How to make a poodle skirt homemade from the 1950s

What we call a “poodle skirt” is really just a circle skirt with appliqués sewn onto the front. Popular in the 1950s, these skirts were usually made from a single piece of wool felt. You can make your own circle skirt without a pattern, using a homemade compass. The appliqué designs are up to you — girls who swooned to Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly decorated theirs with poodles, records, phones, flowers and more.

Use a tape measure to measure the distance from your waist to the desired hem length, then add one inch for a hem allowance. Cut a piece of string to this measurement.

Double this number to get the total number of fabric inches you need for a circle skirt. Divide by 36 to convert this number to yards.

Fold your fabric in half lengthwise so the fold is on your left and the loose edges on your right (like a closed book).

Tie the length of string to the pushpin and insert the pushpin in the top left corner of your fabric, at the top of the fold. Tie the other end of the string around the piece of chalk.

Use the chalk and string as a compass. Pull the string tight and draw your skirt hem (shaped like an arch) across the fabric.

Measure the distance between your natural waist and your hip. Cut a second piece of string this length and reattach it to the pushpin and the chalk.

Place the pin in the upper left hand corner of your fabric once again. Use the compass to draw a second arch using the shorter string.

Cut the fabric along both chalk lines you just drew.

Measure and pin a one-inch hem along the bottom of your skirt, using straight sewing pins. Turn the skirt inside out and sew down your hem.

Cut a strip of elastic about one inch less than your waist measurement. Sew the ends together so the elastic forms a circle.

Cut a piece of fabric for your waistband. It should be as long as your waist measurement plus a 1-inch seam allowance and 2.5 times as wide as your elastic.

Sew the waistband’s ends together, overlapping by a half-inch on each side.

Turn the waistband inside out. Pin the bottom of the waistband to the top of the skirt. Sew the two together.

Place the elastic circle in the centre of the waistband. Fold the waistband over the elastic circle and sew it down. The waistband should now be securely attached to the skirt, right side facing outward.

Cut a poodle shape out of a felt square.

Sew the felt appliqué onto the skirt. Place it near the bottom, slightly off to the side.


To fluff up your finished skirt, wear a crinoline underneath. If preferred, you can use a purchased poodle appliqué. For additional detail, hand-sew a length of narrow cord from the poodle appliqué to look like a leash.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Fabric: light- or medium-weight solid colour fabric in wool, cotton or cotton-poly blend
  • Pushpin
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Straight sewing pins
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Elastic
  • Felt square, for poodle appliqué
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About the Author

Jenni Wiltz's fiction has been published in "The Portland Review," "Sacramento News & Review" and "The Copperfield Review." She has a bachelor's degree in English and history from the University of California, Davis and is working on a master's degree in English at Sacramento State. She has worked as a grant coordinator, senior editor and advertising copywriter and has been a professional writer since 2003.