A Review of Dress Stiffeners

[This post was updated in 2023.]

A lot of people ask what kind of dress stiffener they should use when making a solo dress and it’s a fair question when there are so many products on the market.  To start, I want to clarify what I mean when I say dress stiffener.  Modern solo dresses don’t have the cardboard-stiff skirt panels of yester-year, but instead get their support from an interior frame.  For most dresses, this is where you are using stiffener – not the skirt panels themselves.  If you like the rigid-board look, you can use dress stiffener in your front skirt panel instead of a frame, but most of the time the skirt panel will be less structured because it has the frame to support it.  Never stiffen the back skirt panel that much, or it won’t curve around the bum.  The panel still needs interfacing, just not as tough.  I’ll share some options for both applications.

The following products are listed in order of stiffness, starting with the least stiff.


Pellon 50
Price: $4.29/yd
Width: 20 inches
Thickness: less than 1mm
Distributor: Joann Fabrics (US) (and most fabric/craft stores)

Pellon 50 is my go-to option for a soft skirt panel base.  It provides enough support to keep its shape over the frame, but the panel will still move and the back will curve over the bum.  Definitely not frame-weight!


Pellon 926
Price: $5.49/yard
Width: 20 inches
Thickness: 1 mm
Distributor: Joann Fabrics (US) (and most fabric/craft stores)

This is very flexible compared to the options below, yet still stiff enough to hold its shape and not collapse in on itself.  I would recommend it for a frame for very small dresses when you are afraid of too much bulk.  It could also be a semi-stiff base for the front skirt panel if you want a little more structure than the Pellon 50.



Width: 20 inches
Thickness: 1 1/4 mm

[2023 – I can no longer find this for sale as yardage, only as squares, which aren’t suitable for this purpose]

I was initially skeptical of this one due to how cheap it is, however it is definitely stiffer than the Pellon 926 for about the same thickness.  It is still a little bendy for my preference, but would work all right for a small dress, or if you don’t want the most rigid stiffener.  Because it’s pretty thin, you could also fuse two layers together for a sturdier option (trim one layer out of seam allowance).  You’d definitely want to add an extra layer in most places.


Flexi Firm

Price: $8.99/yard
Width: 30″ wide
Thickness: 1 2/3 mm
Distributor: Mon Fil (Canada)

Flexi Firm is about as stiff as the Stiffy, but a little bulkier.  It would work okay, but definitely isn’t my favorite.  It’s almost as bulky as the Pellon 70 and Timtex, but you’re not getting as much structure for it.


Pellon 70

Price: $8.49/yard
Width: 20 inches
Thickness: 1 2/3 mm
Distributor: Joann Fabrics (US) (and most fabric/craft stores)

This one (along with the 926) is definitely the easiest to acquire, being widely available at local fabric stores.  It’s one of the thicker stiffeners but it holds its structure well and is easy to find.  Being on the thicker end of the spectrum, you may want to opt for the Vilene if your machine can’t handle bulk.  This will definitely end up thick at the side-pleats on the dropped-waist seam.

It also comes in 1- and 2-side fusible (Pellon 71 and 72).  I don’t like using fusible stiffener on skirt panels because they tend to show if the panel has gotten folded or wrinkled accidentally.  But I wouldn’t really recommend it for skirt panels anyway.  The fusible is nice on the underskirt however, where you have to cover both sides with fabric but it’s not a main feature of the dress.


S80 Vilene

Price: $33/2 yards, or smaller quantities available
Width: 36 inches
Thickness: a bit under 1 mm
Distributor: We sell this! (US)
Distributor: Empress Mills (UK) (also sold in 12-inch width)

This might be my favorite, though it is the priciest if you are in the US because it is an import.  It’s almost as sturdy as the Pellon 70, but half as thick.  This makes it great for sturdy frames and is more forgiving to machines that don’t handle bulk well.  Because it’s so thin, you can easily fuse or sew two layers together for extra structure.  We started selling Vilene in 2020 to make it more available to our US customers.



Width: 20 inches
Thickness: 2 mm

[2023 – I can no longer find this for sale as yardage, only as squares, which aren’t suitable for this purpose]

Timtex is probably the stiffest product I’ve found.  It’s also the thickest, at over 2 mm.  I would not recommend doubling this stiffener; it is plenty effective in a single layer.  It is very sturdy and holds up extremely well.  Like the Pellon 70, be aware of how bulky it can get in multiple layers.  If you have a wimpy sewing machine, you may want to try something thinner as your dress will become bulky very quickly.


What stiffeners have you tried?  How did they work?  Is there another that should be on this list?  Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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