How to Make a Pa'u Skirt


Modern hula dancers wear beautifully patterned p'au skirts to show off the hips and ankles. Create a one-of-a-kind look by making your own p'au skirt at home -- even if you consider yourself a beginning seamstress. You can stitch your p'au skirt by hand or with a sewing machine, using only straight stitches and some light basting.

Things You'll Need

  • Tropical theme fabric
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Elastic cord
  • Steam iron
  • Sewing pins
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Measure the fabric length for the p'au skirt before cutting. P'au skirts feature a generous amount of fabric -- usually 3 yards or 5 yards in length. If you are smaller, stick to 3 yards of fabric.

  • Measure the fabric width before cutting. A p'au skirt usually ends just below the knees so that the ankles and feet are quite visible during dancing. For the skirt length, measure from the waist to a few inches below the knees while standing straight. Add 1 to 2 additional inches to the measurement for hemming and the waistband.

  • Stitch the top and bottom hems. Iron the top and bottom raw edges of the fabric. Turn under 1/4 inch and press the seam with the iron until it holds. Stitch the bottom seam and baste the top seam.

  • Create the casing for the waist. Turn the top of the skirt down an additional 3/4 inch. Press the seam with the hot iron and use pins to secure. Stitch along the bottom of the casing to secure in place. Leave the ends open.

  • Run the elastic cord through the casing. Straighten out the wire coat hanger. Press the hanger hook to narrow it. Poke a hole in the edge of the elastic. Push it onto the coat hanger hook. Slide the coat hanger through the skirt casing with elastic attached. Once the elastic is in place, remove the coat hanger. Be careful not to lose the elastic in the casing. You can secure the elastic in place with a few loose stitches to be removed when the skirt is finished.

  • Stitch the side of the skirt. Bring the raw edges of the skirt sides together with the skirt pattern facing inside. Pin in place. Straight stitch up the side of the skirt until you reach the casing. Leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of raw edge, which will be visible only on the inside of the completed skirt.

  • Adjust the skirt fit. Put on the skirt. Pull the elastic ends until the skirt fits comfortably. Mark the proper length of the elastic with pins. Take the skirt off.

  • Sew the elastic and casing together. Fold the skirt inside out. Straight stitch right across both the elastic and fabric edges of the casing. Again, this leaves a raw edge that is only visible inside the skirt.

  • Clean up the raw edges, loose threads and visible basting with a pair of scissors. You can iron the casing and inside seams flat. Try on the skirt for one last fitting.

Tips & Warnings

  • A more advanced option is to stitch up the side seam first and then create the casing to completely hide the elastic. This also creates a smoother waistband.
  • Add an additional 3/4 inch to your skirt width for each additional casing you want on the waistband.
  • Use a sewing machine to complete this project more quickly.
  • Beware of sharp needles. A thimble protects your fingers while hand sewing.
  • Count the number of pins used to secure your fabric in case you lose one.


  • Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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