How to Make a Belly Dance Skirt – Even If You Can’t Sew!

I'm the first to admit I'm not a dressmaker. I don't know how to make darts or even follow a pattern - but even I have managed to make several skirts using these simple instructions.   Most standard dressmaking skirt patterns don't work for a belly dance skirt anyway - you can find out why not here, if you're interested. In fact, I find this simple version works better than skirts I've had from a "proper" skirt pattern.

This pattern will make a straight skirt in a stretch fabric. You can choose the height of split you prefer, or add one or more godets (chiffon inserts), either for modesty or to create a mermaid effect.

1. Take Your Measurements

You need just two measurements: top hip and length.

  • Find the top of your hip bones. Measure around yourself at that level. Yes, I know you're much wider round your hips than around your hip bones - trust me, it doesn't matter. Add 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) hem allowance.
  • Measure the length you want - i.e., from wherever you like your skirt to sit on your hips, down to where you want the hem to finish. Add 3 inches (7.5 centimetres) hem allowance (your top hem will be larger to make a waistband).

You're done.

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2. Buy Your Fabric

Personally, I always add a few inches in both directions when I buy my material, in case I made a mistake! You can always cut off the excess later.

The material must be stretchy but firm. Lycra and stretch velvet are good choices. Stretch satin is good too, although it often has less stretch. Jerseys aren't usually firm enough.

Always check the direction of stretch of the material before buying. Some materials are "two-way stretch", so it won't matter which way you cut your skirt - but some fabrics only stretch in one direction. If you choose a one-way stretch material, be sure you buy it wide enough for your hip measurement in the direction it stretches.

You'll also need matching thread, elastic for the waistband, and whatever sequins, crystals or lace you want to decorate it with.

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3. Sew Your Skirt

  • Fold your skirt in half lengthways. The open side is what will become the split in your dress - whether you have a high split at the thigh, or a smaller one at the back or front, doesn't matter.
  • Sew down the open side, starting from the waist, as far down as you want. If you're having a thigh split, that may mean you sew only a few inches. If in doubt, sew less than you think you need - you can always sew a bit more later.
  • When you're happy with it, you'll need to reinforce the top of the split by oversewing it several times - but I find it's best to wait until the skirt is finished.
  • Fold 1.5 to 2 inches of the top edge inwards, and tack in place. This will form your waistband. Sew it neatly 1 to 1.5 inches from the edge, to make a channel big enough to thread elastic through. Don't forget to leave a small section open, so you can get the elastic in!
  • Thread the elastic through (the easiest way is to put a safety pin through one end of the elastic and push that through the channel). You can pin the elastic together while you check the fit.
  • Try the skirt on and make any adjustments. When you're happy with it, sew the elastic together securely and close the small section of waistband where you threaded it through.

Your skirt is almost done! Now all you need to do is hem it to the right length, and add whatever embellishments you want - unless you want to add some chiffon inserts (godets).

For the more ambitious, you could try your hand at making a mermaid skirt with these instructions:

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