How to Make a Simple Ball Gown Skirt

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A circle skirt has plenty of drape and width at the hemline, but fits smoothly over the waist and hips.
A circle skirt has plenty of drape and width at the hemline, but fits smoothly over the waist and hips. (Image: Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Ball gowns are characterized by a full, sweeping skirt. The shape can vary -- A-line, gathered or pleated -- but the skirt must be generous and long. One way to make a ball gown skirt is to look at commercial patterns and select a skirt you like. However, you can also make a beautiful skirt without a pattern, by making a floor-length circle skirt. A circle skirt has plenty of sweep and movement and can be paired with an elegant camisole for the look of a ball gown with very little effort.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • 6 yards 45-inch-wide fabric
  • String
  • Tailor's pins
  • Pencil
  • 7-inch zipper
  • Hook-and-eye closure for the waist
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine and thread

Measure your waist and write down the measurement. Ask someone else to measure the distance from your waist to the floor. Add 3 inches to that measurement and write the total down.

Divide your waist measurement by pi -- 3.14. This is the diameter of your waist.

Cut the fabric in half crosswise with sharp scissors, so that you have two 3-yard pieces, each 4 -inches wide.

Fold one piece of fabric in half crosswise, so that it is approximately a square. Pin a piece of string to one folded corner. Measure down the length of the string one-half of the diameter of your waist. In other words, if your waist measure 24 inches, the diameter would be 7.6 inches. If you divide that in half, the result, which is the radius, is 3.8 inches. That is very close to 3.75 inches, so you would measure 3.75 inches down the length of the string and tie a loop at that point.

Insert the tip of a pencil in the loop. Use it to draw a curve from the folded edge of the fabric up to the double edge. This is the waist edge of the skirt.

Add the radius measurement -- in the example this is 3.75 inches -- to the skirt length measurement. So if the length of your skirt needs to be 30 inches, the total would be 36.75 inches, or 3.75 plus 30 plus 3-inches. Measure from the pin at the corner of the fabric the number of inches needed, in the example 36.75-inches.

Tie another loop in the string at the measurement for the bottom of the skirt. Use the pencil to draw a large curve from the folded edge of the fabric to the double edge of the fabric, parallel to the waist.

Cut along the waist and bottom of the skirt. When you open the fabric up at the fold, you should have a half circle. Repeat the steps to cut out the other half of the skirt.

Pin the two skirt pieces together, with right-sides facing each other. Sew one side seam. Sew the other side seam, leaving the top 8 inches open.

Sew in the zipper, according to package directions. Try on the skirt. If necessary -- to make the skirt fit exactly -- sew two little darts -- tapered pleats -- in the waist on the back panel of the skirt.

Cut a 4-inch-wide strip of leftover fabric as long as your waist measurement, plus 2 inches, to make the waistband. Fold the strip in half lengthwise and press the fold to make a crease.

Pin one lengthwise edge of the waistband to the waist, with right sides together. Sew the waistband in place. At one end of the waistband, near the zipper, sew a seam across the end of the waistband -- even with the edge of the zipper. Trim the seam and turn the corner of the waistband out. Press this end of the waistband.

Sew across the other end of the waistband, about 1 inch past the edge of the zipper, to make an extension that will lap over the other end. Trim the seam. Turn the corner of the waistband out and press it.

Fold the waistband at the crease. Pin the raw edge of the waistband to the inside of the waist, folding up the edge to cover the seam allowance. Sew this edge in place.

Sew the hook-and-eye to the ends of the waistband to fit your waist. Try on the skirt. Ask someone to pin the hem for you -- while you are wearing the skirt -- and the shoes you plan to wear with it.

Make sure the hem is even all around. Press the fold in the hem. Sew the hem by hand, so that the stitches show as little as possible on the right-side of the skirt.

Tips & Warnings

  • Chiffon is very difficult to sew if you are not experienced. Choose a woven fabric, rather than a knit, as woven fabric is easier to cut and sew. Satin is difficult to sew correctly, and it creases easily while you are wearing it. Choose woven crepe, organza, moire, brocade or velvet for making your skirt.
  • Use pinking shears to avoid fraying on your seams.

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