Skating Dress Tutorial Part VI: Attaching the Skirt

So sorry that the conclusion to this tutorial has taken so long!  I have had the post written since forever ago, but I never found time to take and upload photos.  In case you need a refresher you can find the earlier parts of this skating dress tutorial here:

Part I: General Sewing Stuff
Part II: Sparkles
Part III: Pattern and Fabric Prep
Part IV: Bodysuit
Part V: Elastic

And now, finally we are ready for the last step of the construction process – attaching the skirt!  This is probably the most difficult part of sewing the costume (getting it to lie smoothly and drape right can be a bit fussy during the sewing process).  Hopefully my tips and advice will be of use.

I discussed in an earlier post about why I prefer to top-stitch the skirts instead of inserting the skirt into the seam.  Another reason I like to top-stitch – you can optimally place the skirt on the body AFTER the leotard is constructed.  If you sew it into the seam you have to hope and pray a bit too much for my liking.  So, this is my method, though it might not be the most elegant, it does produce consistent results across a wide range of body types.
(1) Figure out where the side seams are
Try on the leotard and pin the front skirt at center front and the back skirt at center back.  The point of the V on the front skirt opening should be 1-2″ below the belly button.  It should rest on the fullest part of the belly pooch (and, yes, I don’t care how ripped, thin, or fit you are – there will be a belly pooch).  This will ensure that the skirt hangs smoothly from the body in the front.  Pin the front to the back at the side seams – you want to try to line up the skirt seam with the leotard seam as best as possible.  Although I have TNT patterns, I still do this for every costume I make because all fabrics hang or stretch just a little differently – much better to respond to the drape of the fabric than force it to adhere to my pattern.
(2) Make sure you like where the skirt seam will be
I also always look at the location of the skirt seam – I like the skirt seam to be just at the top of my hip bones on the sides, then smoothly come to a V-point in the front and back.  Sometimes, to get a proper skirt drape (not too many folds on the front) I have to move the skirt piece up, but then the seam is too high.  Once the skirt is draping right, and you have the sides pinned, pin where you want the topstitched seam to be on the skirt (if it isn’t already correct).  Once this is pinned out, take off the skirt.
(3) Sew skirt side seams and cut skirt top
Mark where the side seams should be and sew them.  I use the serger for this, but go over it using the sewing machine at the ends with a zig-zag to ensure the serger threads won’t unravel.  Also, if you need to adjust the topstitched seam of the skirt, cut the skirt to your newly marked stitching line.
(4) Pin the skirt to the leotard
This takes a while – you want to use as many pins as possible!  I used an x-pattern to prevent the skirt from moving when the dress is taken off.  You want pins along the seam that will be sewn, but also pins perpendicular to those to help keep things in place.  My advice – the pins NOT along the seam should point up – if they point down they will get stuck into your skater as they take the dress off.  Not fun.  If you are sewing for a young child or have to transport the dress far it might be better to use safety pins to pin the skirt on.  A pain in the you-know-where for the seamstress, but much safer for removing the dress from the body.  For me I just use straight pins.  When I sew for others I use safety pins.  I know, that’s what makes me so nice.
I use a TON of pins when I am placing the skirt.
My advice: Pin center front, center back, and both sides first.  Then add the rest of the pins.
Also: notice how the side seam and skirt seam match so well.  That’s because of steps #1-3.
(5) Sew skirt to the leotard
Ok, the fun part!  Topstitch the skirt to the dress.  I usually shove the freearm into one of the leg holes for this.  I use a regular zig-zag stitch 2.5 width, 4.5 long.  Some people use even narrower and longer stitches, as they tend to be even less visible.  This will be slow going!  But that is probably a good thing as sewing on the skirt needs to be more precise than the rest of the costume.  At the V-points on the front and back, pivot by leaving the needle in the dress, picking up the presser foot, and rotating the dress.  Lower the presser foot and go on your way.
Topstitching the skirt – dress is right side out.
Leg hole is around free arm.
Be careful to avoid puckers or lumps – the stitching
must be smooth to get the skirt to hang smoothly.
(6) Try on the skirt and mark the length
Ok, at this point you are almost done!  Now you have to try on the costume one more time (a lot of trying on at the skirt stage, I know) so you can mark how long you want the skirt to be.  I like the skirt to be about one finger width longer than where the leotard is on the side over the hips.  On the front and back I eyeball it – you want to make sure it is long enough to cover everything, but not so long as to be distracting or cover too much of the leg.  Dance dresses tend to be longer so that the skirt can have movement and flow, whereas freestyle skirts need to be short so the skater doesn’t trip on them in a sit spin or other fancy position.  Figure dresses tend to be a short or medium length – you don’t want to cover up the leg position or have the skirt fluttering around, but you also want a more modest and elegant costume.  Once the height over the hips and the length at the longest parts on the front and back skirt are marked, I mark a smooth line to give the skirt the shape I want it to have.  Once you are satisfied with the shape, take it off and cut the skirt with your rotary cutter.
The lower line of pins is where I want to cut the skirt up to.
Shaping of the skirt is important to help with the appearance of leg line.
Hooray, we are done!  And once I get my national photos all sorted out I will have my competition costumes ready to show off as a big reveal!

12 thoughts on “Skating Dress Tutorial Part VI: Attaching the Skirt

  1. I just use a zig-zag to top stitch the skirt to the leotard. I don't do any finishing other than that, and I don't do any finishing on the bottom edge of the skirt either. I never have problems with the fabric fraying because the lycra/spandex knits are really stable. I know some people use sergers to do a rolled hem to finish of the skirt (to make it a bit stiffer to get a wavy effect), but I haven't seen anyone finish off the top of the skirt when making it out of a stretch material. I have seen a few examples where silk chiffon was used on the skirt, and they used a picot stitch (rolled hem held in place by a zig-zag stitch) to keep it from fraying.


  2. Thank you for outlining this! I just started making figure skating dresses and had a bad result with top stitching the skirt to a leotard last night. Spent today ripping it out and will try again tonight. I always get weird puckers in the center front and back. And asymmetry :/

    Ps. Have you ever thought of making YouTube videos on sewing a fs dress?


  3. This is a great post, and I’ve referred to it a few times. (The pictures have disappeared, are you able to relink?) Question for you, does the circumference of area where you attach the skirt to the leotard need to match? I’m not sure if this is making sense, but it seems that if you fit the skirt on the leo while it is on the dress form or person, the leo is stretched to the body, but when you take it off it goes back to it’s un-stretched size, which would make the circumference of the skirt bigger than the circumference of the leo). Then it seems when you attach the skirt you would need to stretch the leotard to fit the skirt? Not sure if this is making sense, but any help is appreciated!


    1. Yes I think the site that used to host my photos went away, so I’m not faced with the monumental task of re-inserting them… 😓. I always draped the skirt on the body, so yes, it was always a bit bigger. I always pinned it quite a bit, but I did have to stretch the leotard just slightly to sew the skirt on. It wasn’t as big of a difference as you might expect, and it always looked better when it was being worn when I did it this way.


  4. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but do you explain how you make the skirt itself? Since you don’t use the pattern that came with the leotard? Thanks!


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