New utility page: Circle Skirt calculation

Just been using this circle skirt calculation script for myself on and off, and I decided to add it to the website. Basically, it’s a small script that allows you to enter your waist, the length of the skirt you want in centimetres, and the amount of panels you want to use for the skirt, and it will give you a calculation of how big you need the inner and outer radius of your semi-circle panel to be. Or for those not math-inclined, the translation: how big the “hole” in the middle needs to be to accommodate your waist, and how big the semi-circle needs to be, using the amount of panels you want to use.

The script calculates things on the fly and does not collect any data, so I will not see anything you enter.
Hope you find it useful!


Finished teal costume

Finished Teal Costume

Finished Teal Costume

Last weekend I attended Orient Expressions’ Hafla, and managed to secure a performance spot. I’ll go over the performance on a separate post, with a video included and notes on the choreography, but right now I wanted to show off the finished teal costume. Click on the photo on the left for a bigger image.

I created a mermaid skirt in teal stretch velvet using the method/pattern outlined here, and although this time the bottom part is fuller, there’s still no real train (mental note for the future: raise the front, but leave the back train). The skirt used 3 metres of fabric, and the leftover scraps gave just enough fabric for a matching short-sleeved choli, which should come handy if I use my sea green Devadasi Designs skirt, or if I want a slightly more covered look.

You can also see how the Czech crystal hip drapes worked on the belt and bra. There was a small malfunction of one of the drapes when the link attaching them to the belt burst open; I’ll have to replace them with a double-ring.

The whole costume was tied together with the help of this bolero from Belly Dancing Direct (review coming up!), and one of their body stockings, although I am thinking of getting a long sleeved underbust bodystocking to use next time with this and a couple of other costumes I’ve done or I’m making.

Overall, I am extremely pleased, and my only regret right now is that I didn’t step out of my comfort zone with the decoration enough to take it to the next level. I would still love something in peacock colours, and might just have to approach it again from a different angle after I’m done with the projects list. What do you think?

Skirt Tucking

If you dance ATS, or you are familiar with the style, you’ll know we can use really, REALLY big skirts that are often tucked or hitched in different ways. Which one you choose to use will depend on how big your skirt is, and your body shape.

There are a few resources for skirt tucking, a lot of it will also depend on your size and the size of the skirt you’re wearing, but the end result also will have a lot to with how the skirts are constructed (the ratio between layers, shape and fullness around the top, material). Now keep in mind that tucking usually looks better when there are layers of skirts, so if you want to do the more showy ones, be ready to use at least two!

So, which one to use? Personally, I’ve found that the bustle style is what tends to work better for my figure (pear shaped), followed by the single cross and the double cross. And what tucks I use also depend on the skirt material. If you are a pear figure like me, I’d suggest you stay away from single or double eared styles, as they will add a lot of volume to your hips, and if you go for a double cross, be careful of where the tucking falls to avoid this and try to move the tuck to the front and back of your hipbones instead of the sides to add some asymmetry, but if you’re an apple, it might be something you want, to create a visually smaller waist. An asymmetrical tuck (like a single cross or a slanted double cross) should add some length to your body if you need it, while the Saloon might do the opposite. Again, pick your skirts and experiment!

So, how do you do it? A good basic explanation can be found in Tribe Nawaar’s website, here Another place showing similar styles, although with slightly different explanations, is Birgiss Bellywear.

And now, Kae Montgomery of Fat Chance Belly Dance has created a video. The explanations are a bit different, the right hip tuck for instance is done with a double starting point, which I find gives a nicer fluff; the panier style is slightly different from the double eared, but the principles are the same, and there’s a tuck for class that I haven’t seen before. So go take a look!

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 arrived, 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

<li?insert this new piece into the opening, making sure the new elastic is securely attached to the original, and making sure there’s a clean channel left for the ties; sew securely to both ends of the opening

  • 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.

Review: Tribal Skirt from Sai International

A while ago, while talking to a friend, I told her that making your own tribal bra was a bit of a rite of passage. I was making it up (sort of), but getting a 25 yard skirt is DEFINITELY something you need to do at some point or other. Of course, if you’re on the curvier side, you might find this difficult.

I have mentioned elsewhere how you can make one. Yes, that’s 12 metres, so about half the 25 yards touted as “standard”. You need a HUGE amount of fabric for making these, and while they’re easy to make, if you want something like a dip-die edge, you’re out of luck unless you want a LOT of extra work, which most of us can’t put in (or don’t have the facilities to do).

25-yard SkirtMost local places have told me they were selling skirts, but none had anything I could pick and be certain that it would fit me right. So I turned to eBay to see if anybody was offering bigger sizes there. Turns out they weren’t, but a few inquiries did find me an indian manufacturer called Sai International more than willing to do it, for a price that was about £10 more than buying the amount of fabric my calculations told me I would need to make one. Sounded like a match made in heaven… almost. And today, after merely a couple of weeks, the skirt arrived.

The good:

  • prompt and clear communication: they got back to me within hours, if they were away, they told me they would be
  • clear explanation and requests: fundamental if you’re doing something for someone else
  • reasonably priced: about 1/3rd below the amount I would have been charged for an american standard skirt (without the extra charge for customisation for bigger sizes, and of course without the hideous shipping fees!); around the same as one bought locally, but again, no chance at customisation…I think overall, with shipping, it was about £38.
  • Shipping was FAST, via DHL… it left India on Friday and was here on Monday, and shipping charges were very reasonable (£3.50 or so)
  • decent but lightweight fabric: it’s a nice cotton, without being that horrible light cheesecloth that starts opening at the seams after two washes, and which we see often on summer clothing
  • the red dip-dyed colour is lovely; the black could be stronger, but I understand that with the procedures used, it’s far more difficult to get a deep black colour

The bad:

  • for all the “made to measure” requirements, apparently they forgot to increase the size of the underskirt accordingly, so while it does have a bigger waist, the underskirt was made for a much smaller person than me, and sits TIGHT… I can’t understand why you’d make this piece as a straight tube the size of the waist… anybody wanting these for their waist, or with a bigger bum than their upper hip measurement would have issues… And this on a garment advertised for DANCING, which should mean they should allow for a range of movement. This means I’ll have to either open it up fully, or remove it completely and trust that a second underlying skirt and pantaloons will give me enough of a modesty cover
  • the 25 yards are at the bottom, apparently (I haven’t measured) but the upper tiers haven’t really been scaled and are rather smaller than what I was expecting giving the 25 yards at the bottom the feel of… a flounce. The dip dye line in that photo is 1-third up the next tier, if that gives you a better idea of depth. This is particularly puzzling as the actual tier is about 1cm less than on my own monsterskirt, but for some reason it feels like it is far less
  • linked with the above, the top tier doesn’t *quite* flow as well as it could, so no skirts whirling all the way to the top for me, at least not with this one
  • worringly, half the seams on the skirt were not finished: some edges were overlocked to prevent fraying, but half of them aren’t; the same goes for the inside seam on the underskirt; yes, there are double straight-stitched seams on these, but I am still not happy with the lack of finishing of the seam edges
  • and finally, more importantly and most annoying of all… the hem was very uneven

Gypsy CostumeI’ve discussed the uneven hems in the past, I know this is a risk for fuller figures, and I have encountered it myself on nearly every single skirt that I’ve ever worn except those that I made myself to counteract for it. So this was expected. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be SO noticeable. The monsterskirt, with its sari third tier, shows any unevenness VERY clearly, and lowly me, with little experience doing a skirt before, managed to make a 12-metre one that, when I have taken the time to arrange it properly, is STRAIGHT. You can see this clearly in the photo, where the edge is even at about 1″ from the floor. My new dip-dyed skirt hitches at the sides, and I’m not sure about the back because the fullness covers it, but I’m pretty sure the front is longer. And it’s also rather short for my liking. Granted, these issues are not deal-breakers if you’re using your skirts wrapped or hitched, they don’t matter, but me? I’d rather start from a flawless point, and not have to rely on hacks to mask the issues.

I’ve found that, side by side, my 12 metre skirt doesn’t appear to be substantially smaller or less full than the new 25-yarder. So, to sum it up, what have we learnt today?

  • beware of postal made to measure
  • I should really, REALLY, go for a circle top tier next time, as it’s less bulk and more “flow”
  • I should also really, REALLY, make the next one myself; I’ll have close to zero choice of colours, but it will fit exactly right

Overall, I am a bit disappointed as I expected a bit more, but if you don’t tend to have problems with skirts off-the-peg, or for wrapping around, at the price these skirts are quite decent. I might order another one if I require a very specific colour, as finding suitable fabric for them seems to be difficult, but for the next one, probably an underskirt in cream or white? I’m definitely making my own. And a black one to follow too.

Legal Disclosure: I was not paid for writing this review, nor I received any free service or product in exchange for it.

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