The Ceilidh Dress – Half Circle Skirt

Circle skirts do what they claim to on the tin – they are circles of fabric with a smaller circle cut out in the middle for the person to get into. Here’s a really basic example in teal, and an actual circle skirt from t’net so you can compare the 2D and 3D shapes:


The waistband of the skirt is the inner circle, and the hem is the outer circle – so moving down the skirt is equivalent to moving radially out on the circle. There is clearly a lot more fabric as you do this, which gives the skirt its sticky-out shape and fantastic movement as it twirls!

Circle skirts are really easy to draft. Assuming that you’re basing your design on a true circle, there are three variables: the waistband circumference (red), the length of the skirt (yellow), and the proportion of a circle you use (measured as an angle, blue). The rest follows with maths!

For the ceilidh dress, I am going for a half circle skirt – that is, θ = 180º. The waistband measurement will be determined by measuring the bodice at the relevant height; likely about an inch or an inch and a half below my natural waist. The length of the skirt will be 24″ – based upon the muslin I made, that will result in a segment of a circle with a full radius of about 34.5″, although I will reperform that calculation when I have acquired the exact measurement from the bodice.

To allow for the width of a standard bolt of fabric, I will be cutting the skirt out in two pieces – a front piece and a back piece. Each will be a 90º quadrant with the grain line running down the middle in order that the grain of the fabric hangs symmetrically, although if I can only acquire the relevant taffeta in a 45″ width, I will have to do four segments of 45º. Plus seam allowances, of course.

To trace out the shape, I pivoted my marker pen on the end of a piece of string:

The resulting skirt was too long (total radius 40.5″) and in fact the waistband was a bit too big, but twirled it nicely and I do have to allow for the much stiffer hand of the taffeta that I will actually be using.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steve S
    May 18, 2011 @ 08:22:08

    I like the way you use mathematics in the article. I wouldn’t have expected to see a “θ” in a sewing article, at least not on this side of the ocean.


  2. Lucy
    May 18, 2011 @ 11:28:28

    …which side of the ocean’s that?!

    I am a Maths graduate – it’s just how I think 🙂


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