If you have your heart set on a poofy dress for prom, your wedding or another special occasion, the right fabric is essential. Some fabrics just don't have the stiffness or body to create that volume -- or poof. You can opt for a different dress fabric or make up for the lack of body with voluminous underlayers of full fabric. Tulle is a classic for poof, but other fabrics also offer much-needed volume and body.
Organdy and Organza
Organdy and organza, in their silk and synthetic forms, are quite stiff but very lightweight. These sheer fabrics have a smooth finish and will stand out from the body, creating a poofy, voluminous skirt or dress. In many cases, the dress will use multiple layers of organza or organdy, heavily gathered, for poof. While these fabrics will produce a poofy skirt, they will be full from the waist to the hem.
Tulle, a hexagonal mesh fabric, can be quite soft or very stiff. Softer tulle may be used to create poofy dresses, typically with many layers of fabric. Stiffer tulle fabric is often used to make petticoats or crinolines to create a poofy shape in a dress made of cotton, satin or other fabric. While a tulle skirt will be poofy all over, a crinoline allows you to create a silhouette that is fuller at the hem without adding bulk at the waist and hips.
If you want to create a vintage-style poofy dress, choose tightly woven, stiff fabrics, such as cotton sateen or silk broadcloth. These fabrics naturally have a great deal of body, and when tightly gathered or pleated will produce a poofy appearance. Emphasize the poof with the addition of a tulle crinoline or a built-in slip with tulle layers.
Making It Work
If you've fallen in love with a drapey fabric that just won't poof, some modifications can allow you to turn that delicate satin or silk into the poofy dress you dream about. This can be as simple as adding a crinoline, with a slip to protect delicate fabrics, for a purchased dress. When you're sewing your dress, add poof by lining a drapey fabric with a very stiff one, like organza. This will give your drapey fabric the body it needs to poof properly.
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With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.