How to add volume to a dress : 10 stiff fabrics that can make it poofy and fuller

How to make a dress poofy with or without a petticoat - the fabrics that can add volume to gowns to make them look fuller and fluffy

Have you wondered at how some of the gowns worn by celebrities hold up their almost gravity-defying postures? Those puffy looking but beautiful gowns make quite a statement. What is inside them that makes it look so voluminous making the wearer inside seem ethereal and all feminine, like a princess. They all have one thing in common – a  secret ingredient, perhaps!

How to make a dress puff out or make it look fluffy

Actually, I bluffed. There is no groundbreaking secret to this great bouffant look but a clever use of appropriately stiff fabrics. Even the most softest of fabric can be turned into a dreamy princess gown by adding this fabric as underlayers or over layers.

how to add volume to a dress

Here is a list of fabrics that can aid you in creating volume for your next creation, and make it look fuller- these stiff fabrics can be used as the outer layer or inside layer or even as a petticoat or part of the petticoat.

Related post : Another way to add stiffness is to use a boning. Check out this post on Different types of Boning.

10 Stiff fabrics that can add volume to clothes

1. Crinoline

This is the number one stiff fabric used inside full skirts. This fabric is a low thread count fabric (cotton or polyester or nylon or a blend of cotton and polyester) with a very crisp and stiff hand given by starching or a chemical resin finish. Usually, it is a woven cotton fabric, though and takes dyes nicely.

The best thing about the fabric is that it is also lightweight. It is used inside gowns and skirts in many layers to create the volume you need. It may be made into lining for the skirts or added as strips inside on petticoats or underskirt. Sometimes strips of crinoline is added to the hem of skirts to make it look even wider – without adding much volume anywhere else like waist or hem. You usually get crinoline in white colour.

The stiff hand of the crinoline fabric is due to the fabric finishes applied to it. Because of this very reason, you may find that if you are using crinoline as an inside layer fabric starts to scratch your skin. You may need to use an underskirt between crinoline and your skin as a necessity.

2. Net fabrics

add volume to clothes

All netting fabrics are great at adding fullness to clothes as they look voluminous on their own. They have a natural stiffness as well as added stiff sizing. The advantage of netting is that it is very lightweight. It adds a voluminous shape without weighing down the dress. Nylon or Polyester filament net fabric is the one used to make underskirt with multiple layers that gives the best fullness.

Tulle is a net fabric with small hexagonal holes -it has a fluffy look with a very fine soft hand. It is a frequently used fabric to make wedding gowns, veils, headdresses. Multiple layers of tulle fabric are used as underskirts or over petticoats or lining or as the skirt itself to create a very fluffy poofy silhouette for the gowns.

Other Net fabrics that are harder than tulle can be used inside the gowns, on petticoats to create the volume you need. Nylon netting has a very stiff hand and is used frequently in costumes, dance skirts to give the necessary fullness. The stiffness is due to the sizing which includes plastic resin finishes. When buying net fabrics three things are most important – shape of the holes, number of holes per inch/cm, and the hand of the fabric.

Read more on net fabrics here.

3. Horse Canvas

Horse canvas refers to a group of woven fabrics made from wool, goat’s hair and horse hair (sometimes blended with rayon, cotton or polyester). It is added as a structuring fabric and as interlining.

Horsehair fabric /braid

This is a very very stiff open weave synthetic fabric (nylon), that are used inside garments to create the bouffant look. These are hard and scratchy against the skin so may need a facing.
The horsehair braids are used on hems of skirts to give the pouffy look.


Read the post on how to apply horsehair braid on your dress hem to make it look voluminous.

4. Organdy and Organza

Organdy and organza, are sheer fabrics that have a stiff and crisp hand and can be used in clothes to add volume. Organdy is made of cotton fibers whereas organza is made of rayon fibers.

These fabrics, when added as many layers either outside or inside, can create a voluminous silhouette. The crispiness of this fabric is partly due to the tightly twisted yarns used in their construction and sizing added – starch or synthetic resins

Silk Gazar is a heavy silk fabric similar to organza that is very stiff and is used to make full skirts with volume. The fabric is very crisp and suitable for making dresses with a bouffant look

Related posts: Properties of Organdy fabric; Properties of Organza fabric.

5. Marquisette

This is a sheer mesh fabric that has a stiff hand when made with two or three-ply yarn. It is used as a stiff lining fabric. The stiffness can be a result of sizing – some may be water-soluble and the shape may be lost if wet.

6. Buckram

This is a broad term used to describe many stiff fabrics. One type of fabric is made by gluing two fabric together. Another is a linen fabric which is stiffened with flour paste china clay and glue, another is a cotton with heavy sizing.

The cotton one is a loosely woven fabric that almost looks like gauze. You can add starch or any sizing to give it good stiffness, to add volume or the necessary shape to the silhouette. The fabric is usually manipulated to the shape you want with steam heat and pressure over moulds and will retain the shape so long as it is not wet.

You may confuse it with crinoline; one way to know is that crinoline fibers are thinner and has a tighter weave than buckram. Buckram is firmer and stiffer than crinoline. 

This fabric is usually used in hat making and to add small stiff design elements in clothes. One disadvantage is that if exposed to water or even heat the buckram may lose the shape you have made it into.

7. Primed gauze fabric – Tarlatan fabric

This is an almost transparent taffeta weave cotton fabric with a special finish that gives it stiffness, used as interfacing or lining. It is used mainly to make costumes and in making hats ( as the base of hats). Another use is in bookbinding. It is available in ecru and white colors

8. Interfacing/interlining

Stabilizers and Interfacing

These are non-woven fabrics added to the back of the regular fabric to give it body and stiffness. Interfacing may be sewn in or fusible. The fusible is attached to the back of the fabric with the glue present in the fabric activated when pressed with a hot iron. Woven sew-in interfacing is a cotton fabric with a slight stiffness. When a stiff shape is desired the interfacing can be used as a skeleton that will support the shape.

Read more on posts : stabilizers, underlining and interfacing


Interlining is added as an extra layer between the outer fabric and inner lining to give support and structure to the outer fabric. Interfacing is added to specific areas whereas interlining is added to the whole garment/area. Foam rubber is used in shoulder pads, bras, bodices etc to give shape and structure. 

9. Taffeta

Taffeta has a crisp hand and a ribbed weave and is a favourite for making skirts /evening wear with a full silhouette.Nylon/polyester taffeta is comparatively stiffer. Loom finished taffeta fabric has special sizing applied to it that gives it volume. Paper taffeta refers to a very stiff taffeta fabric with a lacquer finish.

10. Regular heavyweight Fabrics

If you want a dress that holds its shape without resorting to adding other fabrics as inside layers you can sew your dress with heavyweight fabrics like velveteen fabric, denim, corduroy, wool tweed, and other tightly woven fabrics. Melton is a heavyweight wool fabric that holds the shape very well. Chinz is a highly glazed group of fabrics, made so by applying a finish and pressed between rollers to give a luster. You can further enhance the stiff quality of these fabrics by adding some of the stiff fabrics mentioned earlier as inner layers.

Read more on the 10 different types of thick and heavy weight fabrics.

The structure you get from your fabric -this depends a great deal on the fiber content, yarn, and finishing techniques used in the fabric of your choice. So choose your fabric with care, for that full poofy look for your dress.

One sure fire way to add volume to your garment is to wear a voluminous petticoat under it. Here is a post on making petticoats like this. You can also apply starch on fabrics to make them as stiff as you want them. Here is a post listing all the different ways of making homemade starch for fabric

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

6 thoughts on “How to add volume to a dress : 10 stiff fabrics that can make it poofy and fuller”

  1. This is helpful but I would love it more if you added more pictures of these fabrics swatch & apparel made using them in the discription.


  2. This information is exactly what I wanted. There is other information that I wasn’t currently looking for at the moment but I will be coming back to acquire.

    Thank you!

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