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Ask the Costume Goddess

Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Ask the Costume Goddess:

Making a Handkerchief Skirt

by Dina Lydia



The Question

Dear Costume Goddess:

I am looking for a pattern to make a handkerchief skirt. Hope your can help.




The Costume Goddess Responds

Dear Donna,

Since a handerchief skirt is a simple square, you don't really need a pattern.

For a woman of average size, a yard and a half squares, or the full width of the 45" fabric should be about right — but cut a pattern of cheap muslin first. Trim the points if necessary, to an inch or two from the floor.

The size of the circular opening should be just big enough to pull over your hips, and can then be tightened with elastic. If I remember my basic geometry, the circumference of a circle is about 3.14 times the diameter. Thus a 12-inch diameter circle would measure about 37 3/4 inches around, a 13-inch diameter circle would measure 40 3/4 inches around, a 14-inch diameter circle would measure about 44 inches around, and so forth.

Click on the diagram at the right to see it in more detail.

Diagram Illustrating How to Make a Handkerchief Skirt

The trickiest part is cutting the circular opening the correct size to fit hips through without too much extra space. The circumference of the circle will be about 3.1 times its diameter. This should add up to slightly larger than the largest part of your hip. Generally it's cut on the straight grain (parallel to the edge) but if your fabric is wide, you could try putting on the bias (diagonal) and you will get a more ripply effect on the edge, since it will stretch as you sew it. If your fabric is narrow or your size large, the pattern can be pieced, with a seam down the sides.

--The Costume Goddess



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About the Costume Goddess

Dina has been sewing for more than twenty-five years (yes, she started as a toddler!)

She's also an artist (Maryland Institute of Art) and perfected her sewing techniques apprenticed to various designers, freelancing for small theaters, restyling vintage garments, and altering wedding gowns.

Dina fell in love with belly dancing costumes upon her very first lesson. Now the pleasure of wearing her own designs, and seeing others wear them, offers as much pleasure as dancing. She's become expert as well in altering those troublesome ready-made Egyptian costumes, and modifying designs to flatter individual figures.

She holds workshops in Seattle to teach design and construction of cabaret costumes, and analysis of figure characteristics. She will also give private lessons, or resize or repair a secondhand costume. She's thus earned her Costume Goddess title.

Photo of Dina Lydia, The Costume Goddess

The Costume Goddess Tells All Costuming Books

Dina has published six books of her own on belly dance costuming as well as writing nearly all the costuming section for The Belly Dance Book. For information on her series of books, The Costume Goddess Tells All, see her web site at For reviews here on of some of her books, see:

Photo of Dina Lydia, the Costume Goddess

Costume Goddess Photos

To view a photo gallery featuring pictures of Dina, costumes she has designed, and her friends, either click on the choices below or visit her web site:


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The contents of this page are copyrighted 2009 by Dina Lydia. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.



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