I get many emails asking how to make skirts for swimsuits or about skating dress patterns. They’re essentially the same concept. For the sake of the arguement, a skate dress is quite simply a leotard with an attatched skirt. Where you place the skirt is usually either a design choice or competition rule interpretation. There are literally millions of skate dress designs out there … a quick look at skate dresses on google images will show you the variety available. Most have waist band height skirts, but I’ve seen them at empire line height, Vee’d in the center or slightly off center, angled higher on one side than the other, etc.
What I have noticed is that most are cut as circular skirts (particularly on skate dresses) with only a few gored or flared panel skirts. I can tell that most are circular because the center front and center back are slightly lower at the hem line than the sides … think about it … what happens when the waist is an oval, the hem is a circle and waist is smaller than the hips?? The shorter the skirt, the more obvious this difference becomes. Again, have a look at google images and see if you cant spot the rise at the sides. Of course some designers will say this is deliberate but in most cases it’s the nature of the beast. That said, I think it generally looks more soft and feminine with the rise, which is probably why no one has bothered to correct it!
The next thing I’ve noticed is that most of these skirts seem to have a more than one circle’s worth of flare, especially on the shorter skirts where more flare is required to create the same appearance of fullness. Taken to the smallest extreme, what you would have is essesntially a ruffle (this page explains the maths behind cutting a ruffle pattern but has theory that might add depth to this topic so do have a read).
Commercial dresses really do nothing more than cut the leotard in half at the waist band, insert a single layer circular skirt and stitch everything together. Half of these have sleeves, the majority of which are standard inset sleeves (not raglan which would probably move better for figure skating).
So as all of the leotard information is already on the site here …
… the real question is how do you cut a circular skirt pattern? To begin with, we all know that the waist band on the actual pattern already has negative ease built in and if any of you have read the ruffle page then you’ll know that you should remove the ease from this to calculate the inside circle circumference right? Wrong. Flouncy skirts need to flare right from the get go (at the seam) so we actually use the true waist band on the body measurement as the inside circle circumference and we ease the skirt in during sewing. For example, a size 10 adult female leotard block would measure 64.4cm around the waistband (7.5cm below natural waist on the block) which equates to 70cm for the waist band on the actual body. No matter where you attach the skirt for whatever design line, you should probably remove the negative ease from the skirt pattern and ease the skirt in when sewing so it sits better … otherwise it makes the wearer look heavy.
Another tip I have is to experiment with the number of circles you use. You don’t always have to use only one circle to make a circular skirt. A circular skirt is a technique. You could make two 35cm inner circmference skirts and join them together so that the seams become the side seams of a single 70cm inner circumference skirt … the length of course stays the same. Or you could have a 3/4 circle matching fabric on top of a double or triple circle of lightweight fabric to simulate a false tutu … or even multiple layers.
For the sake of the arguement, the 70cm inner circumference skirt has a radius of 11.1cm (C=2πR). If we want a skirt length of, say 20cm again, then our outer circle radius is 11.1+20=31.1cm for an outer circumference of 2xπx30.3=228.3cm. This is fairly easy to draw ….
Make two squares each of the sides of the circle radii. Draw the arcs either on your computer or by hand with a ruler or string as a compass. This represents the quarter circle pattern. You need to add seam allowance at the waist band and hem allowance if you have one (most don’t as lycra doesn’t fray) if this is to be your pattern. You can make the full circle pattern if you want or fold your fabric accordingly before cutting.