cased elastic version, the shirring is best suited for lighter materials.

2) How many shirring stitches/rows of elastic you do. In the shirred version, I did only 3 rows of shirring on each shoulder strap, which was enough to nicely gather my lightweight cotton gauze. If working with a heavier fabric, you could do more rows of shirring. Same goes for the elasticated version - 3 rows would get you even more firmly gathered straps. Remember though that as you add shirring rows/rows of elastic, you add the intensity of gathering, which means you may want to start off with longer strap pieces.


For reference, my finished over-knee dress out of double cotton gauze weighs just under 300 g. With the measurements I've shared, my straps are 20 cm at rest (dress not worn) and the weight of the dress stretches them out to 40 cm when worn.


Fabric  |  Scissors  |  Regular & Elastic Thread  |  Pins

I. I started off with about 65 cm long, 11 cm wide strap pieces.

II. First do a double fold on both long edges of the piece (I did a 1 cm fold), and sew along the fold. Then fold the strap width-wise and press, so you have a marking down the middle.

III. Then sew 3 shirring stitches symmetrically down the middle (or you can do more rows, as I mentioned above, the more shirring stitches the more the fabric will gather). Start by sewing one along the fold you just pressed, and then one on each side of that first stitch, using your presser foot edge as the guide. Once stitched, it's important to tie up the ends of the threads like I've shown in this post. Otherwise the shirring will start coming apart with wear.

Repeat for the other strap, then take your iron and press with steam. When pressing shirring, instead of ironing regularly (gliding your iron back and forth) it's better to press it down on one spot, apply steam, lift, and move on to the next area, steam, and so on. And voilà. 

How you attach the straps to your garment depends on the style of the garment - if your neckline has a facing or is finished with bias tape, you can sandwich the straps in between.


I made this version of the dress maxi-length, and used linen, so it's heavier - 560 g. Two rows of elastic were enough to carry it nicely without stretching out too much when worn.

Fabric  |  Narrow elastic (I used 0.7 cm) - my strap length was 38 cm so I needed 4 pieces that long  |  Thread & Sewing machine | Safety Pin

I. Cut your strap pieces - 2 long rectangles 2x your desired strap width + 2x your seam allowance. I did mine 5.5 cm wide ready, so with a 0.5 cm seam allowance, 12 cm for the cut piece. My ready straps needed to be 38 cm, so I cut my pieces 73 cm long each, a 1.9x multiplier. I normally do a 2x multiplier for most ruffles but here I was working with a 146 cm wide piece of fabric, and I wanted to be economical with the material so just divided that 2. That turned out to be 73 cm.
Fold your pieces in half with your iron and sew along the long edge.
II. Then turn the pieces right side out (using safety pin is easiest), and press so the seam runs down the center.
III. Add your casing stitches. First sew right down the middle, and if doing 2 casings per strap, you just need to add 2 stitches on either side of that center stitch. Distance just a bit more than the width of your elastic.
IV. Then insert your elastics into their casings with the help of a safety pin. Push one elastic far enough so its end meets the start of the strap, sew the end in place there, and then continue pushing the elastic all the way to the end, and secure that end as well with a quick back and forth stitch. Then add second elastic.
Last give your straps a press..
.. And use in your top or dress!



  1. Hi! Love this, made the shirred straps the other day. Thanks for the tutorial. Do you also have tutorials for the dresses in this blog?

    1. Hi! Glad you liked it! I haven't made full tutorials for these dresses so far, it's on the list....

    2. I second this, would love a tutorial for the dress! They’re the cutest dresses ever.

  2. Am going to make a dress for my granddaughter with your elasticised straps. Thanks for the tutorial.


I would love to hear what you think and learn about your DIY adventures! If you use one of my tutorials, tag me on social @contour_affair, I'd love to see!


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