The circle skirt is a staple in bellydance costuming. It has been around for ages, in many different types and shapes. The most common circle skirt is made of chiffon or satin and features a waistband with elastic. According to your own preferences it can be customized by adding more layers (this gives beautiful effects when the layers fan out during spins and turns), by adding one or more splits to show off legs, or by adding extra decoration in the form of ruffles, sequins, or a decorative hemline. In short, if you don’t know where to start with buildig bellydance wardrobe, circle skirts are always a good idea. The skirt can be paired with a tank top and hipscarf for student performances, or a b
eaded bra and belt for a more polished, professional look. The circle skirt can also be made as part of a dance costume in a different style, as part of a Halloween costume or just for regular wear.
Fun fact: I made over thirty circle skirts in the past fifteen years of bellydance
- App. 5 m/ 16.4 ft of fabric (1.50 m/ 45″ or 60″ wide) for a single layer circle skirt. Please note that I am using a generous amount of fabric: I usually end up with some left over scraps. If you’re using expensive fabric it might be good to calculate the exact fabric use and lay out.
- matching thread
- Wide elastic for the waist (I prefer at least 2,5 cm/ 1″ wide)
- Large piece of pattern paper, or newspapers stuck together with scotch tape)
- Pencil and a piece of string
- A friend to help you with drawing the pattern and cutting the hemline
A = hip circumfence (broadest point of the hips, multiplied by 6.5: this is measurement A.
B= Measurement from hip to seam of skirt.
Let your friend hold the end of the piece of string. Put a large sqaure of patternpaper on the floor. Tie the pencil to the string and draw a quarter of a circle with a radius of
measurement A. Then draw a second circle with radius C. You now have a quarter-circle pattern.
Cut the fabric
Use the pattern to cut two half circles out of the fabric. For optimal use of fabric, cut two quarter circles and one half circle as indicated in the diagram below.
If you don’t like a seam in the middle back of your skirt, here’s a less optimal lay-out that allows for cutting two complete half circles. It takes up slightly more fabric but I actually prefer this lay-out as I dislike the look of extra seams in the skirt.
The easiest way to cut a half circle is by folding the fabric and putting the pattern next tot he fold in the fabric. In the picture below, the fabric fold is in the bottom, the edges of the fabric are carefully layered to the left and the right. Make sure all edges of the fabric are even and there are no bulges or folds in the fabric. Pin the pattern into place and cut out your first half circle. Repeat this once more so you’ll have two half circles.
In addition to the two half circles, tear a straight strip of fabric for the waist band. You’ll need a strip that is 7,5 cm/ 3″ wide. For practical purposes, I just tear a strip that is as long as the width of the fabric: I then cut it to size..
Grab the fabric with both hands on the side of the cut, and tear the whole strip from one side to the other side.
The result is a perfectly straight strip of fabric.
Sew the two half circles together on the sides to create one whole circle. As you can see in the picture, my half circles are a bit winky and don’t line up. This is fine, as I added an extra 5 cm to the lower edge so I have room to cut the fabric to the right length once the skirt is assembled. All the little changes and things that don’t line up can be fixed in a later stage.
The waist band
Pin the circle with the pretty sides of the fabric together to the waistband.
Stitch the waistband to the skirt. Fold waistband up and iron the seam flat. Fold 1 cm of the other side of the waistband inward and iron so it stays flat. Then fold the whole waistband so it encases the seams, pin into place.
Stitch through the waist band and the skirt to form the tunnel for elastic.
Leave 5 cm open, use a safetypin to pull the elastic through the waist band.
Pull both ends of the elastic out of the waistband and pin them together. Make sure the elastic is not twisted, and stitch it together.
Pin the 5cm/2″ inch gap and try the skirt on. If you are happy with the result, close the seam.
Evening out the hemline
After putting the skirt together, I put it on a clothes rack or a dress mannequin and let it hang for about a week. This allows the fibers in the fabric to settle into their final position. Gravity does the trick, so give it some time before cutting the hemline. As you can see, the hemline on this skirt is very uneven.
In order to cut the hemline to the correct length, you can put the skirt, stand on a stool or table and have a friend cut the hemline. This gives the best result but it means you’ll have to arrange for your friend to meet. Due to time pressure (costumes often must be finished before a deadline) I put the skirt up on a clothing rack and hang a skirt with finished hemline behind it. I then cut the hem to a similar length, though slightly longer. Notice how the fabric drops down into folds after cutting: a hemline will help to add structure and shape in order for the skirt to slightly flare out. The seam will also take up a couple of cm/ about an inch.
Once your skirt is cut, choose your preferred method of finishing the hem. The total hemline of your skirt is over 6 meters/ 6.6 yards. It might take a while, but the end result is worth it. This is a double layered white chiffon circle skirt with fishing line in the rolled hem.
More circle skirt tutorials