Expanding a skirt

25 yard skirts are a beautiful accessory used in Tribal Belly Dancing, and other styles too. They are relatively easy to find nowadays, but if you are on the bigger side of the spectrum, you will have issues. I’ve mentioned before about my dealings with an Indian vendor to obtain a made to measure skirt to counteract this, and the problems that ensued. This time, as I prepared for an upcoming performance at the Ifield Barn Theatre, I remembered with horror that the theatre’s background is black. And then I took a look at my intended costume, and realised I would be a floating head with some floating arms. What to do?

Easy, I thought. I’d read a few people saying good things about The Dancers World’s 25 yarders, since I had no time to order a make to measure one again, I was still having trouble finding suitable fabric, and their website states that their skirts fit up to a size 26 and above, I decided to order a dark red skirt, which I would put over the black and dip-dyed red.

Sadly, by the time the skirt finally, I realised that while the fitting claim is true, it should come with caveats. The skirts DO fit, if you wear them on your waist. Which is not the case for most dancers, who like to show their belly button (in fact, I remember at least one ATS/Tribal writer talking about displaying the “seat of power” right under the belly button). This means that the skirts should go around the upper hip measurement. Which, for a size 26 and above, is most definitely not the 50″ that came for my skirt. The colour was bright red (not the “reddish maroon” that I’d been told would come), and flow beautifully. More importantly, though, it fitted, but it was uncomfortable, and the extra tension was causing it to ride up. With a performance date fast approaching, and no chance of finding anything else suitable, in time without having to completely re-think my whole wardrobe, I decided to risk it, and alter the skirt myself.

Skirt waistband cut open

Skirt waistband cut open


How did I do? Quite well, I think. I was lucky enough that the skirt came with a short underskirt, of exactly the same fabric as the skirt itself, and dyed the same colour. The steps are simple to do but require extreme care:

  • remove underskirt
  • remove the tie from the waist casing, and reserve
  • identify side seam on the top tier, carefully rip it open as necessary (shouldn’t be more than halfway down the first tier)
  • cut the waistband at the point of this open seam
  • use the underskirt fabric with wide elastic to create a gore piece to add to the waistband as necessary, and inserting itself into the first tier
  • re-thread the tie as required

Skirt new gore insert

Skirt new gore insert


There’s not really much else to add. I decided to rotate the centre of the skirt to have each of the sides of the gore as the exit point to the waist tie, and to further the customisation, I took up the skirt as necessary to have an even length all around, despite my bum’s attempts at lifting the back. It turned out that all parts of the new gore bar the actual waistband were lifted and hidden from view.

You can follow the procedure above, although be advised that you do need to make sure the waistband elastic will stay in place somehow, or plan on re-doing the lot if your elastic is not sewn along the length. Be careful, as a misstep can ruin your skirt! So only do this if there are no other options! Of course, if you need even more waistband, or want things a bit more balanced, you could perform the gores on both sides of the hips.

New gore sewn onto the skirt

New gore sewn onto the skirt

Red and black ATS costume

Red and black ATS costume

The results are quite good, I should say, and once I took the extra length up from the waistband, barely noticeable. Also keep in mind that most of the times your skirt’s waistband shall be covered by belts or hipscarves, which makes this solution even better.

The skirt required, overall, about 5 hours of work to be usable and customised for myself, both in waist and length. How does it compare to the made to measure? The fabric is nearly identical, although the finishing is better. Made to measure skirt’s cost was just under a fiver under what I paid for this red beauty, although I was lucky and wasn’t hit with customs charges that time, but the length on that one was a pain, and I am still not happy with how that happened, although in hindsight, I should have ordered it longer. I still think that, for the price, if I can manage to get suitable fabric, it should be better for me to make my own, but of course it all depends on finding the right fabric, and whatever time I have available.

On the photo to the left, the finished costume that includes the tribal belt and bra discussed in previous posts, a choli made with the FCBD pattern discussed before (it needed modifications and a bit of extra engineering; write-up on that coming soon), and the skirt discussed in this post, over the previously discussed dip-dyed skirt. Final costume will have some hair flowers, and black pantaloons underneath, also home made with leftover crinkle polycotton fabric.

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