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Cosplay Tutorial Series: Chapter 1 Basic Hoop Skirt

Welcome to the brand new cosplay tutorial blog series. One half of Team Gusta and 2012 Madman National Cosplay Championship champions – Yiji has kindly put together these wonderful tutorials on making various pieces in a costume. We hope you enjoy them! 

Hello! Welcome to my cosplay tutorial! while I am in no way a Professional, i shall endeavour to share with others small tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way, as well as nifty ways to make things from scratch.

In this tutorial, we will be learning how to make a very basic hoop skirt. As I said before, I’m not a professional; I just do this for fun.

Feel free to deviate away from my advice if you can figure out an easier way to do something.

Alright! Let’s go!

Things you’ll need:

– A length of stiff material for the boning of __the skirt (1)
– Fabric for the main part of the skirt (2)
– Fabric ribbon (3)
– Lace for the bottom (4)
– A good length of sturdy cord (5), enough to __go around your waist comfortably and tie __well at the back
– A sewing machine
– White cotton thread
– Dressmaking scissors and pins
– An overlocker/serger (to neaten edges)

If you sew frequently, you’ll already have most of the things on this list. For fabric choices, I recommend light, sturdy cotton. The majority of these things you’ll be able to find at your local sewing supplier.

I used plastic hoop skirt boning for the finished product, but for this tutorial I’ll be using plastic gardening hose (which is almost as good). I’ll explain why in a moment.

But first… Science!

I know you’re probably thinking ‘holy torpedo! WTF!’ but knowing how something works really does help.

This is a drawing of the basic schematics of a regular hoop skirt. You can see how the insides of it work, with the sketchy and the artwork and the glaven.

As you can probably tell, hoop skirts come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. You’re also free to make them whatever colour you like as well – I’ve just opted for a simple white one, since the dress I’ll be using it for is white as well.


There are all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes that you can create using a hoop skirt. Its primary function is to give your skirt its shape without weighing you down. of course, you can build up the same shape using multiple layers of petticoats, but to get that particular size and shape you’d have to layer yourself with so many, it would be verging on ridiculous.

Not only that, but it would make the dress itself awfully heavy to wear, as well as unnecessarily bulking up your figure. And trust me; nobody wants to look like a chubby-chubster with a massive dress already.

One thing to remember with a hoop skirt is that the more hoops you incorporate into the design, the stronger your shape will hold, and the more control you’ll have over the way your skirts will fall. Most hoop skirts you can buy over the internet will have approximately three hoops in them. I’ve opted for a five-hoop skirt, since I need a very specific bell-shape in my skirt, coupled with the traditional corset I’ll be wearing over it to give me an hourglass figure.

An important note:

When wearing a hoop skirt, always wear a petticoat over the top! This is done because the layers of tulle netting in the petticoat lay over the hoop skirt in such a way that they obscure the boning from showing through the fabric of your skirts. If you don’t wear a petticoat, your skirt will have the visible lines of the hoops showing through, and it will look ghastly.

Well…maybe not ghastly, but it won’t look nearly as nice.




This is probably the most difficult part of the entire tutorial, because it involves maths.

First, decide on the circumference of the skirt (i.e. the widest part of the skirt, the bottom). the particular shape skirt I wanted had a circumference of just over 3 meters, so I bought 3 meters of fabric I needed, plus 3 meters of lace for the bottom (just because, if the skirt accidentally flicked up, at least it would look nice underneath).

Next, you need to multiply the length of your skirt by however many hoops you’ll be having. Since I decided on 5 hoops, I bought 15 meters of fabric ribbon, and same again for the boning material. Since I bought it at a hardware store, it came in a 20 meter roll for really cheap.

All in all, for a 3-meter circumference skirt:

Fabric: 3 meters Lace: 3 meters

Ribbon: 15 meters Boning: 15 meters

Cord: 1.5 meters (I like plenty of allowance)

That’s the hardest part done! Onto putting the actual skirt together now!


First off, measure the width of your fabric and trim off the excess. Most bolts of fabric will have them at about 1.4 – 1.5 meters in width. Make sure you’re wearing the shoes you’ll be using at the time when you do this! The first time I made this hoop skirt, I forgot I was wearing very high heels with it and I made the skirt too short. Leave enough allowance at the top to make the channel for the cord, as we will be making it close off in a simple drawstring method.


Using your sewing machine, make the channel for the drawstring by sewing the edge down a little, then folding it over again. This way you’ve sealed the raw edge inside the sewing line without having to muck around too much. This will be the top of your skirt, particularly, the part that goes around your waist. You can see how it turned out on the left, the inside on the bottom and the outside (good side) at the top.


Now we fix up the bottom of the skirt. Because I decided to add lace, I shortened the bottom enough to make room for it. Pin your lace to the bottom (left), right sides facing inwards, and sew the skirt and lace together (bottom left). If you have an overlocker/serge, run it along the edge to neaten it.





If you don’t have an overlocker/serger, you can always French seam it shut, or use a zigzag stitch on your machine to finish off the edges. I find that using the proper machine makes the edges look so much better and more finished.

Picture left: before and after using an overlocker.


A neat little trick I like to do to make sure the lace stays put is to iron it down first, and then sew it into place. Remember kids – always iron your costumes! Even as you’re making them, ironing your fabric down (especially along the seams) will not only make them sit better, but it’ll save you a lot of grief in the future. Trust me; I learnt this the hard way!


Once the lace is sewn to the skirt, turn it around facing the right way and press the seam down flat with your iron. Then run it under a sewing machine, keeping the line as neat as you can.

Now you have a pretty lace along the edge of your skirt! And if the wind should lift it, at least your exposed modesty will look frilly and beautiful!



Now we start attaching the fabric ribbon to the inside of your hoop skirt. The reason why you need good-quality fabric ribbon (even cotton bias-binding like I’ve used in the example to the right) is that regular ribbon is made of acetate, and over time is more likely to fray and go yucky and crusty. Proper ribbon or fabric will keep itself alive a lot longer.


Space out your ribbon evenly on the skirt and pin them down, leaving about a 3-5cm gap from the edge. Always sew the bottom ribbon as close to the edge of the skirt as you can (pictures left). Then run them through the sewing machine, sewing both sides down, but leaving the ends open (this is important!). These strips will become the ‘channels’ for which your hoop skirt’s boning will run through.


Once finished, your skirt should look similar to the image on the left, with evenly-spaced channels for your boning (the one on the top about 10cm from the drawstring channel’s edge) and a sufficient gap on the side. This gap will be explained, so don’t freak out!


Now, take the two ends of your skirt and pin the raw sides together, right sides facing inwards. Hopefully, if you’ve gotten your measurements right, the ends of the channels should meet evenly once it’s lined up. Sew the edge together, and neaten the seam using your overlocker.


Now open your skirt, and TA-DAH! This is what it should look like once it’s done! See how the lace and the channels are straight? Give it a good iron to press the seams flat, and you’re on your way to awesome-town.

‘But Yiji,’ you might ask with trepidation in your voice, ‘there is still a gap between the channels? whyyyy~?’

Fear not, all will be explained in good time!



Take your cord in hand – this will be the drawstring, which will tie the skirt around your waist. Using a strong tape (I used duct tape in this instance, but black for better contrast in this tutorial – usually, try to go for the same colour) wind it around the edge of the string, keeping the tension tight.

Once this is done, snip the excess rubbish off with your scissors – and you’re done!

The reason you seal the ends of the cord is to stop it fraying when you pull on it. It’s also a neat trick when you’re looping something through eyelets, like a corset.

We’re going to start threading the cord through the topmost part of the skirt now to make the drawstring. Remember the looped edging you did in the beginning of the tutorial? This is where the cord will lie. Take a strong safety-pin and attach it to the end of your cord – this will help you so much it isn’t funny.

Working slowly and carefully, slide the safety-pin through the channel, slowly pushing it through from one end of the skirt to the other. Don’t push too hard on the safety-pin, though, or you risk the pin coming open and ruining whatever progress you’ve made. Just take your time – easy does it.


Once you’ve managed to get the cord through, tie a knot on the ends big enough to stop the cord from accidentally slipping back into the skirt. Make sure you have enough cord to tie it off properly and have plenty of excess.

Once your cord is pulled all the way through, you should be able to tighten it around your waist. Remember – the wider your skirt will be, the more gathering around your waist!

Because we’re only making this a simple drawstring-gathered pattern instead of cutting out separate panels, you will have a bit of bunching around the waistline when you secure it. I’ll be hiding it underneath the boning of my corset, but if you have a small waist, I’d probably suggest making it a bit smaller.


Once your drawstring is pulled and tied, it should look something like the picture on the right. Now – I’ve turned the skirt inside-out to show you how it would look once I slide the boning into it. The channels for the boning should technically be on the inside.


We’re almost done! Hold back your despair!

It’s time to insert the boning i.e., the hard stuff that will hold your skirt in its shape. remember the small gap in the back seam between the channels? use that as your starting point for sliding the hose in, one at a time. take your time with it, so you don’t rush and poke a hole through the channels.

now – the reason for using garden hose – aside from the fact that it’s sturdy, cheap, and readily available. this hoop skirt is destined for an interstate convention – therefore, I needed something lightweight, that I could quickly unfasten and roll up in my suitcase. and you know what? garden hose is kind of awesome.

because the channels are the same length all the way up your skirt, you can alter the size and shape of your skirt by feeding more or less of the tubing into it. but for the bottommost hoop, I’d suggest feeding enough of the boning into it to make it nice and taut.

You see how the skirt is starting to take shape now? finally! of course, it looks a little strange still, without the rest of the hoops slid in and being inside out, but that’s just to show you how it’s being made.

I find it’s much easier to put the boning in when your skirt is suspended, either on a dressmaking mannequin, or on somebody wearing it. It saves you time fussing around with armloads of fabric, and you can stand back and see how the shape is taking form as you do it. Once you’ve got your boning to the length you want, cut it and secure it to the other end with a good wind of duct tape, or other strong tape.

Then you just shift the hoop around a little bit so the exposed joint is inside the channel, to give it less of a chance of coming apart.

Be careful not to cut yourself! Cutting plastic with scissors is a bit touch, and you don’t want to take a chunk out of your hands before a convention!


Working one hoop at a time, decrease the width of the boning you use to create the shape of the skirt. Most hoop skirts are arranged in a simple decreasing shape to create the a-line effect. Since mine needs to be a very specific bell-shape, it took me a little longer to create the size I wanted.

Work your way upwards, only making the final cut of your boning material once you’re happy with how wide the hoop is. It does take a little time, but I prefer spending longer on something and being thorough than just doing a quick fix.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier in the tutorial, but just make sure that, when you sew your ribbon down for the channels, it’s big enough to fit your boning through. I’ll admit that I spent about three seconds in panic when I first started pushing the boning through, because I thought I’d sewn the channels too small… turns out I just got the end of the tubing stuck on the under-fold of the channel.


Once you’ve inserted all the boning, you’re done!


Your basic hoop skirt is now complete! Before wearing it, test it out first and get a feel of how to move around in it. Enjoy activities such as hula-dancing, swishing and flouncing, and be mindful of coffee-tables, floor-level fragile and small children.

And that’s it, folks! That’s all she wrote! well, for this tutorial anyway.

If you did enjoy this tutorial, please look forward to seeing more from me! I plan to make at least a few more of these cosplay tutorials to share what little (if any) wisdom I have learnt through the years I’ve spent making stuff.



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