LA Fire Conclave 2007: Burn Costume: Panel Skirt




About: Freelance writer and editor. I blog at Metroblogging LA:

This is a set of instructions for a D.I.Y. panel skirt, one that we'll be wearing during our performance at Burning Man. Well, we'll be wearing it if we don't mind that it flagrantly displays lots of ass. I sort of mind, so the next instructable will be how to create a somewhat more modest skirt from a Lakers t-shirt or some other big purple tee. It will be the same idea but the slit won't go all the way up.

Yes, I know it's fuschia. Yes, I know we agreed on purple. Sorry, it was what I had sitting around.

A note on fabric: look for stretchy but not elastic-y "cotton jersey," the kind of fabric used in t-shirts. When you go to Joanne's Fabrics and say "Where's your cotton jersey?" and they look at you with that "I've just been hit by a brick" expression (no one there seems to know a THING about fabric or sewing), grab your own t-shirt, shake it at them, and say, very slowly, "T-SHIRT FABRIC. WHERE IS YOUR T-SHIRT FABRIC?"

Try to get purple--yes, "Lakers" purple--a cool, bluer, royal purple. If they don't have it, buy blue or pink & dye it. More on dying in the next few Instructables, or email me.

Make sure your fabric is mostly, if not all, cotton. A little synthetic is okay, but too much will make it dangerous when exposed to flame.

Step 1: Get a Prototype.

Grab a skirt from your closet that already fits you snugly.

Step 2: Laying Out Your Template

Fold the fabric you've purchased in half so when you cut it later, you'll be cutting two pieces.

Lay the template-skirt from your closet over the fabric. Align its top with the top of the piece of fabric.

Step 3: Tracing

Using chalk, trace your skirt.

Step 4: Remove Your Template

Looky, an outline! That's the chalk there in the middle.

Step 5: Tweaking It Smaller

About an inch in from your dotted outline, draw another line for the actual edge of your panel skirt. Make it as long as you want your skirt to be; I'm making mine a bit longer than the template skirt, because the template skirt was too short for this project.

Step 6: Cut It Out.

Uh, yeah. Cut it out.

Step 7: Get Your Elastic

You can use any width of elastic; I just happened to have some really wide stuff hanging around. It would look good with any width, really. I think. Maybe.

Step 8: Cut Your Straps

I cut mine about five inches long, but you can cut them as long or short as you want. These will end up spanning the empty space on your thigh between the two pieces of skirt, so if you're a hoochie, make 'em extra long, and if you're all shy, make 'em shorter.

Step 9: Pin in Your Elastic

Align one set of straps at the top of the skirt, at the waist; align the other pair a little lower.

I'm using safety pins to hold the elastic straps in place until I'm sure about how loose or tight I want the dress to be; then I'll sew them in place.

Step 10: All Four Sections

Both pair of elastic are in now. You'll see I'm pinning them to the outside, with the pins upwards facing me; later I can turn the skirt inside-out, making the pins and the raw edges of the elastic on the inside, which is really how we want it.

Step 11: Get a Little Closer

A closer view of the straps held in place with pins.

Step 12: Give It a Shot.

So, flip the skirt inside-out so the raw edges of the elastic are now on the inside, and try that little puppy on. Here, I try mine on and think it's a little too much.

Step 13: Adjust 'til You're Comfortable

While I had the skirt on I pulled the elastic in and pinned it tighter, shortening the open space between the panels. See the next step for how much closer I made the panels.

Step 14: A Comparison

Here you can see two versions of the space between panels: #1 is the new, tightened version, and #2 is the original width, which made me feel a little too...breezy.

Step 15: Ah. Now That's Better.

It just feels like the thing fits better.

After you get it looking how you want, use a needle & thread to sew the elastic in place, so you can take the pins out.

The top in this series of photos is the one I'm working on for the costumes as well. More on that in another Instructable.



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    19 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 12

    You were already a 9.5 out of ten but now with this costume its above ten.


    Well, Lemonie, there wasn't much skill or labor to speak of. ;) Next ballgown I construct, maybe. But this was designed to be totally doable by anyone in my fire performance troupe, even if they've never sewn in their life.

    2 replies

    ...although I could do without the redundancy of the "oh look, how very revealing" comments. But I also realize it's inevitable with this sort of endeavor.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I know I'm gonna sound like a bitch, but as someone who's worked at JoAnn's for three years and knows a thing or two about fabric, the reason you might get that "hit with a brick" look is because t-shirt fabric is actually called "cotton knit", not cotton jersey. Jersey is usually wool.

    I just noticed the "be nice" policy, and if this gets me banned, it's worth it to stand up for my fellow fabric store workers.

    I will try to make this a little nicer by explaining: Maybe this is not necessarily true of *you*, but you'd be amazed at the level of attitude and complete disregard for common courtesy a fabric store worker sees throughout their workday. And this is often long and physically taxing (returning several somewhat heavy bolts of fabric from where they came as swiftly as possible, several times a day. And reorganizing after a section has been made a complete mess of. And if there is a *huge* sale, you're lucky if you get out of the store at eleven. And I've stayed later.)

    I have worked many different types of retail venues, but I have never seen the sheer volume of impolite customers as I've seen while working at the fabric store. People that don't want to stand in line, people that yell, people that try to confuse you into allowing them to steal stuff. I've heard this kind of stuff happens at Michaels too. Over 10 years of retail experience, *only* seen this much of it while working at JoAnne's.

    Perhaps the JoAnne's you frequent is a different story, but why sully what is a *very* good Instructable by portraying all the workers there thusly: "no one there seems to know a THING about fabric or sewing", and *instructing* us to be snarky with them, when it seems to me (if this is a portrayal of your actual fabric store experience) that perhaps *you* were the one who *might* have been a little clueless, as you used a fabric term incorrectly, arguably, at least in a way that the term "jersey" is not normally used.

    If I've come on a little too strong, I'm sorry. If this bans me from Instructables, so be it. I'm standing up for my fellow beleagered fabric store workers.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Gosh, I'm sorry it sucks so much to work there...I guess that makes sense, because none of the people I see there look happy, and unhappy people don't have much incentive to provide great customer service. I see people everywhere be really nasty to retail workers, and it's hardly ever the worker's fault.

    Didn't know cotton knit & jersey were different, but now I do...however, in trying to think back (I created this about six months ago), I really got the impression the people working there were not very well-informed about different types of fabrics. The manager *should* have been, but even he seemed spaced out, uncaring and dense. It was kind of a bummer experience. Kudos to you for actually being the sort of person who cares enough to learn about & understand the product you're selling.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    nice... i love the idea but like maybe could you make a more school appropriate one by an chance


    The elastic band popping up over the top is still a bit weird for me. What about running a length of elastic ALL the way around like a belt and then keeping the top of it flush with teh top of the fabric. Might be more secure while dancing.

    1 reply prolly wouldn't stick up if I'd sewed it, but that's just with the safety pin in there. I am lazy. One of the problems about sewing elastic all the way around: elastic & fabric stretch, thread doesn't (unless you buy elastic thread). So unless you sewed a full belt of elastic in using vertical lines of sewing, like this: | | | | | etc wouldn't stretch without breaking the thread. But I did think of that first, you're right on that.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    So all the comments to date are about flesh? Does no one appreciate the work than went into (partially) covering it? L


    Well, kids, it *will* be at Burning Man, so actually this is quite modest compared with the soaring vistas of flesh available to the eye therein.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    yeah.....that's more like lots of hip...not lots of ass're standing...not sitting...i would imagine the perspective changes then


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Speaking as a life-long observer, there's nothing wrong with what that skirt shows. (And that's from a happily-married man...)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    For what it's worth, I don't mind if it flagrantly displays lots of ass. Ahem. Nice work.