Friday, September 18, 2009

How to Make a Hoopskirt for Under $40

So I'm only so dedicated to historical accuracy. Over $100 for an undergarment that no one will see? I think not, ladies and gentlemen.

If you want to see a great tutorial, try here - the Dreamstress has a great method.

So here's how I did it.


  • 100ft of Polytubing (which is this stuff, although I didn't get mine here: - I chose 3/4", which was 0.23 a foot so $23
  • 2-1/2" wide ribbon (I bought a 25 yard spool of it at Walmart and used about half. If you're taller than me you'll need more) $5
  • Scissors (...I...own them so free?)
  • Sewing Machine (this is a serious pain in the butt without it)
  • Duct tape $3ish a roll
  • About 1yd of cheap fabric to make a waistband $2
  • 1pkg of something to use as a tie (I got about 2-1/2yds of bias piping stuff. I bet shoelaces would work too) $3
  • Final Price - Roughly $36
The Waistband
I chose to do this first just because. If you don't want to, then don't. Won't be an issue.

My waist is about 22" and I wanted a slight scrunch so I cut my fabric about 30" long, and maybe...3-4" wide.

I folded it in half, and sewed about half an inch down from the fold to create a little tunnel for the tie to go through. Then I finagled the tie through the tunnel with a wire hanger. After swearing about that for about half an hour...I had it ready to go. The idea was to sew the skirt strips into the area into between the folds for extra awesome.

(note from the future: It totally works)

The Strips
See those white strips hanging down from the waistband? Expect those to take roughly four hours of hair-yanking to accomplish. They take FOREVERholycrap. They work really well, and turn out very strong, but I still wanted to kick myself.

Step One: Figure out how tall you are, and then adjust. I made my strips 37" long. I'm 5'0" tall. I'm pretty pleased with how close the hoops are to the floor so I'd add/subtract the inches depending on how tall you are compared to me.

Step Two: Cut lots of strips. I cut twenty, and only used sixteen. If you plan to have a lot of hoops/really heavy gown I'd cut more like forty strips and use all of them for extra stiffness. I like a little sway and don't plan to have an extremely heavy gown.

Step Three: Start sewing. Gently fold in each edge and sew down the length to keep the edges in. This strengthens the ribbon and keeps it from fraying on you.

Once you've done this on EVERY SINGLE ONE (yes, really, it takes forever) then you get to sew AGAIN. This time, it's more complicated.

Step Four: Put the two wrong-side together. Then you get to start sewing. First, 1" from whichever side you choose. This is the bottom. Then, 2" up from that is the next one. Then 4" up from that, 2" up from that. The 4" is the distance between each hoop, the 2" is the slot the hoops go through (if you choose a smaller hoop size than I did you will want to adjust the size of the slot). Do this until you have as many 2" slots as you intend to have hoops. I chose five hoops, so I have five 2" slots. Then I had a fair amount of "extra" up top. This is good.

Step Five: The extra is used for sewing into your waistband. I put mine in about 4" apart. Check each to be sure you have the hoop slots at the same height all the way around - don't want to screw up here. I used a tight zig-zag stitch to secure them in.

aaaaand done.

The Hoops
This was, for me, the absolute easiest part. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you go over 140" at the biggest hoop, you will need to have much longer strips. Even if you're 5' I would suggest 42" strips. The bigger the hoop the more space they have! I wound up with a British Farthingale from the pre-Restoration at first - total Tabletop!

I chose to make five hoops. The fun here is that you can do WHATEVER you want! I chose to do these measurements, and I chose to do five. If you want to do more, go ahead. If you want to do less, cool. If you want to use my measurements, right on. If you want a tiny hoop (like...the kind that can fit through a door) cool! If you want something ridiculously huge, go for it. Just try to keep your proportions. I went for 13" difference between each hoop.

Top Level 88"
Second Level 101"
Third Level 114"
Fourth Level 127"
Fifth Level 140"

Also, I cut about 1" larger than each of these measurements, and then I slit 1" down on one end of each and squeezed to shove that end into the other. This makes it sturdier when you duct tape. And if your hoops are large enough to not fit well through things, you WANT sturdy. Because these suckers actually have a little BEND to them.

Also, there's my puppy. Heehee.

The Grand Finale
You have finally completed the pieces! You have a full waistband, and you have your hoops. You're ready to thread them through! This, you can figure out on your own really. If you made the ribbons right, it's okay to be a little rough with them. If you have a dress form, YAY. I used mine and it made it really easy. If you don't, it's not impossible just takes a bit of maneuvering. Once you've pushed each hoop through the ribbons, push the slit end into the other end and then wrap with duct tape (or Gorilla Tape, which I'm particularly fond of).

Once all of the hoops are in, carefully adjust your ribbons to make them straight. This will force the shape of the skirt to be circular and even.

And just like that, you have a hoop.

Don't forget your petticoats! I tossed some fabric around mine to get a look at how it works, and I can see the hoops right through it. So what you want is two or so petticoats to keep things smooth and pretty. These big hoops require a bit of coverage to hide!

So there you have it. I got the original idea for this from my Theatre teacher many years ago. However, I got the more specific ideas (like the genius ribbons) from The Dreamstress.

And thus, Masqued has created a hoopskirt for under $40 in under five hours. Step one, complete.


Porcelain Dream said...

Can you use this wire to create the structer to be able to use only one petticoat?