What is a pa’u skirt? In Hawai’i, hula dancers use pa’u skirts for practice and performance. It is often a simple cotton skirt with rows of gathering at the top. If you search online you will see many variations in directions, including open or closed, drawstring tie or elastic, rows of gathers, and type of fabric. I’m showing you how I made my latest pa’u skirt.
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You will need
Fabric, 4 yards of 45-inch wide
3/8 inch braided elastic, 3 – 6 yards
Size 14 sewing machine needle
- Wash and dry the fabric and press if needed.
- Lay out the fabric and decide which way the print should go on the skirt.
- Sew the cut edges together with a 5/8 inch seam. It will look like a big tube.
- Finish the seam if desired (zig zag, Seams Great, or serger.) Iron the seam open.
- Make a double hem at the bottom. I turned up ½ inch, then folded another ½ inch. Stitch in a straight line.
- At this point, the person who will wear the skirt should step into the tube. You need to decide where the hem of the skirt should be on the person. Some advise 8 inches from the floor (if you are making skirts for a whole group, choosing a number is a good idea so the skirts look consistent). Others choose the halfway point between the knee and the ankle.
- Place the skirt where the hem should be and fold over the top of the fabric to be at the belly button. Mark this fold.
- Fold the top of the fabric to the inside of the skirt. For my skirt, the length after folding was 32 inches.
- Carefully pin the fold down so that the flat seam is lined up.
- Sew around the skirt with a straight stitch. The first row is 1 inch down from the fold. The next row is ¾ inch from the first. Then 1 inch down, ¾ inch down, 1 inch down, and ¾ inch down. The total section you have stitched should be six inches wide. Tip: I use washi tape to mark on the sewing machine where the edge of the fabric should be. You could use an erasable sewing marking pen to draw where the lines go.
- Use a seam ripper to open the side seam on the inside of the three ¾ inch casings. This is to give you an opening for the elastics.
- Cut the elastic. To make it easier for myself, I used 3 2-yard lengths of elastic, but this does waste elastic. I actually think it would be even easier if each length was 4 yards, same as the skirt! To measure more precisely, you need an unstretched length that is your widest hip measurement plus 12 inches.
- Firmly pin a safety pin on one end of the elastic. Insert into the casing and push through to the other side. Repeat for the other two casings.
- Pull the elastics to even out the gathers and make the top of the skirt about hip size.
- Try the skirt on inside out. The top of the skirt should be at the belly button for hula. Adjust the elastics to fit. Tie into overhand knots. Cut excess, leaving a few extra inches. You may need to adjust the skirt after wearing it a few times.
Tips: A smaller person might look fine with 3 yards of fabric. Measure from the belly button down to the top of the hip. I made this “waistband” six inches wide. You might want a 4th row of elastic if you are long here. You might want to put the rows of elastic side-by-side on a shorter person.
- Border prints from Hawaii Fabric Mart
- Making a pa’u skirt from Real Hula
|Hula culture, art, & practice||Border print dress||Aloha shirts|