What was your very first skirt you owned as a belly dancer?
For me, it was a circle skirt, and I think it is a great choice for the first skirt to dance in.
Circle skirts are versatile, and easy to match with different belts and hip scarves. They flow very nicely, and look beautiful when you twirl. I love when a troupe of dancers wear matching circle skirts and twirl all together… it’s a breath-taking view!
So, I thought it is important for belly dancers of all levels to know how to make and fix circle skirts, and I want to share how to make a circle skirt and a circle skirt pattern. You can skip making a pattern, and draw the pattern directly on to the fabric. But once you take the time to make a pattern, you can use it over and over again with different fabric. And it fits you perfectly each time.
In this video, you will see how to make a 2-panel circle skirt and a pattern.
To make a circle skirt, you need:
- Fabric of your choice – To make a nice, flowy circle skirt, try to pick a light material such as chiffon and satin. Shira has an amazing site with lots of belly dance costume tutorials, and her circle skirt page has a whole list of recommended materials for circle skirts. Check it out here.
- Elastic – in the video, I used 1 inch wide elastic.
- Sewing tools such as measuring tape, marker, scissors (a pair for paper and another pair for fabric), matching colour thread, pins, needles and sewing machine
- For making a pattern, you need a big sheet of paper or tape pieces of paper together to create one big sheet. I often cut open paper bags to make patterns.
How Much Fabric to Buy
Making a circle skirt requires quite a bit of fabric. If you follow this tutorial for a 2-panel circle skirt, you will need the following amount of fabric. I recommend you buy more than enough, in case something goes wrong, or you want to use the matching fabric to make arm bands or head pieces etc.
Fabric width: 150 cm (59 in)
Hip measurement: 92 – 108 cm (36 – 42 in)
Skirt length: 70 cm (27 in) 80 cm (31 in) 90 cm (35 in) 100 cm (39 in)
Fabric length: 3 m (3.3 yd) 3.5 m (3.8 yd) 4 m (4.4 yd) 4.5 m (5 yd)
This is to help you estimate how much fabric you will need. If your measurement is outside of this scale, please estimate accordingly.
I based this on Shushanna’s formula which is based on the Pythagorean Theorum – check out her circle skirt instruction here. If you want to make more panels, please visit her site to follow the formulas, because just doing calculations for the above table made me want to cry (but I wanted to do it for you!!!) Her site is super informative, and I learned so much from her site over the years.
1. Make a Circle Skirt Pattern
If you spread a circle skirt on a floor, it should make a perfect circle – hence the name, circle skirt. A 2-panel circle skirt is made of 2 half-circle panels.
And we will make a pattern that is a ¼ of a circle.
First, take 2 measurements: the fullest part of your hip and the length of the skirt.
Then do some quick math to find the lengths of A and B to create this pie shape. If you don’t have a calculator lying around, download the Custom Measurement Calculator from here, and just plug in your measurements to get the numbers you need.
A = hip measurement / 6.28
B = A + length of skirt
Once you have these numbers, take your measuring tape and create this ¼ circle on a big piece of paper. Then cut out the pattern.
2. Cut Fabric
Then take your fabric and fold it in half. Place the pattern on the fabric. Make sure one side of the ¼ circle is aligned with the selvage or raw edge, and the other side is aligned with the folded edge.
Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut along the lines. It makes it easier if you put weights or heavy objects on the pattern, so the fabric doesn’t move around.
If you use chiffon like I am using here, you will notice that the fabric moves around quite a bit, even with the weights. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be super accurate here, and you will see why in a minute. Just make sure you cut as close to the pattern as you can. When you open it, it should be a half-circle.
Repeat this step to create another half-circle.
3. Make an Elastic Casing
Now we make a casing, or a tube for your elastic to go through.
First, cut your fabric into a rectangle. To determine the length and width, you can plug in your numbers in the formulas or use the Custom Measurement Calculator.
Length of Rectangle = hip measurement + 4 in (10 cm)
Width of Rectangle = width of elastic x 2 + 1 in (2.5 cm)
Next, put the right side of the rectangle and wrong side of a half circle panel together and align the top edge and place pins.
It is a bit tricky because you are aligning a straight edge against a curved edge. You can try pinning them from one end to the other end like this. But you may end up not having enough fabric, because the curved edge tends to stretch out.
Another way to do this is, first, mark 1/8 points with pins by folding the piece in half, mark with a pin, then fold in half again and repeat until you have 7 pins placed on the fabric. Then do the same for the skirt, but just for ¼ points, so you mark with 3 pins. And match up the pins. This ensures that the fabric is distributed equally. Place as many pins as you need to secure the 2 layers, and when you sew, hold the 2 layers nice and tight, and ease in the layers into your sewing machine steadily.
Sew along with a ½ inch (1.2cm) seam allowance. Once the first half circle panel is finished, continue with the second half circle panel.
Then, flip the whole thing over, so you see the right side of the skirt with the wrong side of the casing at the top edge. Pressing the seam makes your work easier here. Fold the top edge of casing over with a ½ inch (1.2 cm) seam allowance and press.
Then fold it over to line up the edge with the stitching line from earlier and place pins. Then top stitch close to the fold. Make sure the casing is big enough to fit your elastic here.
Now, put elastic around your waist (where the skirt should sit) and make sure it is tight enough. Cut the elastic, and put it through the casing with a safety pin. Stitch together the ends securely.
If you watch the video, I accidentally sewed the ends of the elastic together twisted…don’t do this! I realized it after I stitched the ends together and so I had to rip the seam apart and re-do it. So be careful and check before you stitch the elastic.
Then, insert one end of the casing in to the other, and hide the raw edge by folding the fabric inside a ¼ inch (5mm) or so, and then sew it straight down to close up the casing.
4. Hem the Skirt
At this point, hang up the skirt for at least a few days or a week. This is because fabric tends to stretch, so if you hem the skirt without letting it to stretch, you will have a skirt with an uneven edge.
This is why you don’t have to cut your fabric precisely to the pattern if you are using light weight fabric like chiffon. This type of fabric tends to stretch a lot.
Once the skirt has stretched out, put on the skirt, mark where it has stretched, then hem the edge. You can either get a friend to help you mark the hem with pins, or find something that is as tall as your skirt length and hang the skirt there. I found my fiance’s doumbek plus a chair creates my skirt length, so they act as my dress form 😀
Then just hem the skirt the way you want. If you have a serger, go ahead and use it. I don’t have a serger, so I just do small zig zag stitches all the way around.
Same for the straight sides. You can just zigzag stitch or use a serger, and if you want a slit on either side, leave the sides as they are. If you want a continuous circle skirt with no opening, just straight stitch along the straight edge. It is up to you.
Now you have a 2-panel circle skirt that fits you. This is the simplest circle skirt for belly dance costume, and you can modify, add layers or add more panels as you like.
Hope this was helpful! Now I have 2 favours to ask you. First, if you make a circle skirt or if you have your own tips on making a circle skirt, share them on Sparkly Belly’s Facebook page.
Second, if you find this useful, please sign up for updates and share this article with your friends, students, and classmates, so they can get their own copy of this instruction and custom measurement calculator, and more free resources to come.
And if you hang out over at Pinterest, pin this and share 🙂
Are you ready to make more costuming bits?