How to Make a Mermaid Skirt Part 1: Pattern Making

How to Make a Mermaid Skirt Pattern


Update – Since I published this post, I received many questions, so I’ve updated the post. If you came back to this post, have a read again below. If you are new… welcome! 🙂


You asked for it…


And here it is – DIY Mermaid Skirt!


Mermaid skirts are also called trumpet skirts, and they tend to be tight around the hips and thighs and they are flared towards the bottom.


These skirts can accentuate your curves and help create the hourglass figure, no matter how tall or short you are. So, naturally mermaid skirts or trumpet skirts are a popular choice for belly dance costume skirts, and flamenco and ballroom dresses 🙂


Since there are many types of mermaid skirts, one of my challenges was to decide which one to show. After brainstorming and experimenting, I decided to do a 5-panel mermaid skirt, because this one is relatively simple, easy to sew, and still achieves the nice mermaid shape.


So this week and next week, you will see how to make a 5-panel mermaid skirt that fits you perfectly. In this video and post, you will see how to make a mermaid skirt pattern.



Click here to get the free measurement calculation worksheet 🙂           


Do you want to make more than just a mermaid skirt? Check out my free course, Belly Dance Costume Making 101!  


To make a mermaid skirt pattern, you need:        

A big sheet of paper – you can use tissue paper, butcher paper, or cut open paper bags and tape them together. I’m using leftover wrapping paper. You can determine how much paper you need after you take measurements, which I will show you in a bit.  

Measuring tape – having a friend that can help you measure is also nice.  

Pen and scissors                  



How to Make a Mermaid Skirt Pattern


I often like to skip making patterns for my costumes. 😛  


But for this skirt, it is important that you make a pattern based on your measurements. Because this skirt is fitted around the hips, and we work with stretch fabric, having a pattern will save a lot of headaches later.          


This is going to be a 5-panel mermaid skirt, which means that the skirt will be made up of 5 identical pieces of fabric like this.  Mermaid Skirt Diagram 5 Panels Pattern    

So we are only making 1 pattern to make all 5 panels for this skirt. Simple, right? 😉        


But because this skirt is tight fitted at the top, we have to be a bit more accurate with our measurements than when we made our circle skirts. So we’ll take 7 measurements.          


Side View Measurement Points  

Your belt line – I didn’t call this your waist, because this should be the measurement of where you want your skirt to start, typically where your costume belt would sit, not the thinnest part of your waist.  


The fullest part of your hip  


Around your thighs – just below the end of your hip  


Now turn back and measure:          


Back View Measurement Points  

Distance between your belt line and the fullest part of your hip    


Distance between fullest part of your hip and just below your hip    


Distance between the end of your hip and 10 cm above your knee    


Distance between 10 cm above your knee and the floor  


And here is where having a friend to read measurements helps. Instead of measuring a distance then moving your measuring tape to read the next distance, hold the measuring tape at the belt line, then have a friend read the measurement at each point. This tends to reduce errors for me.          


When measuring the distances, keep in mind that the skirt will be snug around body, so try to measure along the curves of your body. if you measure straight lines, your skirt will become too short.          


By the way, these awesome templates of dress forms are from Designers Nexus. You can get these templates for free! These are great when you are brainstorming your next costume ideas, you can just print these out and draw on them, and you don’t have to worry about drawing your upper body too big for the legs or vice versa. 😀 Designers Nexus has tons of templates and more, and they graciously let me use their templates in my video. Check them out!    

The side view template

The back view template          





Now we will do a bit of calculation. Because the fabric you will be using to make the skirt will have stretch, we have to make the skirt smaller than your measurements, or the skirt won’t be nice and snug around your hip.          


So take each of the first 3 measurements of your belt line, hip and thighs and divide them by 1.2. This 1.2 accounts for the stretch, which I will explain more in Part 2.          


And because we are making a pattern for 1 panel, and 5 panels add up to those measurements you took, divide the numbers by 5. And we will fold the pattern paper in half, which you will see later, so divide the numbers by 2. Then add 1.5 cm or ⅝ in for seam allowance.          


So these are the numbers you will be using to create your panel pattern. So for example, in the pattern making section, the belt line measurement will refer to this number, not the original measurement.          


Side View Measurement Calculation        


If this is too much to follow, or if you want to double-check your math, you can download the measurement calculation worksheet from the link below, and it’ll do the math for you. You will find it useful to have all numbers organized on the worksheet. 😉          


Click here to get the free measurement calculation worksheet 🙂



If you want to make a 3-panel mermaid skirt…


Many people asked how to make a 3-panel mermaid skirt using this pattern.


The skirt will basically have 1 panel in front and 2 at the back, so you have a seam at the centre back.


If you want to make a 3-panel mermaid skirt, all you have to do is change the “5” in above formulas to “3”. Everything else is the same, so go ahead and keep following the instruction 🙂



Make a Pattern


So this section has lots of instructions, and it seems complicated, but it’s very simple. You are just taking numbers that you calculated above and marking them with dots. The video above shows each step, so if you get confused, please check out the video.


Take your pattern paper, and fold it in half. On the folded edge, pick a starting point.


Mark the belt line measurement that you calculated from this point.


Then from here, measure 1 cm or ½ in down, which is the seam allowance.


Do the same for the folded edge.


On the folded edge, mark the distance between the belt line and the fullest part of your hip.


Then from here, mark the hip line measurement.


Back to the folded edge, mark the distance between the hip line and the end of your hip.


Then from here, mark the thigh measurement.


Back to the folded edge, mark the distance between the end of your hip and 10cm above your knees.


Then from here, mark the thigh measurement again.


Back to the folded edge, mark the distance between 10cm above your knees and the floor plus 1 cm or ½ in.


Now from this point, measure the thigh measurement x 5.


Mermaid Skirt Pattern Making


Then connect this point with the last of the thigh measurement point.


Take the measurement between 10cm above your knees and the floor plus 1 cm or ½ in, and mark this from the thigh measurement point along the line you just drew. And from this point, draw a nice curved line to connect to the bottom of the folded edge. This ensures the skirt length is more or less equal at the bottom.


Mermaid Skirt Pattern


Now connect the dots.


And from here, you can add some curves to your lines, so the seam lines aren’t too straight and have no sharp corners.


And just cut out the pattern along the lines.


How to Make a Mermaid Skirt Pattern


Now you have a pattern for a mermaid skirt panel!


Now you must be wondering…


How much fabric do I need?


What kind of fabric should I use?


Can I make with non-stretch fabric?


These will be answered in Part 2!


In Part 2, you will see types of fabric that is suitable for this skirt, and how to put together this skirt. So keep going, but before you go, sign up for the Sparkly Belly newsletter below to get updates and free resources to help you make costumes.


Click here to sign up for the Sparkly Belly newsletter and get updates & freebies 🙂


Thanks for reading the post, and keep sparkling!


P.S. Want to learn to make a full belly dance costume? Check out my free course, Belly Dance Costume Making 101!


P.P.S. Pin this photo to your costume making board 😉


How to Make a Mermaid Skirt Pattern


Click here to jump to Part 2!



Are you ready to make more costuming bits?

Belly Dance Costume Making 101

Sign up for my free course, Belly Dance Costume Making 101!


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  50 comments for “How to Make a Mermaid Skirt Part 1: Pattern Making

  1. Termare Pugh
    January 14, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Where is part 2? I cannot find it anywhere.

    • Mao
      January 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Thank you for your comment! Part 2 is coming out this Sunday 🙂 Thanks for your patience!

  2. N Buffon
    January 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    wow! these will be custom fitted, thank you

    • Mao
      January 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      You’re welcome, and thank YOU for visiting 🙂

      • December 12, 2015 at 12:10 pm

        I think you are great ,so informational!!And inspiring,Thank you for all your hard work and for being you!!??

        • Mao
          December 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm

          Aw thanks so much, Angelina, you’re so sweet!

  3. January 15, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Awesome! Bookmarked.

    • Mao
      January 18, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Thanks, Zorba! 🙂

  4. Zia
    January 16, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Thank you so so so much for creating this!

    • Mao
      January 18, 2015 at 9:48 am

      You’re welcome, Zia 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

  5. Audra
    January 22, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing your tutorial! It’s really great!

    • Mao
      January 25, 2015 at 11:25 am

      Aw thanks, Audra! 🙂 Let me know if I can help you in any way.

  6. Nancy
    February 4, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Thank you, thank you! I have been looking for a pattern for these forever – my 11 year old daughter and I dance together and it’s so hard to find anything that fits her. Now I can make her a cute skirt so she can look like the grown up ladies in class! <3

    • Mao
      February 4, 2015 at 8:32 am

      Oh that’s lovely!! It’s so nice that you and your daughter dance together. I’d love to see it, it must be so cute! Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions 🙂

  7. February 13, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I love this skirt.

    • Mao
      February 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks again, Natalie 🙂

  8. Victoria Pierson
    April 6, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    What could I do differently to make this 3 panels instead of 5. One big panel in the front and two in the back so I can have a back seam for a prom dress.

    • Mao
      April 9, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Good question, Victoria 🙂 All you need to do is switch the “5” in the measurement calculation to 3. Are you making the prom dress out of stretch material? If your fabric has no stretch, take out the “1.2” as well, and sew in zipper at the back seam 🙂

    • shyam
      June 5, 2015 at 2:34 am

      i have a doubt in your answer to victoria’s query.As she wanted 3 panels instead of 5 you asked her to divide by 3 instead of by 5. In that case she would get 3 panels equal in size acccording to me if im not wrong. But she actually wanted 1 ig panel in the front & 2 in the back so I feel she should divide by 2 & make panel for the front part & divide by 4 & make 2 panels for the back. Pl clear my doubt Mao Madam & 1 more query sould we not divide by 1.2 if the fabric is not stretchable pl clear my doubts via my email address thank you in advance

      • Mao
        June 5, 2015 at 8:54 am

        Thanks for your comment, Shyam! I totally understand where your doubt is coming from, and your method would work perfectly as well! They will just result in slightly different looks. I was picturing the dress to have 3 equal sized panels for a few reasons. Having 3 equal sized panels makes the math simpler, and also when I look at skirts made from 3 panels, even when the widths of the panels are the same, the front one “looks” big, because it is the main panel in the front, and you see a little bit of the other panels. When I pictured it in my head, I liked this look more because the seams would create nice lines in the front 🙂 Having said, one can definitely divide the hip measurement by 2, and use the number to make the front panel and do the rest as you described. This way the seams will end at right at your sides.
        And yes, 1.2 is the stretch, so if you are not using stretch fabric, you should take out the 1.2. 🙂
        I’ll email you my response as well, but I wanted to put my response here in case other people are thinking about the same questions 🙂

  9. Annabel Esohe
    May 28, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Thanks, please how can I know of your next video, you have really help me understand the mermaid skirt. I need to follow you up.

    • Mao
      May 29, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Thank you, Annabel 🙂 You can subscribe to my newsletter from this link, and I send newsletter updates every Friday 🙂

  10. June 7, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Hello, I have a request for you. How do do make a 16 panel handkerchief skirt with openings throughout?

    • Mao
      June 9, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks for the request, Laura! Sounds like a fun skirt to make 😀 Do you happen to have a picture of it? I’d appreciate if you could send a picture over to, so I can see exactly what your vision is 🙂 Thank you!

  11. June 9, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    i have been looking for a mermaid skirt tutuorial and yours it is the best one.
    how can I knoe how much fabric I’m going to need for a 5 years old???
    I cant find this information on the tutorial

    • Mao
      June 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you, Rosa! 🙂 You can make a pattern based on her measurements and see how you can fit it in your fabric to see how much you need. For reference, if you use this pattern for a small adult (ie. me at 5 feet), you need about 3m.
      Your store is quite funky, by the way! I like it 🙂

  12. June 16, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I enjoyed but have a question

    • Mao
      June 19, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Thanks! Feel free to ask questions here, or you can email me at 🙂

  13. sunaina
    June 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

    hi i like your video i would like to stitch this skirt for my 3 years old daughter on her birthday. please suggest me how much the fabric requires?

    • Mao
      June 29, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      Thank you, Sunaina! For your 3 years old girl, you’d probably only need as long as her skirt length plus a few inches. Make sure it stretches from selvage to selvage if you use 2 way stretch fabric 🙂 I’d love to see it when you make it!

  14. Iman
    July 12, 2015 at 10:16 am

    One question: is it possible to do this with a non-stretch fabric? I’ve been looking for tutorials everywhere and yours is the best I could find. Help!

    • Mao
      July 17, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      Thank you, Iman 🙂 It IS possible, but it won’t be as comfortable to wear as one made with stretch fabric. Having said, if you want to make with non-stretch fabric, take out “1.2” from the formulas, and sew in a zipper at the back seam. You may want to make it less tight by adding a few inches or more to your original hip measurement, or it will be too tight around the hips! Adding a slit in front like the black skirt in the picture makes it less tight as well 🙂 Hope this helps!

  15. Rosa
    July 26, 2015 at 10:20 am

    At last i know how to…thanks to your video/tutorial!

    • Mao
      July 31, 2015 at 8:17 am

      Glad to hear that, Rosa 🙂 My pleasure!

  16. Oluwafunke
    August 27, 2015 at 12:07 am

    I love this mermaid skirt 2,although I am still trying to get part 1

  17. May 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    depois mostro como ficou a saia que fiz

  18. September 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Hello! I am wanting to make a mermaid skirt that trails at the back, similar to this photo. What would I need to do differently?
    That link is to a google image of what I’m looking for.

    • Mao
      September 25, 2016 at 11:31 am

      Hi Jackie! So the part trails is called a train, and if I were to convert this mermaid skirt into a skirt with train, I would first make another pattern. I would first make a copy of the original pattern, and add the length I want to add to the right end of the skirt (12-20 in or so to start? depends on how long of a train you want). This is going to the be the longest point of the train. Then from there, connect the lines gradually to the left end of the skirt. The shape you draw here also affects how it’ll look in the end, so you may want to look up “skirt train pattern” and see what you like 🙂 This is going to be the left panel of the back side of the skirt. Flip the pattern to cut out the right panel of the skirt.
      It’s kind of like this image here: So the modified pattern will be the “C” and “E” panels combined in this photo (except that yours will be a lovely mermaid skirt). 🙂
      Hope this helps you somewhat. Let me know how it goes or if you want to bounce ideas! Now I want to make one with train too 😀

  19. Teah Petersen
    December 31, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Hi! I don’t know why no one has brought this up yet. In your video you say to Divide the numbers, yet your graphics use the ‘X’ which means to Multiply. Ex.: 1.2 X 5 X 2, but the voice-over says to divide. So, which is it?

    • Teah Petersen
      December 31, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Nevermind. I get it. I was really tired when I watched the video. Sorry for the trouble.!! I’m totally going to make this skirt.

      • Mao
        January 2, 2017 at 11:17 am

        No problem, Teah, I know it’s confusing – especially if you’re tired 🙂 Glad it made sense. Let me know if you have any questions while making the skirt 🙂

  20. Samirah
    February 5, 2017 at 11:04 am

    if I make the skirt from three panels, wil the hem width be equal to the skirt with five panels?

    • Mao
      February 5, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Hi Samirah! Do you mean the entire length of the hem? If so, yes! 🙂

  21. Silky
    May 2, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Am asked to form a note on 8 pieces skirt,please can you help?

    • Mao
      May 2, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Silky, so I understand you are making a 8-panel skirt? I’ve never tried this myself, but you can modify this pattern by replacing the “5” in the formulas to “8” and see if the pattern works. Or I have another pattern that is a 8-panel mermaid skirt. You can see it here:
      Hope this helps! 🙂

  22. Brooklyn
    June 19, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Is there a place where you sell the pattern already made

    • Mao
      June 22, 2017 at 2:18 pm

      No unfortunately 🙁 I’ll consider making ready-made patterns if there’s enough interest! 🙂

  23. Debora A Vielman
    July 8, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    When calculating your measurements are you dividing or multiplying?

    • Mao
      July 18, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Hi Debora! You divide the measurements by 12 (1.2 x 5 x 2 = 12) 🙂

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