How to sew a fishtail skirt

I thought that I would bring my “fishtail skirt tutorial” over to here from my livejournal, so here you go :)


I thought that I would share this little tutorial on how to make a nice fishtail skirt, it is really not that hard as it can look and you will end up with a smashing skirt that makes you look flash were ever you go. You can make this skirt at any length, from the knee and down. I put a triangular panel of ruffles in between the two back panels but this tutorial does not include that and this skirt can be both lined and not lined but I will not give any explanation how to line the skirt.


The things you will need for this project is:
Fabric, depending on your measurements (I used 6 meters (about 6 yards) of fabric, but I’m not really that petite)
Zipper, I use a hidden zipper since they look so good (well they are invisible ;))
A button



To start up you need to take these measurements:

Waist to hips:
Waist to butt:
Waist to knee:
Waist to floor (or as long as you want the skirt):

This skirt is a skirt in panels, so first of all, you need to decide how many pannels you want, in this tutorial we will make a nine panel skirt, that will give us a skirt with no seam in the front, but a seam in the back to put the zipper in.

Now on to making a pattern.
As this is a nine panel skirt, the measurements for the waist, hip and butt will be divided with nine, we are also adding two cm to the original measurement, this is so that you can actually move in the skirt, please do not remove these two cm just to make the skirt slimmer, since then you will not get into the skirt. The skirt I made fit like a glove and I have those two cm in my skirt. I will use my measurements in this tutorial, now lets go on to the mathematics for the pattern.

Waist: 83cm + 2cm / 9 = 9,4cm Waist: 32,7 inches + 0,8 inch / 9 = 3,7 inches
Hips: 94cm + 2cm / 9 = 10,6cm Hips: 37 inches + 0,8 inch / 9 = 4,2 inches
Butt: 107cm + 2cm / 9 = 12,1 cm Butt: 42,1 inches + 0,8 inch / 9 = 4,7 inches


Se start with a straight line, the we put in the measurements for 1/9 of the waist.
Mark out waist to hips, waist to butt, waist to knee and waist to floor (or skirt length) with straight lines.
Now put put the measurements for 1/9 of the hip and 1/9 of the butt at their places. Do also put the 1/9 of the butt measurement on the line for waist to knee.
Now decide on how wide you want the skirt to be, my skirt is 60 cm (23,6 inches) on every panel, that gives me a skirt that is 540 cm (212,6 inches) wide.
Make sure that the line from knee to floor is just the same on all three places, then form the lover line in a smooth curve.
The last step is to form the transition of the flare of the skirt and the skirt into a smooth line, and the take the skirt in some at each side ad the picture shows, do not take to much as it will make it hard to walk and sit in the skirt.
Now your pattern is done.

Here is a pretty version of a small scale pattern I made using this technique

Cutting fabric

It is now time to cut your fabric, use what sewing allowance you want, I prefer to use 1,5 cm (0,6 inch)
You will need:
9 skirt pieces
One waistband that is your waist + 2cm + 4 cm (waist + 0,8 inches + 1,6 inches )
6 ruffle pieces, I always utilize the width of my fabric when I make these kind of ruffles, hight is what you prefer, my pieces is 18 cm (7,1 inches) high



Start of with serging all the edges, or use a zigzag.

Then install the zipper

Now sew all the panels together and then iron the seam allowance apart.

Then put the waistband onto the skirt like this, right sides together, on one edge by the zipper, let the waistband stick out 1 cm (0,4 inch), then pin the waistband to the skirt, do NOT cut of the excessive fabric when you come to the end (something like 5 cm (2 inches) or so), we want to use this in the next step. If you are lining the skirt, this is a good place to attach the lining to the skirt. Simply pin it to the inside of the skirt, right side out.
Then sew the waistband to the skirt.

Now fold up your sewing allowance, iron and fold your waistband like this, this is a bit tricky to show on pictures, but the black is the skirt, and the white is the waistband.

How you should fold

the fold held together

Then sew the left side of the waistband, 1 cm (0,4 inch) in. and then measure 4 cm (1,6 inches) from the zipper and out on the other side, and sew that edge to. Trim the sewing allowance a bit.

Turn the waistband and hand sew it in on the inside of the skirt.

Sew a buttonhole in the overlapping flap of fabric and attach you button on the other side.

Now put on the skirt, inside out and get a friend to help you and make the skirt fit perfectly, I fixed the fit on these places. Then sew new seams.

Hem your skirt.

Now we are making the ruffle. Sew all your six ruffle pieces together, iron the seams apart.

Hem the bottom and top of the ruffle.

Sew gathering stitches all round the ruffle.

Gather and pin the ruffle to the skirt at desired height, make sure that your ruffles are even all round. Sew the ruffle to the skirt.

Now you are done! Go and rock that skirt! But try to avoid riding bikes in it, it is REALLY hard I tried and failed miserably ;)

37 thoughts on “How to sew a fishtail skirt

  1. I must say, I adore this skirt. I’m getting the materials tomorrow. Wondering, what sort of fabric did you use on this? It appears to be a sort of tweed.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial. I think your skirt looks amazing. I will have to try my hand at making this. However I wanted to let you know that most of the pictures are not showing up.

  3. i was beginning to consider i may perhaps end up being the only man who cared about this, at the least now i comprehend i’m not ridiculous :) i’ll make it a point to go and visit a handful of several other articles just after i get some caffeine in me, it is actually arduous to read without having my coffee, I was really late last night enjoying myspace poker and after polishing off a few beers i finished up melting away all my facebook poker chips adios for now :)

  4. The tutorial seems fantastic, but I cannot see all the pictures :( , I would like really to have this tutorial completed with pictures. Thankx

  5. Hello, i’m khatijah….i need your help on this skirt….the measurement below is the measurement u gave…
    Waist: 32,7 inches + 0,8 inch / 9 = 3,7 inches
    Hips: 37 inches + 0,8 inch / 9 = 4,2 inc
    Butt: 42,1 inches + 0,8 inch / 9 = 4,7 inches

    below is my measurement
    waist: 27ins + 0.8=27.8/9=?
    hips: 38ins + 0.8=38.8/9=?
    butt: 42ins + 0.8=42.8/9=?
    Is this correct method….i wanted to confirm,,,,,thanks

  6. @Mami Jah

    with your measurements it should be like this. :)

    waist: 27ins + 0.8=27.8/9=3,08 inches
    hips: 38ins + 0.8=38.8/9= 4,31 inches
    butt: 42ins + 0.8=42.8/9= 4,75 inches

  7. loveeeee this! always wanted a skirt like this.. but i could never find one that was of good quality or my size.. n although the only thing i have ever sewn in my life is a pillow.. it looks easy enough.. hehe thanks..! but i was wondering.. what is a lover line..? n if i wanted to make the skirt not so form fitting..?

  8. This looks absolutely great! I really have to give it a try one of these days, although when it comes to sewing I’m just beginning, hope it turns out ok. What kind of fabric should I get for this?
    Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  9. Sofia:
    I have used a wool fabric for this skirt. But this kind of skirt can be done in a variety of fabrics. A taffeta fabric will give it more of a evening wear look and feel and will work just as well as the wool will. So just choose the fabric you want to :)

  10. Definitely going to try! Maybe even in a shorter version… I might end up with a full set of self-made clothes for WGT this year. :D

  11. Jumoke:
    When I wrote this I had no idea that they the hip and butt is a European thing (or perhaps only Swedish) The hip is what you would call high hip, and that is taken around your hipbone level, the butt is what you would call hip, the largest measurement on your body under the waist level.

  12. Have s fish tale dress with front thigh split what to make fishtale removable under skirt, you have used 9 panels, my dress has 5 panels, 3 front, 2 back, do I do same, will this still work?

  13. If I add curve to smooth the line for sewing the measurement will be much what should I do

  14. If I add curve to smooth the line for sewing the measurement will be much what should I do
    Plz comment

  15. Hello,
    I purchased a beautiful dress with fishtail hem but when it arrived it was too long. I am a 5.2 and owing to a time window, I put in two outward tucks to shorten the hem which worked for the occasion. The dress is a soft fabric covered with lace which incidentally caught all round during the even on countryside twigs along a driveway.
    The hem is formed from six panels and if I cut off material from the bottom it will perhaps change the amount of fishtail but the above method made it rather heavy. Shall I cut off the material and hem up 1″ by hand? I am worried about cutting but what else can I do. As long as each seem measures the same it should be O.K. eh? It looks as though between each seam there is a curve. Shall I measure up from the existing hem to the cutting line? Would this work?
    I did visit an Alterations Technician but she wanted a load of money.
    From ‘Old Sewer’

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