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Make a Poodle Skirt with a DIY Pattern

Updated on September 11, 2014

Step by Step Directions for Making a 50s Style Circle Skirt

When my teenage daughter told me she needed a poodle skirt for their 50s themed sock hop dance at school, I set off to look for patterns on how to help my daughter make her own poodle skirt.

There were several additional benefits to having her make the skirt herself. First she would get to do applied math, looking at calculating out the radius based on the circumference of a circle. She would (hopefully) have the satisfaction of making her own skirt and it would be way cheaper (pulling from my fabric stash) and better made than going out and buying a skirt.

The poodle skirt is just a basic circle skirt make from felt which has an applique poodle in the front. I realize it would be a pretty simple pattern for my daughter to make herself so we drafted our own DIY pattern.

What you see here is the research I did to figure out our own pattern, how you can make your own free pattern and the step by step process we when through to make a 50's style circle skirt, complete with making our own felt iron-on poodle applique. I've also included what I could find about the history of the poodle skirt, since I am not old enough to have ever worn one.

Ready to make your own poodle skirt?

50s Style Poodle Skirt available on Amazon

Materials Needed to Make a Poodle Skirt

I figured making a poodle skirt is pretty easy. I knew I just need a few basic materials (not counting the sewing supplies and sewing machine), most of which I already had in my sewing supplies:

  1. Fabric - Felt or Fleece
  2. Elastic
  3. Poodle Applique or make one with a poodle graphic and felt
  4. Ribbon and any embellishments
  5. Iron-on stitch witchery

A Poodle Skirt is a Circle Skirt + Poodle Applique

Poodle Skirt Outfit Model

This sock hop outfit is very similar to the type of outfit we designed for my daughter except we used a white poodle.

Start with Martha Stewart

To get an idea of how to make a simple circle skirt, I started by watching Martha Stewart crafts.

Vote on Poodle Skirts

Who are you making a poodle skirt for?

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Poodle and Circle Skirt Patterns

A Basic Circle Skirt Pattern

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

Circle Skirt Pattern © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

Make Your Own Free Poodle Skirt Pattern

Making your own circle skirt pattern is pretty easy.

You need to figure out how long to make the skirt. Measure from the waist to where you want the skirt to hit, like the knee. Somewhere between 22 - 25 is good for teens. Children need a shorter skirt.

To calculate out the inner circle, (where the waist will fit) you need to do some circle skirt math. See the video clips and modules below to figure out the waist measurement and then how to convert this into the radius of the circle if cutting 1/4 of the pattern as seen in the image to the right.

Starting at the upper right corner (where the * is located) measure out the measurements and mark where to cut for the inner circle (waist hole) and the skirt length. You can use a pencil and string or just do what I did and use your tape measure, measuring out the same measurement (radius or skirt length).

Once you have your skirt measured out you can cut out the two circles to make the large donut circle seen above.

Circle Skirt Pattern © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Calculating the Fabric Needed

To calculate out how much fabric you need to purchase (or find from your fabric stash in my case) simply double the length of the fabric.

Working with felt and fleece have another advantage in that the fabrics are 54 to 60 inches so you can easily cut a circle out of one piece of fabric.

I thought I'd had enough blue felt, but the yard of fabric was only enough to cut out half of the skirt. It was time for another math lesson. (That's two applied math lessons from just the start of one sewing project)

To figure out what I needed for my 13-year-old daughter's skirt we added the numbers for the inner circle with the length of the overall skirt and then doubled it.

  • [Inner Circle Radius + Skirt Length] x 2 = Total amount of 54 inch fabric needed
  • [6.5 + 22] x 2 = 28.5 x 2 = 57 inches

Then to convert the inches into yards, divide by 36. In our case we needed 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 yards. The piece of blue fleece I had was 1.5 yards (with a little over which is how many stores used to cut fabric).

For babies and smaller children it will be easier to make a skirt out of much less fabric, since you could cut a second piece from the other side and then sew the two half circles together. Jen on the Praiseworthy blog shows how she made a 9 in long poodle skirt in sections for her baby daughter.

Easy as Pi Circle Skirt Video Tutorial

Learn how to calculate the numbers needed to make a circle skirt in this excellent tutorial from fettuccinetube.

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

Understanding Circle Skirt Math

Many people feel a bit intimidated making circle skirts because they don't want to calculate the math of the circles and have to remember some basic circle formulas. The good news is that you only have to calculate the inner circle. The outer circle can be easily measured without calculations.

Calculating the inner circle (the waist opening) for a circle skirt is pretty easy if you just remember a few basic formulas.

The circumference or the distance around the outside of the circle is the length of the waist or torso you are trying to make the skirt for plus a little bit more (1.5 to 2 inches for comfort).

  • Circumference = 2rπ (Remember that π=3.14)

Flipping the equation around, since we need to find the radius we take the circumference or waist measurement and divide by 2xπ or 6.28.

To find the radius of a 25 inch waist (+ 2 inches for comfort) you would diving 27/6.28 = 4.3 or 4 3/8 inches. The radius becomes the measurement for the inner circle in the diagram above.

(If you prefer using the diameter and measuring across the entire circle, simply multiply the radius by 2, in this case you would have 8.6 inches or 8 5/8 )

Circle Math © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Do It Yourself Circle Skirt Video Tutorial

Learn how to draft a pattern and make a circle skirt in this video tutorial from Whitney Sews a.k.a. aglanceatmyworld

Poodle Skirt Patterns on Amazon

If you don't want to make your own poodle skirt pattern, you can buy one to get started. Here are some of the circle skirt patterns that can be found on Amazon. Pick your favorite pattern.

Sewing Pattern: 1950's At the Hop Poodle Skirt Pattern. Folkwear 256
Sewing Pattern: 1950's At the Hop Poodle Skirt Pattern. Folkwear 256
Poodle skirt pattern for women and girls. Great pattern if you have a mother daughter sock hop (or you want to dress up when chaperoning).

Poodle Skirt Patterns on eBay

You can also find poodle skirt patterns on eBay.

Poodle Skirt Color Combinations

Poodle skirt combinations on Amazon
Poodle skirt combinations on Amazon

Just some of the color combinations of skirts available on Amazon to used inspire your own poodle skirt designs.

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

Cutting Our Blue Poodle Skirt

After calculating out the inner circle numbers I used some packaging paper to make a pattern piece that was 1/4 of a circle.

With a 25 inch waistline and wanting a 22 inch long skirt we did the first or the inner circle at 6 3/8 inches. The second larger circle was drawn out 22 inches from the first one.

Starting at the upper right corner I measured and marked 6 3/8 inches in several spots and then free hand with a pencil drew an arch to join them together for the inner circle.

For the larger outer circle or the skirt length I measured out 22 inches with a tape measure and marked several spots, then with a pencil free hand drew a line to join the marks for the outer circle.

Once cut we took the large felt donut and made sure my daughter could get it over her head.

Since I was cutting through 4 layers of fabric (folded in 1/2, then in 1/2 again) it was a little challenging, but definitely faster than having to cut out larger half circle.

Cutting blue circle skirt © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Materials and Supplies for a Circle Skirt

Use Felt or Fleece Fabric

Felt and fleece fabrics are really good choices because you can cut them out and not worry about having to add a hem. Just be sure when you are cutting that you cut in a nice straight and even line.

Pink, black and baby blue are the more traditional color choices, but since you will be making your own skirt, you can choose any color that you would like.

These are just some of the felt color choices available on Amazon if you can't find any locally.

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

How to Make a No Sew Poodle Applique

My daughter wanted to buy a poodle applique, but since we had so much felt around, I figured we could easily make one using one of the many different poodle silhouettes available online.

I found several poodle silhouettes and she picked one from the Freeapplique website. I thought one from the Custom Canine Creations might be easier to cut out because it didn't have as many curves in the outline.

We printed out the poodle pattern at a size she was happy with and then cut out the poodle from white felt, so it would have a good contrast to the blue fabric.

Using Stitch Witchery between the cut out felt poodle and the felt skirt, the poodle applique was ironed on in minutes. Be sure to be careful ironing on and keep applying pressure, but keep the iron moving when ironing. We had a bit of the poodle get a touch singed when ironing.

We used double stick tape to tape on the ribbon leash, which was really fast. If you needed to have the skirt last longer, then it would make more sense to stitch the ribbon in place to the skirt.

If you want your poodle skirt to last for a while, then you may want to stitch your poodle applique in place or use stronger fusible interfacing cut out in the shape of the applique.

Since we were using the skirts for personal use and not to sell, I wasn't too concerned about copyright issues.

Cutting felt poodle applique © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Pink Poodle Appliques

If you'd rather buy an applique than make one, here are some fun poodles in pink to consider (or use as inspiration for making your own).

Black and White Poodle Appliques

Black poodles or white poodles are two other applique options when making poodle skirts. They also make for good design inspirations.

Additional Circle Skirt Supplies from Amazon

Stretchrite 2-Inch by 10-Yard Black Heavy Knit Stretch Elastic Roll
Stretchrite 2-Inch by 10-Yard Black Heavy Knit Stretch Elastic Roll
Use 2 inch elastic for the waistband to sew to top of the skirt.
Dritz 221 1-1/2-Inch by 8-Yard Stitch Witchery, Regular
Dritz 221 1-1/2-Inch by 8-Yard Stitch Witchery, Regular
1.5 inch wide Stitch Witchery to iron on the applique
American Crafts 1/4-Inch This to That Double-Sided Tape
American Crafts 1/4-Inch This to That Double-Sided Tape
The double back tape made adding the ribbon leash very easy. We added on the ribbon leash, without needing to stitch anything or iron it on.

The Finished Blue Poodle Skirt

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

Final blue poodle skirt © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Step by Step Instructions to Make a Poodle Skirt

Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer
Image © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer

Making the Circle Skirt

Now that you have your materials, supplies and pattern lets get started making the circle skirt.

I looked for the fastest ways of putting a circle skirt together with the least amount of sewing. This pattern requires that you sew on an elastic waistband, a bit of sewing, but much faster than doing a traditional waistband with a zipper.

Cutting the skirt is one of the more time consuming parts. After the skirt is cut you sew on an elastic waistband and then iron on the poodle and his or her leash. That's all it takes.

Since the skirt is cut from felt or fleece, which doesn't ravel you can leave the skirt unhemmed.

For those who like being able to check off their progress working on a project I've listed out the steps below.

Final blue poodle skirt © 2013 by Kirsti A. Dyer.

Steps to Make a Circle or Poodle Skirt

A circle skirt can easily be made in an hour or less, especially if you already have a pattern, so you don't have to stop and do the math calculations.

  1. Choose your skirt colors.
  2. Determine the amount of fabric needed and other skirt supplies like elastic waistband and fusible interfacing.
  3. Make or buy a circle skirt pattern.
  4. Cut out your circle skirt.
  5. Try it on to make sure it will go over the wear's head or hips.
  6. Sew the ends of the elastic waistband together and then to the top of the skirt.
  7. Choose or make your applique design.
  8. Iron-on the applique to the skirt.
  9. Tape or iron-on the leash to the skirt and any other embellishments (like a collar).
  10. Try on and admire the skirt.

More How To Make a Poodle or Circle Skirt Articles

Here are some of the other style options (no sew to zippers and fabric waistbands) and the better directions that I found when researching how to make a Poodle skirt or circle skirt.

Complete Your 50's Look

How to Complete the 50's Look

Once your poodle skirt is done to complete the 50s look add:

  1. A Hair or Neck Scarf
  2. Saddle Shoes
  3. Bobby Socks
  4. Cat Eye Glasses
  5. White polo top or Peter Pan Collar Blouse

Colorful Poodle Skirts on Amazon

If you don't have the time to make a skirt or would rather get a completed 50s poodle skirt costume, there are many costume and color choices to be found on Amazon.

Hip Hop 50s Shop Adult 4 Piece Poodle Skirt Costume Set
Hip Hop 50s Shop Adult 4 Piece Poodle Skirt Costume Set
With the 4 piece adult outfit you get the poodle skirt, Bobby socks, chiffon scarf and cateye glasses.

History of Poodle Skirts

Image by libertygrace0
Image by libertygrace0

The Poodle Skirt is Really a Decorated Circle Skirt

Circle skirts or swingy skirts became a popular style after the second world war replacing the dirndl style skirt. One has to wonder if the popularity of the style had anything to do with a more abundant era following the war.

The swingy skirt is a very simple pattern to make and a flattering style for many different shapes, since the skirt fabric hides larger hips and excess torso weight. Both of these reasons contribute to the popularity of the skirt.

As can be seen in this Swingy Skirt pattern, the skirt could quickly and easily be made from just two pieces of fabric and a zipper. With the basic design and a few calculations to ensure a correct fit, teenagers in the 1950s were able to fashion their own circle skirts.

The circle skirts, especially embellished with poodles and other appliques, have become synonymous with the 1950s and top the list of items worn for 50s costumes and 50s style sock hop dances.

Circle or Swingy Skirt pattern from libertygrace0. Used under Creative Commons license.

Beautiful Circle Skirts

Beautiful Circle Conversation Skirts
Beautiful Circle Conversation Skirts | Source
Image by shortiestar3000
Image by shortiestar3000

Thank Juli Lynne Charlot for Changing the Circle Skirt

The idea for an embellished fabric skirt is attributed to Juli Lynne Charlot, an actress who needed something to wear to a 1947 holiday party in Los Angeles. A self described non sewer, Juli Lynne Charlot needed something that was easy to make.

According to an interview done with Charlot in 1953 with the Toledo Blade,

  • I cut it out of felt, because I didn't know how to sew, and that was the only material I knew wide enough to cut a complete circle skirt without any seams.
This simple circle skirt was cut from a piece of felt fabric with just a hole in the middle for the waist. Charlot decorated it with an appliqued whimsical Christmas tree. She sold the skirt a week later and orders started trickling in for her embellished, whimsical circle skirts. Charlot's whimsical story-telling novelty skirts proved to be a very popular with adults.

One embellished skirt style in particular, the poodle skirt, became a popular skirt with 1950s teens. Jaynie Van Roe of Here's Looking Like You Kid writes that the poodle skirt craze is "often attributed to those new rock n roll dances; teens found the big circle skirts enchanting while dancing."

The poodle circle skirt was also popular with teens, because it was so easy to make. With just basic sewing skills a thrifty teen could make her own circle skirt with felt and sew on appliques. Worn with a petticoat, the teen staple poodle skirt was also more flirtatious than Charlot's whimsical novelty skirts which were worn by mothers and grandmothers. Jaynie Van Roe describes the poodle skirt as one of the first “too young for you” fashions.

Poodle skirt by shortiestar3000. Used under Creative Commons license.

Vintage Poodle Skirts on eBay

You can find vintage poodle skirts along with reproductions of the poodle skirts on eBay.

What do you think about making your own poodle skirt?

Comment on Making a Poodle Skirt with a Pattern

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    • profile image

      Kaela Rosier 

      3 years ago

      This is a great blog post you did wonderful explaining how to make the skirt, however these images are copyrighted. They belong to Hip Hop 50's Shop, and you need to ask permission before using them.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Enjoy making your skirt.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      very nice thanx

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Hope you enjoyed the pattern.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You're the grateest! JMHO

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      @delia-delia: Hope you enjoyed your trip down memory lane.

    • delia-delia profile image


      7 years ago

      I already had one years ago, so that ages me ;-) Great lens and memories! I can't believe all the pedi coats we use to on earth did we sit?

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      @Vikk Simmons: Thank you. I didn't quite make this era, so I had to do a bit of research to figure out the patterns and the history.

    • Vikk Simmons profile image

      'Vikk Simmons 

      7 years ago from Houston

      Wow, I grew up during this era so I really remember these. Great job.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      @getmoreinfo: Thank you. Maybe you'll be inspired to make your own.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love all the poodle skirt patterns, I still have my poodle skirt from college, it was for a retro dress-up day we had. I like vintage clothes very much, this is a nice lens on how to craft, sew and make a poodle skirt.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      @CrossCreations: Thanks. Now I know I've got a spot to turn to if I need to make one for my younger daughter.

    • HealthfulMD profile imageAUTHOR

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      @anonymous: The Circle Skirt is really a fun and easy pattern.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      What an impressive tutorial about how to make a poodle skirt. Your work is always first rate, Doc.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      These are so useful for so many things.


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