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How to sew a fishtail skirt

How to sew a fishtail skirt


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 ;)


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 24th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
oh, THANK YOU. i am completely sewing-impaired and i've been trying to figure this out as a diy/modification project for several weeks now. i can see now where i went wrong, and now i can pull it apart and fix it. thank you again! <3

and in my happy flailing i clicked post before i finished my other thought, which was--your skirt looks Fabulous.

Edited at 2008-09-24 07:48 pm (UTC)
Sep. 24th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
This is a really nice tutorial. :)
Sep. 24th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Dang. Most of those pics come thru with the red X of doom. Do you have them posted on a site somewhere I can look at?
Sep. 24th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
They can be found here


but they are a bit scrambled and out of order, but perhaps you can figure it out anyway :)
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
I'm getting that too! :( (Seems like no one eles is have that problum though) Kinda take the fun out of it. Ah, well, guess I'm going to have to peice out the whole thing match oucs to descripion.
Sep. 24th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
Really fabulous tutorial, and your finished garment is lovely!

A few weeks ago, I bought the Burda 8856, which is remarkably similar to your pattern, to use with black lace over a red lining. So far, I have cut out the pattern, but my classes have gotten in the way since then!

Edited at 2008-09-24 08:10 pm (UTC)
Sep. 24th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
I couldn't live without that pattern, it makes up into the most beautiful shape, in any fabric :) The lace over satin will be gorgeous :D
Sep. 24th, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)
Holy crap, those look like instructions that even I could follow.Your skirt looks so nice that I'm tempted to give it a try...
Sep. 24th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
I love this! thank you so much :)
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)

Really. I think your little sketches and your copy are a million times clearer than most Simplicity/Vogue/McCalls patterns I've made. Except like the pillows. Where I don't read the instructions so I can't tell you.

Yay! Great job!
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
Splendid!! Thank you so much!
Do you think this skirt will look good on a chunky butt? I'm on the plus side.
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
I would think if you fitted it well (get help :), it should be able to make a curvy shape look good. :)
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
Beautiful! Do you think it might work in a slinky acetate type fabric?
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
Omg thank you I just spent an hour looking for, in essence, that pattern. Of course I was going to do it in leather and make the tail part vinyl and then wear it under a kimono top for Halloween, which isn't very steamy but it's helpful nonetheless!
Sep. 24th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you so much for this little walk-through. I've been wanting to make a skirt like this for ages! ^__^
Sep. 25th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
oh my god, thank you so much. i've always wanted one of these skirts, and this tutorial is perfect.
Sep. 25th, 2008 12:35 am (UTC)
also, what sort of fabric would you recommend for this?
Sep. 25th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
This is great.
You are great

and do post more of these here as they help sooooo many people..

When you have more of them you should look to getting some one to make you a book of your stuff as they really are good.
Sep. 25th, 2008 03:03 am (UTC)
Fantastic! Thanks for the tutorial.
Sep. 25th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
This is the best thing ever. I get paid Friday; will be making a fabric store run and building my own version of this puppy over the weekend. You are worlds of awesome, thanks!
Sep. 25th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC)
Thank you for this! I'm also getting little red x's, but I think I can figure it out without the pictures. I can't *wait* to make one of these!
Sep. 25th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
Thaaaank you! This si fantastic...

My sewing machine went splat last night but as soonas it's finished I'm making a heap of these for work.
Sep. 25th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
Amazing skirt, amazing woman. You are very very HAWT.. :) Thank you for the pattern and tips. ;O)
Sep. 27th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
Oooo, you are full of good skirt ideas! And are totally adorable! I love this! I have no idea how it will look on short little paunchy stomach me because of the fitted flat front but I'm totally making it!
Jun. 23rd, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
Great tutorial...
Your drawings and photos make this so easy to understand. Thanks for taking the time to post the instructions. Cordially, Nehmah
Sanna Gabriel
Jan. 26th, 2012 11:33 am (UTC)
This is great. Will have to try this after I'm done with my current project.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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