19th Century, Tutorial

The hoopskirt: how I made it and what I would do better next time.

The hoopskirt:


To make a slightly improved version that looks even better than mine you will need:*

  • 32 lengths of ribbon or strips of fabric finished on each edge**, each 41″ long and approximately 1″ wide.  These are mine:

  • 900 inches of flexible poly piping. My local hardware store sells rolls of 20 metres (800 inches) for NZ$7
  • A strip of fabric 45″ long x 4″ wide for a drawstring waistband
  • A 65″ drawstring between 1/2″ and 1″ wide (anything non-slippery will do)
  • 3 metres of string/twine and a large needle with a hole big enough to thread the twine through.
  • Duct tape

Step 1: Making the vertical hoop strips:

Place 2 lengths of your 32 lengths of ribbon/fabric wrong sides together. Sew a line across the top 1/2″ from the edge. Reverse and forward your stitches at both ends a number of times so that the line is very secure. 

Measure down from that line, and mark a line at 4″ and another at 5″. Sew the two lengths of ribbon together at the line you have marked with strong stitches. Continue to measure, mark and sew sets of lines every 4″ and 5″ down from the sets before them.
You are making these gaps:

You should end up with a ladder of stitches holding the two lengths of ribbon together. If I did my math correctly you should have 8 4″ gaps and 8 1″ gaps, and end up on a small gap. The little gaps are where you will thread your hoops through.

Do this to the other 30 lengths of ribbon, so that you end up with 16 strips in total.

Step 2: Making the waistband

Sew two buttonholes side by side and 1″ apart 1 1/4″ up from one long edge of the 45″ drawstring waistband. The buttonholes are to thread the drawstring through and should be 1/4″ longer than your drawstring ribbon is wide. It does not matter where on the 45″ of the waistband you place your buttonholes, though I like to place them at the centre (i.e. 22 inches from one short edge)

Sew the two short edges of the waistband wrong sides together so that the waistband forms a circle.

Step 3: Attaching the strips to the waistband

Pin the hoop strips/ribbons to the right side of the waistband on the long edge closer to the buttonholes at regular intervals, with the short edge of the strips meeting the edge of the waistband.



Baste them to the waistband using 1/2″ seam allowance

Fold and iron the waistband in half along the length, so that it is now 2″ wide.

Fold the unfinished edge with the hoop strips sewn to it up into the waistband. Fold the other edge into the waistband and iron, so that both unfinished edges are hidden inside the waistband.

It should look like this:
Sew 1/8 of an inch from the edge with the strips to close the waistband.  
Thread your drawstring in one buttonhole, around the length of the waistband, and out the other side.

Step 4: cutting and threading the hoops

Now cut your hoop lengths.

Length 1: 70″
Length 2: 85″
Length 3: 92″
Length 4: 102″
Length 5: 110″
Length 6: 117″
Length 7: 125″
Length 8: 130″

Slice along the length of the poly piping for three inches at one end of each of the hoop widths.

Thread Length 1 through the first set of small gaps along the verticle straps at the top of the hoopskirt. 
Squeeze the cut end of the hoop length into the uncut end so that the poly piping forms a circular hoop.

Repeat with Lengths 2-8, working your way down the sets of small gaps along the verticle straps.


When you are done, your hoopskirt should look like this:


Step 5: adjusting and taping the hoops

Using a dressform or with the help of a partner, try the hoopskirt on and assess how it looks. You may need to shorten some of all of the hoops (do this from the un-sliced into end) if the hoopskirt looks too big on you. You may find that you want to adjust the relative bell shape of the skirt.

When you are happy with all of the hoops and the shape of the skirt, fasten all of the hoop connections by wrapping them with duct tape (I know, so historical!). 

I like to have my hoop connections at different points around the skirt, so you don’t have a line of slightly bigger hoop portions going down your hoop at one particular point.

Step 6: fixing the hoops in place.

The problem with the hoops as they are now is that they can slide round inside the tapes and change the shape of your hoopskirt. The way to fix this is to attach your hoops to your 16 vertical strapes/tapes.

I’ve got this idea that there must be some sort of screw/fixing thing out there that would do the trick, but I haven’t manage to find one.

 You could use bolts and washers, but then you would have big lumps all along your hoopskirt, catching on your petticoats and tearing at them. I thought of using little tiny screws, but was afraid that the would work their way out, or tear at the strap fabric too much.

So my solution now is to sew through the tapes and the poly piping. Check that you really like the way the hoopskirt hangs, and then thread your big needle with the cord. Tie a knot in one end a couple of inches from the end. Push the needle through the strap and poly piping from front to back at one intersection.

Wrap your thread around the the front and thread the needle front to back again:
And again:
And again:
Until you have sewn through 4 times and wrapped the hoop from every angle.  Tie it off with a knot.

You may find it helpful to drill holes in the poly piping with a drill gun and a very small drill bit (especially if you are like me and have almost no arm strength), or poke them with an awl.

Don’t drill through the fabric though: bad things happen: 

Check the way your hoopskirt lies each time you sew a hoop to a strap to ensure it is correct.

Go have some chocolate and make yourself a cup of tea, because you are going to have a lot of these connections to sew, and are going to get really tired and irritated with them!

Ta da! Your hoopskirt is done!

Now make a lovely frilly petticoat or two to go over it (please, please, please don’t wear your hoopskirt without a petticoat or two. There is no worse look than hoopskirt lines showing through your skirt)

Yay for petticoats!

What I would do better next time (I have included these improvements in the instructions):
-I would use 16 vertical straps to hold it together, rather than 8
-I would put my hoops closer together (and end up with more hoops)
-I would do a drawstring waist. It’s easier to make than a proper waistband, and easier to adapt to many sizes

* This will make a hoopskirt to fit someone who is approximately 5’7″ and with a natural waist of 29″ hips of 39″, though it will fit a lot of sizes on either side of that too. If you are considerably taller add an addition 5″ to each of the 32 lengths of ribbon, and an extra hoop that is just a few inches bigger around than the bottom one. If you are considerably shorter, just omit the bottom hoop or two and trim the 32 lengths of ribbon. If you are considerably bigger or smaller around in the waist and hips you may lengthen or shorten the 45″ waistband and the 65″ drawstring and add or subtract a few inches to your hoop widths.

**Overlocking is fine. I used a roll hem on mine.


  1. Anonymous says

    I am (sort of) a beginner at sewing and fascinated with historical fashions. After looking through various patterns for hoopskirts on the internet, I realized the project seemed quite overwhelming, but then I found your tutorial here. The way you explained everything made the project seem achievable, and it has turned out to be! I have been working on it for a few days now and although I'm still getting through finishing the edges of the strips, I'm confident I'll be able to finish the project.
    So, when I do finish the project, I'll want to make a petticoat or two to go over it (preferably like the pretty one you have pictured) I was wondering if you would be able to maybe give instructions for how to make that petticoat? I used the dimensions you used for the hoopskirt, so I was just wondering if you'd be willing to do that 🙂 Thanks!

  2. sherilyn wilson says

    thank u sooo much for this tutorial, i was so lost on how to make my hoopskirt for an upcoming convention and when i saw this i squeeled. U SAVED MY DRESS!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Runner says

    You could have used duct tape for the fabric strips. It would have been faster, easier, and a no-sew job. Good job anyway.


    • What an interesting idea. Has anyone ever done this? If they have, I’d love to hear how it went.

      I’m trying to figure out if this would work, and if it would really be easier.

      Personally I find duct tape hard to work with (that thing, where it twists around and sticks to itself! Gah!). It also doesn’t last nearly as well as fabric, and is uncomfortable when it hits you. It’s also blasted expensive here in NZ. My fabric was practically free, and enough duct tape would have cost almost $30. Also, I’m a seamstress, I like sewing! 😉

      Finally, how would it work around the waist? You can’t have a duct tape waistband, and wouldn’t all the strips meeting at the waist make it very bulky and somewhat awkward?

      So many questions! So if you have done this, I want the nitty-gritty about making it work!

      • kim says

        I did it!

        it’s weird, annoying and sticky, but I did it in less than an hour and for less than €7,50.
        I did a quick duct tape waist band around my mannequin, but I will use fabric to make my final waist band.
        I also used a regular garden hose, because everything ‘new’ is really expensive and we don’t have the kind of tubes you used.

        one other good thing about duct tape….
        in the slight chance it breaks, I’ll always have my roll of tape with me 🙂

        • Katie says

          Can you explain how you used the duct tape as the fabric strips? Did you stick two pieces of tape against each other and then tape around the hoops? I don’t have a sewing machine and this sounds like an easy way to go about it.

  4. thank u so much for sharing this, i never attempted making a hoop skirt before but am working on a dress that requires that and i really wanted a nice simple way of doing it. a lot of ppl make it sound impossible to make so thank u so much!

  5. Hayle Daye says

    I’m wanting to make a March Sister’s costume for a New Years party and I was sooo excited to find this tutorial for a hoop skirt! I’m having trouble finding the poly piping though, is it the same thing as pipe insulator?
    You know, I was actually thinking about using duct tape for the strips that connect the hoops! Maybe just the bottom ones and them use fabric for the last row to connect to the waist band. If I do it and it works out well I let you know!
    Thanks again!

    • Poly piping isn’t the same as pipe insulator. It will be in the gardening section (I had no trouble finding it in NZ, Hawaii, or California, so assume it is common in the US). Do tell if the duct tape works – and then update us in a year on how it held up!

  6. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I’m getting a cosplay group together for the Host Club in drag, and we all need hoop skirts except Mori. This tutorial was exactly what we were looking for, and something I passed on to the rest of the group! All I have left to get is the flexible poly piping, and I’m ready to make my hoop skirt!

  7. singineve says

    Just how do you sit down without the skirt going over your head and everyone seeing your underwear?

    • As you sit, you carefully smooth your hands along the side of the skirt, and lift the hoops at the back, so that the hoops sit on the back of the chair, behind you, rather than under you. I should do a video tutorial!

      • Nancy says

        That is also how you, ahem, use the “facilities”. Works really well.

  8. Rylee J. says

    Thank you for this! I want a hoop skirt so bad. This helped a whole lot

  9. julia says

    thank you AlOT for this 🙂 but do you think you could make like a video tutorial… some of the instructions are confusing ( well maybe its because im not from here ) also, where did you find the poly piping??? if you could please tell me than it would help a lot 🙂 the hoop skirt looks really nice though 🙂 thank you

    • You can find it in most local hardware stores, I know that in New Zealand it is also known as Alkathene. It also comes in different thicknesses – I used 12mm for mine and it worked a treat!

  10. Mandi says

    I have a question for you, what if I am making a flounced hoop skirt is the skirt panel ( not boning) the same as the lengths you listed in order? Simplicity does not make a hoop pattern any more and I am having to ” wing it” and have no pattern to go by. I have the correct measurements to cut the boning and the persons measurements but need to know how many inches or yards each panel is from top to bottom, any suggestions? Need to know asap!

  11. I remember when I was a kid, that I had dresses with ‘full’ skirts. The under-slip was a rope petticoat. I was thinking that if someone wanted a skirt that looked like a hoop skirt without being as stiff, if they might like to try making a slip using a lawn (or firm fabric) with tucks that allowed for thick, firm rope to be threaded through. Several rows of these might be nicer & more comfortable to wear … that is, if the skirt is being made as part of a dress with a nice wide skirt …. It would be especially pretty with ruffles added to the petticoat before all the rope was threaded though the slip. I am referring to the 50’s clothing!! Oh dear, that makes me feel so old, yet I’m considering making it for myself to wear with a pretty, full skirted sun dress! LOL & Yes, I’m serious!

  12. Rae Tyrant says

    what is the type/size of the ‘flexible poly piping’ that you are using in this tutorial?

    • Stitch Witch says

      I made mine out of 1/2″ garden drip hose, not soaker hose. I also connected the ends using drip hose connectors.

  13. Dart H. says

    Consider this technique (supplementing what you’ve described):

    Make the waistband first, but don’t sew the hoop channels (this means do Step 1 AFTER Step 4/5).
    Put the waistband on your mannequin, and use safety pins to tentatively position all your hoops. Use a fabric marker to mark where to sew (consider marking A/B for top/bottom on both ribbons so you don’t get misaligned).
    Take the hoops out, sew all your channels, then re-insert your hoops.

    If you drill holes on either side of each ribbon, and tie one pass of heavy/sturdy cord thru those holes (capturing the ribbon on both sides(, that should be plenty to keep the hoops from shifting around.

    Need that late-Victorian bustle? Make the tapes about 50% longer on the back 4, and 25% longer on the next 2 on each side. The distance between channels will also be more in the back than the front.

  14. Dani Jasons Wife says

    Wow, incredible! Thank so much for making this tutorial!! I can’t wait to make a hoop skirt now! I, like the other people on these comments, was completely overwhelmed by EVERY other site… Can’t wait to see this in action! Do you have any advice for tall (6 ft) and plus sized?

  15. Melissa says

    I’m making a hoop skirt, and I found PEX pipe at the hardware store for the horizontal bars. It is flexible, sturdy, and cheap! I chose the 1/2″ which came in 10ft lengths (around $2.50 each) or you could buy longer rolls. There are also these glorious little connectors to complete the circles!

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I’m really excited about using pipe with connectors if I make this hoopskirt again.

  16. How could I modify this tutorial to make an elliptical hoop skirt?


    • Hello Adi,
      This method doesn’t actually work for an elliptical but you could try using the Truly Victorian Elliptical Cage Pattern, I have used it to go under my 1864 Civil War Day dress and it worked PERFECT!
      Let us know how it goes,
      -Costume Designer-
      the Piano Designs

      • Actually, this method can be modified for an elliptical, using changes in the tape length to control the backward thrust of the hoops. I’ve just made an elliptical hoopskirt using a variant of the method, and the silhouette is spot on. 🙂 I’ll be posting a tutorial based on that, but it may take a little while. It ends up very similar to the Truly Victorian pattern.

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  18. Sara says

    I’ve always been fascinated with civil war clothing, so I was so happy that I found this site. Hoop skirts seem much easier to make now. Thank you!

  19. anonymous says

    This was very helpful, thank you. Do you also know how to make a corset?

  20. Hello. Thank you so much for this tutorial. However, I have a doubt: is this piping foldable for easy transportation? If not, what do you suggest to solve this? Thank you.

    • Glad this was helpful! The piping isn’t foldable: it will permanently bend if folded. It does compact down into a flat circle.

      No matter what they are made of, hoopskirts shouldn’t really bend. Any hooping strong enough to really support a skirt won’t bend well.

      • Hello,
        I just used alkathene for my elliptical crinoline as well, I think it is a lot cheaper than steel hoop boning or spring steel boning and it worked perfectly. Where abouts in NZ do you live? I’m from Whangarei northland and have been struggling to find someone who lives in NZ who makes period dresses etc, and who has a website!

        • Take a quick look around the website Scott and read a few posts and I think most of your questions will be answered 🙂

  21. Hello again,
    Instead of doing the slice method for connecting the hoops, we had a 1 inch piece of doweling that we put in side each side of the holes where it connects O-O

  22. Bella says

    Hi, I was wondering for the last part, couldn’t you just tape the back of the hoop to the back of the fabric? I don’t know if it would work, but the string method seems a little complicated.

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  24. paige says

    Hi, I’m going as a princess for Halloween and so I am making this hoop skirt. The skirt I found is really long on me, so I have to hem it, and so I was wondering how much would this hoop skirt take the skirt hem up? I would appreciate a quick response but I overall need a response 2 weeks before Halloween.

    • Hi Paige,

      I’d recommend trying the skirt on over the hoopskirt, and hemming it based on that. I can’t give you a take up amount over the internet, as even the slightest difference in hoop and length measures would change it.

  25. Dundy says

    THANK YOU!!! I really needed this and this was so helpful!

  26. Great job I cant wait to try this method this weekend. Thanks for the easy instructions and great step by step photos.

  27. It is fortunate that the piping comes in coils approximately the diameter of the hoops that you want make. One a little bigger and some a little smaller and the factory circle diameter is pretty close. IT WORKS!

    Another way keep the hoops from sliding around in the straps would be to drill a small hole (1/16″) or carefully poke a hole through the piping with a heated pointed tool like an ice pick
    horizontally (parallel to the floor). Take as heavy a thread as you can find, like rug thread,
    and sew through the hole and inner and outer straps, sewing around alternately over the top through the hole and under the bottom until you have created a thick cord of thread through the hole locking the hoop in place to the strap. Keep the lashing tight throughout the process and tie off securely.
    It is smooth and will not come lose or sticky (as with tape) over time or with heat like in the car.

    Something else that you might try.
    This is somewhat involved, but maybe worth the effort if you are a real adventurer.

    You can also join the ends of the piping by finding a wood dowel that will fit inside. Birch dowels are common and Birch lends itself well to this process. It should fit as snugly as possible. You may have to shave it down a little if you find one just slightly too big. This is better than one too small.

    Put nails or screws in a board (finish nails are best-no head) to form two rows spaced apart so the piping will just fit exactly between the rows. Form the lines in a curve a little tighter radius than the radius of your middle hoop or the next on up. The curve should be 10″ to a foot long.

    The next thing you need is something that makes steam.
    Steam iron,
    Classic type tea kettle, <<WEAR EYE PROTECTION GOGGLES<
    Hold the dowel, by one or both ends, in the steam flow, but not too close. Maybe 4 – 6" out for a tea kettle, and steam the length between the marks. Once it is good and hot and wet it will become rubbery. The time it takes will totally depend on your steam producing device. You can tell by trying to bend it from time to time and at some point it will bend. When it bends and doesn't spring back right away, quickly put it in you nail tool that you made earlier and let it cool and dry. The curve should now be permanent. It may spring back a little.
    Cut a piece 6" – 8" long out of the curve and mark the center of it. Jamb it in one end of the piping up to the center mark.
    If it isn't tight enough to stay put, pound a small brad nail through the pipe into the dowel.
    Fit up the other side and brad nail it too.

    Put the joint in one of the straps to cover the tiny nail heads. You have a nice smooth joint.
    There may be a little trial and error to get the curvature right. One mold may or may not work for all the hoops. You will easily figure out what to do.

    Granted, it wasn't easy. It's a lot easier to to than to explain it, and now you have another technique in your arsenal of tools. Making the second one will be a lot easier and quicker.

    Good luck and be careful.

    Note: Polypropylene cannot be glued very well, or really not at all. Nothing sticks to it. That's one reason it makes good pipe.

  28. Sandi says

    I am preparing to make a hoop skirt for my grand daughter, and this looks great. Has anyone tried the 1/4″ poly tubing? The skirt needs to travel so we are hoping to get it made and then be able to coil the tubing for travel and tread it through on arrival.

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