Circle skirt

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

Student group in circle skirts and tie tops
Student group in circle skirts and tie tops

Materials

  • 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

Measurements

A = hip circumfence (broadest point of the hips, multiplied by 6.5: this is measurement A.

B= Measurement from hip to seam of skirt.

C= Measurement A+B cirkelrokpatroonklein

Pattern drafting

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.

Example of pattern for circle skirt
Example of pattern for circle skirt

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.

Optimal lay-out for circle skirt
Optimal lay-out for circle skirt

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.

Circle skirt lay-out with minimal seams
Circle skirt lay-out with minimal seams

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.

 

circle-skirt-lay-out

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..

Make a small cut in the fabric on the selvedge side
Make a small cut in the fabric on the selvedge side

Grab the fabric with both hands on the side of the cut, and tear the whole strip from one side to the other side.

Tear the fabric by pulling on both sides next tot the tear
Tear the fabric by pulling on both sides next tot the tear

The result is a perfectly straight strip of fabric.

Strip of fabric for the waistband
Strip of fabric for the waistband

 

Two half circles and the waistband
Two half circles and the waistband

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.

Two half circles make one whole circle
Two half circles make one whole circle

The waist band

Pin the circle with the pretty sides of the fabric together to the waistband.

Pin the waist band to the skirt
Pin the waist band to the skirt

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.

Fold waistband with the raw edges on the inside
Fold waistband with the raw edges on the inside

Stitch through the waist band and the skirt to form the tunnel for elastic.

Leave a gap for adding elastic
Leave a gap for adding elastic

Leave 5 cm open, use a safetypin to pull the elastic through the waist band.

Leave a gap for adding elastic
Leave a gap for adding elastic

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 ends of the elastic together before stitching
Pin the ends of the elastic together before stitching

Pin the 5cm/2″ inch gap and try the skirt on. If you are happy with the result, close the seam.

Close the gap with pins
Close the gap with pins

 

The finished waist band
The finished waist band

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.

Circle skirt with uncut hemline
Circle skirt with uncut hemline

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.

Circle skirt with evened out hemline
Circle skirt with evened out hemline

 

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.

Circle skirt with finished hem
Circle skirt with finished hem

More circle skirt tutorials

Shira’s website

Shushanna

Sparklybelly

Photo tutorial by Misha

Sevenveils

Black Swan Tribe

How to make a circle skirt by Shushanna

Circle skirt maths explained

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