Step by Step Directions for Making a 50s Style Circle Skirt
When my teenage daughter told me she needed a poodle skirt for their 50s themed sock hop dance at school, I set off to look for patterns on how to help my daughter make her own poodle skirt.
There were several additional benefits to having her make the skirt herself. First she would get to do applied math, looking at calculating out the radius based on the circumference of a circle. She would (hopefully) have the satisfaction of making her own skirt and it would be way cheaper (pulling from my fabric stash) and better made than going out and buying a skirt.
The poodle skirt is just a basic circle skirt make from felt which has an applique poodle in the front. I realize it would be a pretty simple pattern for my daughter to make herself so we drafted our own DIY pattern.
What you see here is the research I did to figure out our own pattern, how you can make your own free pattern and the step by step process we when through to make a 50's style circle skirt, complete with making our own felt iron-on poodle applique. I've also included what I could find about the history of the poodle skirt, since I am not old enough to have ever worn one.
Ready to make your own poodle skirt?
50s Style Poodle Skirt available on Amazon
Materials Needed to Make a Poodle Skirt
I figured making a poodle skirt is pretty easy. I knew I just need a few basic materials (not counting the sewing supplies and sewing machine), most of which I already had in my sewing supplies:
- Fabric - Felt or Fleece
- Poodle Applique or make one with a poodle graphic and felt
- Ribbon and any embellishments
- Iron-on stitch witchery
Visit The Costume Detective
- The Costume Detective - DIY Costume Ideas
A website for finding the Best DIY Costumes, Crafts and Halloween Fun with information on DIY costumes and crafts previously prominently featured as part of the Best of Halloween and Make Your Own Halloween Costumes on Squidoo.
Poodle Skirt Outfit Model
This sock hop outfit is very similar to the type of outfit we designed for my daughter except we used a white poodle.
Start with Martha Stewart
To get an idea of how to make a simple circle skirt, I started by watching Martha Stewart crafts.
- Poodle Skirt How-To - Video Tutorial
Watch Martha Stewart and Lea Rose show how to make a Poodle Skirt in this video tutorial.
- Poodle Skirt | Martha Stewart Crafts
Read the tutorial from the video in which Lela Rose shows Martha how to sews a modern version of the classic 1950s poodle skirt.
- Dog Silhouette Applique
PDF File of the dog silhouette applique used for the Martha Stewart updated poodle skirt.
Vote on Poodle Skirts
A Basic Circle Skirt Pattern
Circle Skirt Pattern © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Make Your Own Free Poodle Skirt Pattern
Making your own circle skirt pattern is pretty easy.
You need to figure out how long to make the skirt. Measure from the waist to where you want the skirt to hit, like the knee. Somewhere between 22 - 25 is good for teens. Children need a shorter skirt.
To calculate out the inner circle, (where the waist will fit) you need to do some circle skirt math. See the video clips and modules below to figure out the waist measurement and then how to convert this into the radius of the circle if cutting 1/4 of the pattern as seen in the image to the right.
Starting at the upper right corner (where the * is located) measure out the measurements and mark where to cut for the inner circle (waist hole) and the skirt length. You can use a pencil and string or just do what I did and use your tape measure, measuring out the same measurement (radius or skirt length).
Once you have your skirt measured out you can cut out the two circles to make the large donut circle seen above.
Circle Skirt Pattern © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Calculating the Fabric Needed
To calculate out how much fabric you need to purchase (or find from your fabric stash in my case) simply double the length of the fabric.
Working with felt and fleece have another advantage in that the fabrics are 54 to 60 inches so you can easily cut a circle out of one piece of fabric.
I thought I'd had enough blue felt, but the yard of fabric was only enough to cut out half of the skirt. It was time for another math lesson. (That's two applied math lessons from just the start of one sewing project)
To figure out what I needed for my 13-year-old daughter's skirt we added the numbers for the inner circle with the length of the overall skirt and then doubled it.
- [Inner Circle Radius + Skirt Length] x 2 = Total amount of 54 inch fabric needed
- [6.5 + 22] x 2 = 28.5 x 2 = 57 inches
Then to convert the inches into yards, divide by 36. In our case we needed 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 yards. The piece of blue fleece I had was 1.5 yards (with a little over which is how many stores used to cut fabric).
For babies and smaller children it will be easier to make a skirt out of much less fabric, since you could cut a second piece from the other side and then sew the two half circles together. Jen on the Praiseworthy blog shows how she made a 9 in long poodle skirt in sections for her baby daughter.
Easy as Pi Circle Skirt Video Tutorial
Learn how to calculate the numbers needed to make a circle skirt in this excellent tutorial from fettuccinetube.
Understanding Circle Skirt Math
Many people feel a bit intimidated making circle skirts because they don't want to calculate the math of the circles and have to remember some basic circle formulas. The good news is that you only have to calculate the inner circle. The outer circle can be easily measured without calculations.
Calculating the inner circle (the waist opening) for a circle skirt is pretty easy if you just remember a few basic formulas.
The circumference or the distance around the outside of the circle is the length of the waist or torso you are trying to make the skirt for plus a little bit more (1.5 to 2 inches for comfort).
- Circumference = 2rπ (Remember that π=3.14)
Flipping the equation around, since we need to find the radius we take the circumference or waist measurement and divide by 2xπ or 6.28.
To find the radius of a 25 inch waist (+ 2 inches for comfort) you would diving 27/6.28 = 4.3 or 4 3/8 inches. The radius becomes the measurement for the inner circle in the diagram above.
(If you prefer using the diameter and measuring across the entire circle, simply multiply the radius by 2, in this case you would have 8.6 inches or 8 5/8 )
Circle Math © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Do It Yourself Circle Skirt Video Tutorial
Learn how to draft a pattern and make a circle skirt in this video tutorial from Whitney Sews a.k.a. aglanceatmyworld
Poodle Skirt Patterns on Amazon
If you don't want to make your own poodle skirt pattern, you can buy one to get started. Here are some of the circle skirt patterns that can be found on Amazon. Pick your favorite pattern.
Poodle Skirt Patterns on eBay
You can also find poodle skirt patterns on eBay.
Poodle Skirt Color Combinations
Just some of the color combinations of skirts available on Amazon to used inspire your own poodle skirt designs.
Cutting Our Blue Poodle Skirt
After calculating out the inner circle numbers I used some packaging paper to make a pattern piece that was 1/4 of a circle.
With a 25 inch waistline and wanting a 22 inch long skirt we did the first or the inner circle at 6 3/8 inches. The second larger circle was drawn out 22 inches from the first one.
Starting at the upper right corner I measured and marked 6 3/8 inches in several spots and then free hand with a pencil drew an arch to join them together for the inner circle.
For the larger outer circle or the skirt length I measured out 22 inches with a tape measure and marked several spots, then with a pencil free hand drew a line to join the marks for the outer circle.
Once cut we took the large felt donut and made sure my daughter could get it over her head.
Since I was cutting through 4 layers of fabric (folded in 1/2, then in 1/2 again) it was a little challenging, but definitely faster than having to cut out larger half circle.
Cutting blue circle skirt © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Use Felt or Fleece Fabric
Felt and fleece fabrics are really good choices because you can cut them out and not worry about having to add a hem. Just be sure when you are cutting that you cut in a nice straight and even line.
Pink, black and baby blue are the more traditional color choices, but since you will be making your own skirt, you can choose any color that you would like.
These are just some of the felt color choices available on Amazon if you can't find any locally.
How to Make a No Sew Poodle Applique
My daughter wanted to buy a poodle applique, but since we had so much felt around, I figured we could easily make one using one of the many different poodle silhouettes available online.
I found several poodle silhouettes and she picked one from the Freeapplique website. I thought one from the Custom Canine Creations might be easier to cut out because it didn't have as many curves in the outline.
We printed out the poodle pattern at a size she was happy with and then cut out the poodle from white felt, so it would have a good contrast to the blue fabric.
Using Stitch Witchery between the cut out felt poodle and the felt skirt, the poodle applique was ironed on in minutes. Be sure to be careful ironing on and keep applying pressure, but keep the iron moving when ironing. We had a bit of the poodle get a touch singed when ironing.
We used double stick tape to tape on the ribbon leash, which was really fast. If you needed to have the skirt last longer, then it would make more sense to stitch the ribbon in place to the skirt.
If you want your poodle skirt to last for a while, then you may want to stitch your poodle applique in place or use stronger fusible interfacing cut out in the shape of the applique.
Since we were using the skirts for personal use and not to sell, I wasn't too concerned about copyright issues.
Cutting felt poodle applique © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Patterns for Making Your Own Poodle Applique
- Free Dog Patterns - Poodle Skirt Pattern
Free dog patterns to use as applique patterns, quilt patterns or clipart. Also a poodle skirt pattern.
- Poodle Silhouettes
This page includes three different Poodle Silhouettes that can be used for appliques.
- "Black Toy Poodle Silhouette" Stickers | Redbubble
The Black Toy Poodle Silhouette image used to create these stickers can be turned into a poodle applique.
- Poodle Silhouettes on Pinterest
Search Pinterest for all of the Poodle Silhouettes that have been pinned.
- Dog Silhouettes
This page Dog Silhouette has lots of black and white silhouette graphics of different types of dogs.
Pink Poodle Appliques
If you'd rather buy an applique than make one, here are some fun poodles in pink to consider (or use as inspiration for making your own).
Black and White Poodle Appliques
Black poodles or white poodles are two other applique options when making poodle skirts. They also make for good design inspirations.
Additional Circle Skirt Supplies from Amazon
The Finished Blue Poodle Skirt
Final blue poodle skirt © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Making the Circle Skirt
Now that you have your materials, supplies and pattern lets get started making the circle skirt.
I looked for the fastest ways of putting a circle skirt together with the least amount of sewing. This pattern requires that you sew on an elastic waistband, a bit of sewing, but much faster than doing a traditional waistband with a zipper.
Cutting the skirt is one of the more time consuming parts. After the skirt is cut you sew on an elastic waistband and then iron on the poodle and his or her leash. That's all it takes.
Since the skirt is cut from felt or fleece, which doesn't ravel you can leave the skirt unhemmed.
For those who like being able to check off their progress working on a project I've listed out the steps below.
Final blue poodle skirt © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.
Steps to Make a Circle or Poodle Skirt
A circle skirt can easily be made in an hour or less, especially if you already have a pattern, so you don't have to stop and do the math calculations.
- Choose your skirt colors.
- Determine the amount of fabric needed and other skirt supplies like elastic waistband and fusible interfacing.
- Make or buy a circle skirt pattern.
- Cut out your circle skirt.
- Try it on to make sure it will go over the wear's head or hips.
- Sew the ends of the elastic waistband together and then to the top of the skirt.
- Choose or make your applique design.
- Iron-on the applique to the skirt.
- Tape or iron-on the leash to the skirt and any other embellishments (like a collar).
- Try on and admire the skirt.
More How To Make a Poodle or Circle Skirt Articles
Here are some of the other style options (no sew to zippers and fabric waistbands) and the better directions that I found when researching how to make a Poodle skirt or circle skirt.
- Make a No-Sew Poodle Skirt | obSEUSSed
Non sewers may want to look at obSEUSSed blog post with her NO-SEW version of making a poodle skirt.
- Last Minute Costume – Easy Poodle Skirt | Prudent Baby
Prudent Baby shares a tutorial for a baby poodle skirt and more help with figuring out the DIY pattern calculations for cutting the circles.
- 10 Steps to an easy peasy poodle skirt! | Jillify It
Jillify It shares her super quick way to make a poodle skirt for 50s parties or Halloween costumes.
- TUTORIAL: the Circle Skirt | Dana Made It
In this excellent tutorial for making a circle skirt, Dana shares how to make a circle skirt including why she now thingks the circle skirt may be the easiest skirt to sew especially if you leave a colorful elastic waistband exposed.
- Poodle-skirt tutorial, 50's costumes | Topsy Turvy
Topsy Turvy shares her Poodle-skirt tutorial for a pretty simple costume to make from felt. Check out her Pig applique.
- Poodle Skirt Tutorial | Praiseworthy
This pattern from Praiseworthy was inspired by her church's 50's sock hop dance. The skirt can be adjusted for girls of any age and size...it's all about the measurements.
- Bench Monday~homemade poodle skirt addition | Beelieve
A fun and creative poodle skirt upcycled from a t-shirt knit top sheet and embellished with scraps of fabric, cut up old t-shirts, ribbons, beads and buttons.
- Make a poodle skirt | RetroSewing
It's easy, to "Make Poodle Skirt", and there's only 3 pattern pieces. To top it off, you'll have a built in costume ready to go to most any costume party for years to come.
How to Complete the 50's Look
Once your poodle skirt is done to complete the 50s look add:
- A Hair or Neck Scarf
- Saddle Shoes
- Bobby Socks
- Cat Eye Glasses
- White polo top or Peter Pan Collar Blouse
Colorful Poodle Skirts on Amazon
If you don't have the time to make a skirt or would rather get a completed 50s poodle skirt costume, there are many costume and color choices to be found on Amazon.
The Poodle Skirt is Really a Decorated Circle Skirt
Circle skirts or swingy skirts became a popular style after the second world war replacing the dirndl style skirt. One has to wonder if the popularity of the style had anything to do with a more abundant era following the war.
The swingy skirt is a very simple pattern to make and a flattering style for many different shapes, since the skirt fabric hides larger hips and excess torso weight. Both of these reasons contribute to the popularity of the skirt.
As can be seen in this Swingy Skirt pattern, the skirt could quickly and easily be made from just two pieces of fabric and a zipper. With the basic design and a few calculations to ensure a correct fit, teenagers in the 1950s were able to fashion their own circle skirts.
The circle skirts, especially embellished with poodles and other appliques, have become synonymous with the 1950s and top the list of items worn for 50s costumes and 50s style sock hop dances.
Circle or Swingy Skirt pattern from libertygrace0. Used under Creative Commons license.
Beautiful Circle Skirts
Thank Juli Lynne Charlot for Changing the Circle Skirt
The idea for an embellished fabric skirt is attributed to Juli Lynne Charlot, an actress who needed something to wear to a 1947 holiday party in Los Angeles. A self described non sewer, Juli Lynne Charlot needed something that was easy to make.
According to an interview done with Charlot in 1953 with the Toledo Blade,
- I cut it out of felt, because I didn't know how to sew, and that was the only material I knew wide enough to cut a complete circle skirt without any seams.
This simple circle skirt was cut from a piece of felt fabric with just a hole in the middle for the waist. Charlot decorated it with an appliqued whimsical Christmas tree. She sold the skirt a week later and orders started trickling in for her embellished, whimsical circle skirts. Charlot's whimsical story-telling novelty skirts proved to be a very popular with adults.
One embellished skirt style in particular, the poodle skirt, became a popular skirt with 1950s teens. Jaynie Van Roe of Here's Looking Like You Kid writes that the poodle skirt craze is "often attributed to those new rock n roll dances; teens found the big circle skirts enchanting while dancing."
The poodle circle skirt was also popular with teens, because it was so easy to make. With just basic sewing skills a thrifty teen could make her own circle skirt with felt and sew on appliques. Worn with a petticoat, the teen staple poodle skirt was also more flirtatious than Charlot's whimsical novelty skirts which were worn by mothers and grandmothers. Jaynie Van Roe describes the poodle skirt as one of the first “too young for you” fashions.
Poodle skirt by shortiestar3000. Used under Creative Commons license.
Vintage Poodle Skirts on eBay
You can find vintage poodle skirts along with reproductions of the poodle skirts on eBay.
Articles on the History of Poodle Skirts
- Not Circle Skirting The Origins Of The Circle Skirt
The only thing more fun than vintage & retro novelty print dresses are circle skirts - you may know them as "poodle skirts," even if the themes haven't all gone to the dogs.
- The Story Of Circle & Poodle Skirts Continues
Continuing the story of the circle skirt from the first link. The story began with a simple skirt Juli Lynne Charlot made for a Christmas party and the skirts were quickly transformed into a multitude of novelty themes.
- The 1950s Circle Skirt | The Vintage Traveler
I think it is such a shame that people think "1950s skirt" and automatically an image of a skirt with an appliqued poodle pops into the brain. Yes, there were poodle skirts in the 1950s, but the range of novelty skirts available was so much more inte
- Interview with Juli Lynne Charlot | The Vintage Traveler
Most vintage collectors know Charlot as the designer of some of the very best and most clever skirts to come out of the 1950s.
- Girl Who Couldn't Sew Booms Into Business With Circle Skirt | Toledo Blade
An article about how Juli Lynne Charolt came up with the Poodle Skirt from Toledo Blade - Feb 25, 1953
- Poodle skirt | Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A poodle skirt is a wide swing felt skirt of a solid bright bold color (often pink and powder blue) displaying a design appliquÃ©d or transferred to the fabric. The design was often a coiffed French poodle. Later substitutes for the poodle patch incl
- 1950s Circle Skirts | Fuzzylizzie Vintage
The circle skirt is one of those items that immediately brings to mind the decade in which it was popular - the 1950s. But the decorated circle skirt actually got its start in the late 1940s, with an actress-turned-designer named Juli Lynne Charlot.
What do you think about making your own poodle skirt?
Comment on Making a Poodle Skirt with a Pattern
Kaela Rosier on January 27, 2017:
This is a great blog post you did wonderful explaining how to make the skirt, however these images are copyrighted. They belong to Hip Hop 50's Shop, and you need to ask permission before using them.
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on March 18, 2015:
Enjoy making your skirt.
indira on March 18, 2015:
very nice thanx
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on February 22, 2015:
Hope you enjoyed the pattern.
Satch on February 21, 2015:
You're the grateest! JMHO
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on October 20, 2013:
@delia-delia: Hope you enjoyed your trip down memory lane.
Delia on October 20, 2013:
I already had one years ago, so that ages me ;-) Great lens and memories! I can't believe all the pedi coats we use to wear...how on earth did we sit?
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on April 04, 2013:
@Vikk Simmons: Thank you. I didn't quite make this era, so I had to do a bit of research to figure out the patterns and the history.
Vikk Simmons from Houston on April 03, 2013:
Wow, I grew up during this era so I really remember these. Great job.
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on April 02, 2013:
@getmoreinfo: Thank you. Maybe you'll be inspired to make your own.
getmoreinfo on April 01, 2013:
I love all the poodle skirt patterns, I still have my poodle skirt from college, it was for a retro dress-up day we had. I like vintage clothes very much, this is a nice lens on how to craft, sew and make a poodle skirt.
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on March 31, 2013:
@CrossCreations: Thanks. Now I know I've got a spot to turn to if I need to make one for my younger daughter.
Kirsti A. Dyer (author) from Northern California on March 31, 2013:
@anonymous: The Circle Skirt is really a fun and easy pattern.
Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on March 31, 2013:
What an impressive tutorial about how to make a poodle skirt. Your work is always first rate, Doc.
anonymous on March 31, 2013:
These are so useful for so many things.