Making a Mermaid skirt...

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
My teacher/troupe leader put a crazy idea into my head: Make a mermaid skirt. Any good online tutorials? This sounds like it would take a LOT more precision than my usual projects...
 

Daimona

Moderator
I've done several. Always fun. Too bad I don't wear skirts often enough to justify to make one more...

I usually make narrower panels at the bottom than the tutorial above to use the fabric more efficient and add godets.
At the back, the two mid panels are slightly longer and give the feeling of a train. The front center panel is a bit wider than the rest of the panels.

If you choose this method, make shure the godets are not too small. My preferred length is app. from the ancle to the knee.

Will you make it in a woven fabric or elastic fabric?
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
I have some stretchy fuchsia velour I'm eyeballing. Its been sitting around here for ages!
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Oh wow, that's complicated for this ol' boy! Gonna have to noodle on this for a bit...
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
I think I better put a slit in it to at least above the knee - otherwise its gonna be almost a hobble skirt.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
At the back, the two mid panels are slightly longer and give the feeling of a train.
How long are the back panels? I'd be afraid of stepping on the hem if it had much of a train, but I guess it depends on how much stepping backward a dancer does. Those big backward-traveling undulations were a thing for a while, but they don't seem to be as common as they once were.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
I have some stretchy fuchsia velour I'm eyeballing.
It sounds lovely, but I wouldn't be brave enough to start with that fabric and work out the details of a new pattern at the same time. (I've always found stretch velour more challenging than velvet or regular knits.) Would it be worth doing a test run with some junky knit to get the pattern sorted first?

I think I better put a slit in it to at least above the knee - otherwise its gonna be almost a hobble skirt.
What if you cut the top a little looser and fluffed the bottom out with horsehair braid? I don't know how that would work with velour, but it should give you more of a fishtail with other fabrics.
 

Daimona

Moderator
How long are the back panels? I'd be afraid of stepping on the hem if it had much of a train, but I guess it depends on how much stepping backward a dancer does. Those big backward-traveling undulations were a thing for a while, but they don't seem to be as common as they once were.
Not very much longer, just a few cm. I've never tripped in my mermaid skirts.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
I own a pseudo-mermaid skirt (non-dance) which is much shorter in the front than in the back - but AS I RECALL (!!), the dance ones I saw were symmetrical all the way around. Yea, I was thinking of a mockup also - assuming I get brave enough to try it!
 

Daimona

Moderator
It is easier to do it with similar pieces all the way around, but IMNSHO I prefer the ones that are a little bit longer in the back. After all, they are still symmetrical...
 

Daimona

Moderator
The advantage of a mermaid skirt that is equal all the way around is that you can put it on in a hurry and don't worry about having the front in the right etc.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I keep thinking of the little mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen and her poor aching little feet.

Back in 1979, I made a skirt in the style that came to be known as a mermaid skirt. It got favorable comments from audiences, but I always felt constrained when I wore it. No doubt my feelings stemmed from psychological dependence on being surrounded by acres of floating chiffon. ;)
 

lilya

Member
Seconding Tourbeau's recommendation: I used this tutorial recently to make a 3-panel version, which somehow worked better than 5 panels for the amount of fabric I had. I'm fairly new to sewing, especially bottoms, but I had the panels cut and baste stitched together in about 3 hours. I still have to finish it... welp.

There is a link to a worksheet on the page (it actually opens a newsletter subscription form but it does not seem to be working right now). I remembered after I started writing that I had actually joined Mao's mermaid skirt making challenge (https://www.sparklybelly.com/5-day-mermaid-skirt-challenge/) and received an email daily for 5 days, with a link to a pattern-making calculator webpage in the first day's email. I personally prefer the worksheet format, but the results should be the same. Confession: I decided to cut a bit more, out of an excess of caution. That turned out to be unnecessary and I would have saved myself some time if I had just used the calculated dimensions.
 
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Suzanne Azhaar

Active member
Here's my method- imagine 8 long rectangles (Length- measure where the skirt will sit, over the bum, to the length you want it. Add for seam allowance for bottom hem and elastic casing. Width is widest part of your body- belly, bum, thighs, whichever is widest. Then divide it by 8. If it's four way stretch fabric don't add seam allowance. If it's two way stretch, put the stretch as the width, not the length.) Godets- triangles from knee to ankle. The triangle width depends on the fabric. I try to get two triangles out of the width (one triangle facing each direction to maximize fabric use. Since the fabric is folded length wise in half, it's really four triangles. Practice with newspaper for triangle size and width until it looks right to you. Side note- putting godets in opposing directions to cut means there's going to be a shade variant on opposing godets. If this is going to bother you, cut all triangles in the same direction.) Once it's all cut out, assembly is- rectangle, triangle, rectangle, and on it goes. Here's a tip (took a while to figure it out)- some dancers like to wear the waist band under their fluffy belly. Which creates a problem of extra fabric at the front hemline (trip hazard and looks messy in appearance). Can't cut that extra fabric off the hem, makes the godets look asymmetrical and wonky. Not a good look. (Especially during a spin when the fabric flairs out.) The fix- before creating the casing for the elastic, cut the waist at a diagonal, then create the casing. Whola! Worn under the belly with correct / symmetrical godets and hemline. Audience are none the wiser. To give the bottom more fullness, horsehair braid. Happy sewing. Please post pics. (p.s. For practice, grab a sheet of paper, cut eight rectangles, and triangles (godets), lay them out, tape together, then cut the waist line at an angle. It's a good visual.) Oh! One more tip- check the fit (try it on) before creating the casing. If it's too loose, now is the best time to tighten those side seams. It's now 3:23 a.m. and I'm still trying to make sure I cover all bases for you. Sweet dreams all.
 
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Tourbeau

Active member
I try to get two triangles out of the width (one triangle facing each direction to maximize fabric use. [...] Side note- putting godets in opposing directions to cut means there's going to be a shade variant on opposing godets. If this is going to bother you, cut all triangles in the same direction.)
For the benefit of the less experienced costumers out there, best sewing practices say to keep the grain consistent for every piece of the garment. In other words, the center line from top to bottom of each pattern piece goes the same direction as you cut out the fabric. This is especially important for fabrics with a sheen like satin, a nap like velvet, or a print with obvious direction (you don't want half of your birds flying upside down or sideways or whatever). This method takes up A LOT of fabric. The godets get balanced on a perpendicular tangent so they run point-top-to-pie-crust-bottom the same top-to-bottom direction as the rectangles, which leaves tons of odd scraps, although those pieces can be used for small accessories (gauntlets, anklets, headband, choker) or joined together to cover a bra or belt base if you're making a whole costume. (Hint: Mark the grain direction on the back of your scraps with tailor's chalk if you plan to repurpose them later.)

For a skirt like Suzanne is describing, you could flip all of the godets and embrace the slight contrast, just like you could make the godets from a different fabric entirely. If you're doing the latter, think ahead. You'll regret pairing a red base with white godets if the red fabric has a tendency to run in the wash, or if the base fabric is washable and the godets need dry cleaning (now the whole skirt is dry-clean only). Also, you certainly can combine a knit and a woven (spandex with chiffon godets) or two knits with different stretch properties (a 4-way with a 2-way), but the less sewing experience you have, the more that project may deteriorate into a chance to practice your cursing--don't wait until the night before the hafla to whip that one up.

TL;DR: The simplest solution to the contrast look is to choose two of the same type of fabric. Also, if you are totally confused and can't picture what we're talking about, check out https://www.simplicity.com/simplicity-storefront-catalog/patterns/women/simplicity-sewing-pattern-s8923-misses-pull-on-skirts/ and imagine it with fewer, wider rectangles and shorter, fatter triangles.

And for the benefit of Zorba and everyone else, I'll invent the word "sewsplaining."
 
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