The perfect Maxi Skirt pattern

How to make the perfect fitting maxi skirt without it being too flared or too tight.

If you've been reading sewing blogs for a while now, no doubt you will have come across tutorials for easy maxi skirts.  Basically, sew a tube of fabric, add in some elastic and you're good to go.  I've read some really funny reviews recently of ladies who did just that and then had to hobble around with tiny little steps because these skirts didn't have enough room to actually walk properly!

Most of us take a stride which is much greater than the width of our hips. Making a tight fitted ‘wiggle' skirt might be OK for knee length, but make it longer and it will be like a permanent sack race. medium_152293078

photo credit: Steve Bowbrick via photopin cc

There are basically two types of maxi skirt I think – a low volume skirt that is not gathered and basically looks like a long nearly straight skirt when worn, and a gathered maxi skirt, which has a lot more volume to it and gathers either at the waist or hips.  For my body size and shape, the low volume skirt gives a much more flattering and sleeker look than one with gathers and lots of fabric.

I experimented with a few variations and came up with the perfect formula for a flattering low-volume maxi skirt that is fitted through the waist and hips but still allows you room to move, run after the kids and walk up stairs.  Here's how to do it.

How to make the perfect fitting maxi skirt without it being too flared or too tight.

What makes a perfect maxi skirt?

The perfect skirt should:

  • fit at the waist without lots of gathered fabric.
  • skim over the hips without being skin tight, nor too loose.
  • allow you to take a normal full stride with ease.
  • have a fold over waist to adjust the length for wearing flats or heels.
  • be quick and easy to sew without a pattern.

Let's draw the perfect maxi skirt pattern

Start by taking some simple measurements.

  • your waist at your narrowest part (or where you want the skirt to sit)
  • your hips at your widest part (about 8 or 9 inches down from your waist, depending on height)
  • total length of skirt from waist to top of foot.
  • your stride.  The length of your stride generally depends on how tall you are, and how fast you are walking.  Plant both feet on the ground, then step forward a generous step.  Measure all the way round your ankles with a tape measure.

perfect maxi skirt pattern

Get yourself a piece of fabric. Fold it with the right sides facing in and with the stretch going across, so that it will go around your body.  We can draw the design right onto the reverse of the fabric. But we need to check it first.

Sketch yourself this design on some paper and add in your own measurements.  The top line is your waist divided by 4.  The right hand line is the length from waist to foot, the bottom line is your stride length divided by 4 and the left line basically joins them all together.

When I sketched out my design roughly to scale and checked the measurements, I could see that the point where my hips would fall was too narrow and it would be too tight around my behind. (See the picture left where the red line for my hips falls outside the side seam.)

So I adjusted by making the waist a little bigger.  We are adding on a band later which will gather in any slight excess.  I also increased the width at the bottom of the skirt to make a steeper angle. This had the effect of making it wider at the point where my hips would fall.

So now I was confident it would be both wide enough at the hips and at the bottom, but without adding in too much volume.  It was only a small adjustment needed but avoided a ‘skin tight behind' problem later on. perfect maxi skirt pattern

I folded my fabric in just enough to be able to mark the widest part at the bottom of the skirt, and sketched my design right onto the fabric. Remember that our measurements don't include a seam allowance so remember to add it at this stage. We don't want to make it completely square across the bottom or the seams will stick out like points, so make your side seam 1 inch shorter than the center length and draw a curved line from the center up to the side seam.

Double check ALL the measurements before you cut!

Then repeat to make another piece exactly the same.  That's all the hard stuff done.  The rest is easy. Sew your side seams together, trim, neaten and press.

Making the fold-over waist

Having a waist that folds over means we can make the skirt longer or shorter so it can always be the right length if you are wearing heels or flats.  And it's comfortable too.

The perfect maxi skirt tutorial. No pattern required, but still get the fit you want.

My skirt is drawn right onto the fabric.

Decide how deep you want this fold over part to be, double it and add on an inch for the seam allowance.  Cut yourself a strip of fabric that deep, and as wide as your waist measurement. Now, how long this piece needs to be depends entirely on how stretchy your fabric is and how heavy it is.  If you fabric is pretty heavy, the weight of the skirt will pull it down when you wear it, so you'll need to make the waist a bit tighter to stop the skirt slipping.  If your fabric is very loose and stretchy, then you'll also need to make it a little tighter because it will give a little as you wear it.

The perfect maxi skirt tutorial. No pattern required, but still get the fit you want.

Fold the waist piece in half and try it on.  Pull it in close until it feels ‘right'. Snug but you could still eat a big meal if you had to!  Mark with some pins and then cut it to length. Sew the two short ends together to make a tube.

The perfect maxi skirt tutorial. No pattern required, but still get the fit you want.Fold the tube length-ways wrong sides together and match the raw edges to the raw edge of your skirt waist.  You'll probably need to stretch the band as you sew it on, because it will be shorter than the skirt waist measurement.

The perfect maxi skirt tutorial. No pattern required, but still get the fit you want.

Try your skirt on with various shoes and see where the hemline needs to be.  Turn it up once or twice and stitch.  Your perfect maxi skirt is done.

How to make the perfect fitting maxi skirt without it being too flared or too tight.

How did this work out for you?  Were you able to get a good fit?  Do you agree with my essentials above for a perfect maxi skirt or do you prefer something different?  Do you have any favorite maxi skirt tutorials to share?

As always, I love to see what you make.  Send me a picture on email and I'll share it on the Facebook page so we can all take a look.

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81 Responses to The perfect Maxi Skirt pattern

  1. Nancy says:

    How do I adjust it so it dosent ride up in the back? I always have this problem with skirts.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi, Nancy, I need to write an article to be able to explain well what you need to do. But for now, make sure the skirt is not too tight around the widest part of your thighs. Let you know when the article is ready.

  2. rhbdragonCheryl Masters says:

    Well, I just can’t keep it to myself anymore. You two are absolutely amazing! I have been following you for 2 or 3 or 5 years or so. You manage to have available just what I have been looking for and not having to pay over $16 for it. I have been looking and looking for a circle skirt pattern without a zipper? I’m not as good at zippers as I used to be. This maxi skirt pattern is also what I’ve been looking for. Yay! I don’t have to have all of that fabric around my waist and hips. All the other ones I have remind me a whole lot of a sack race, plus they’re 1X and I don’t need that anymore. My daughter thinks I should sew up something in either a size 8 or 10, but I don’t think I’m ready for that. Thank you guys for all of your efforts, your great designs, your patience with some of us really don’t know what the hell we are doing and you put a lot of effort with your tutorials that make us see how really easy it can be. I know I’m not just speaking for myself. There has been some talk, you know, and all of it has been good. I sincerely appreciate your kindness as well, for having patterns of no cost. I can still buy fabric and still find one of your free patterns that fit the bill perfectly. You may remember those words because I sent them quite a while back. Cheryl Masters

  3. Nancy Schultz says:

    Even several years after being posted totally outstanding tutorial. I will be trying this this weekend.

  4. Michelle says:

    I can’t wait to make this, but first I have a question. I have a poochy belly from my last pregnancy that just won’t go away. How do I account for that in my measurements? Thanks.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Michelle, there are a few things you can do. I sugest to make the waist band a bit tighter so it acts as a shape control garment. For that you might have to make it a bit widers. Another way would be to make a fold over waistband. Do not make the skirt to tight to your hips because that will accentuate the belly.

  5. Rhonda R says:

    I just bought a used serger and want to make a maxi skirt. With no experience in knits, can you give me a lesson on 2 way vs 4 way stretch? Which fabric would I want for this skirt and why? Thanks for your help. I’m excited to try some of your clothing patterns, been only quilting for some years.

  6. Pamela says:

    THANK YOU so much!! This was my first project using knit fabric. I wanted to make matching skirts for my daughters, 19 and 7, and my 7 year old’s doll. I made the biggest last night. It went wonderfully, and she is so pleased! On to the next two this evening!

  7. Laura says:

    HI I’m Laura and just found you and signed up for newsletters. I am excited to explore but the perfect maxi skirt is screaming my name. Thanks for being here for us!

  8. Thank you thank you thank you for the best skirt pattern i have ever made. I am short, small waisted and big hips and nothing ever fits right, even with me making my own. But today, I doubt I’ll ever use another pattern again. And of course, now all the possibilities of what I can do to change things up are playing pinball in my head! Look forward to trying your other patterns! Thank you again so much! Please keep up the fabulous job!

  9. Lucas says:

    Excellent tutorial, I particularly appreciate your ‘essentials’ list there – my mom recently lost a lot of weight and as a result is finally having fun with fashion again, and after picking up 5+ yards of a gorgeous Nicole Miller fabric (and of course sharing said find with said mom) she’s asked to poke through my fabric stash. Lo and behold, I have a huge swath of drapey, flowy coral fabric that I’ve never had a reason to use. Enter Google and my searching for how to make a maxi skirt, and luckily your page was one of the first ones I came across.

  10. mair says:

    When you say measure your stride and go round the ankles, are we measuring ankle to ankle or a complete circle, ankle to ankle then back to ankle?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      The idea is when you walk the skirt is wide enough to walk, so measure ankle to ankle then back to ankle. Let us know who it turn out!

  11. susan care says:

    Hi Deby, this is my perfect skirt for my body shape too! So difficult to find them in shops, either too gathered, boring fabrics etc etc. I’ve got some Ponte de Roma knit. which states that it’s is a thicker medium weight and has a nice stretch, excellent drape, and great recovery. Fabric has a subtle horizontal texture. I’d really like to use it as it would be a great option for work.
    Could you advise me if this would be OK as I noticed what you said about 2 way v 4 way stretch. Thanks in advance. Susan

  12. Jo W says:

    Hello Deby! My mum’s asked me to make her a jersey maxi skirt and this looks perfect, apart from the waistband. She’d rather just have a narrower (probably 2″) elasticated waist.
    Could I just attach a narrow waistband to the top of the skirt instead and then insert the elastic into it? I’m guessing if the elastic is 2″ I’d cut the waistband 4 5/8″ high x the waist measurement of the top of the skirt?
    OR should I just add an extra 4 1/2″ to the top of the skirt, fold it over to make a 2″ band, tuck under the 1/2″, sew around, and then insert the elastic? (Does that make any sense?!)
    Thanks, Jo
    P.S. Think I’ll make one just like yours for myself for the summer 🙂

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Both options are good, you just have to work out which one is the easiest for you! When making a narrow waist band, make sure is not too tight. Enjoy!

  13. Kimberly O. says:

    This post was just what I was looking for! I mostly use my sewing machine for hemming jeans. I’ve just recently ventured into the maxi skirts – but buying them. Thank you!!

  14. Georgia says:

    Hello Deby I really liked this pattern. I make my maxi skirts by adding volume on the waist. I’ll make this one but I think it would fit better on the waist if I put elastic.

  15. Mary Gilbert says:

    This is great….saved for later!

  16. Sara says:

    Hi, I am a student and I’m planning to make a dress. I absolutely love this maxi skirt pattern, I’ve been looking for a good one everywhere! I was just wondering, if I want to gather the skirt, would I just divide the waist by 2 instead to leave space for gathering, or would I have to change the entire pattern?

    Once again, thank you so much for the pattern, you’re instructions are so clear and helpful!

    • So you mean that you want a much wider skirt overall? Yes, if you wanted it gathered, with twice as much volume you could do that, but with that much volume you wouldn’t need to worry about the shaping so you could just cut a large rectangle, twice the circumference of your waist, all the way to the ground, then gather it at the top into a waistband and you are done. But it would be find of poofy around your middle with all the extra fabric there. That look works well for some and not so good for others! Hope it turns out nicely for you.

  17. jennihc says:

    Would this work for a woven if I sew in a zipper?

    • Yes it could, but you would have to be aware of ease and give yourself room to move and sit because the fabric wouldn’t stretch like a knit. So measure your hips, add on an inch or two for ease plus a seam allowance.

  18. Kaleen says:

    Hi! I’m a very amateur sewer, but I the instructions are great so I’m going to give this a try. Can you tell me how many yards of fabric it took to make your skirt? Thanks!!!

    • You can guesstimate how much fabric you’ll need. Take your big stride and measure around the ankles, add a couple of inches. That is how wide the fabric will need to be. hen measure the length from waist to floor, add a couple for hems and another 12-ish for seam allowance and waistband. That will be how long the fabric needs to be. Hope that helps.

      • steph says:

        So the fabric needs to be as wide as your stride? Does that mean there are no side seams? If you stride measures over 44 inches you couldn’t use a 44-45 width fabric?
        I love your pattern.

        • Remember that the fabric for this maxi has some stretch in it, so even if your stride at its max was 44 inches and so was your fabric, if you ever needed to stride that big during the normal course of walking, the fabric would stretch beyond that anyway. It would just be a little restrictive, but that’s why I get you to take a BIG stride 🙂 Just in case. And your skirt bottom is made up of two pieces, so even if your fabric was only 44 inches wide, you would be cutting two skirt panels anyway so you could have a max width of 88 inches if you really wanted it. Most apparel fabrics come in 54-60 inches wide too.

  19. Alyce says:

    This looks easy enough for my meager seeing skills. BUT. I know nothing about choosing the right fabric. Can you point me in the right direction?

    • You’ll need a fabric that stretches in one direction, from side to side. If you have a fabric that stretches in both directions the weight of it in the long skirt will make it lengthen as you wear it. Mine is from a mystery knit that wasn’t labelled but its similar to a scuba knit. You can find out more about knit fabrics here – and the sample kit is a must-have if you are new to sewing with stretch fabrics. A cotton jersey would work, or some ITY knit. It may also depend on what you can get locally, so don’t be afraid to ask advice at your fabric shop about what would work for a maxi skirt. They’ll be happy for the chance to advise you I’m sure.

  20. Anne says:

    Deby, can’t wait to try this. I carry my weight same as you and don’t want a skirt clinging to my thighs. I have a material in mind that I have but it needs to be lined. Would this design still work if the knit is lined with non-stretch material?

    • Deby Coles says:

      I don’t think it would Anne simply because the material needs to stretch enough to go over your hips even though it is cut close at the waist. You would have to make the lining wider than your hips all the way to the waist and then add in elastic at the top. Then it might all bunch up a bit and add volume around the waist, where we don’t need it. Ideally you would want to line it with a stretch fabric too, a nice light one, and simply sew it in at the waist so it hangs separately to the skirt.
      That’s a shame your fabric is a bit too sheer – I find that too sometimes when I order online. You can’t be sure what you’ll get all the time.

  21. Suzanne Alexander says:

    Deby, I made one using an ITY knit (and a ponte waistband, simply because I didn’t trust the ITY). SIzed per your instructions, added additional I think 3 inches for hips, and it’s perfect. I got to wear it once before my daughter stole it. She thinks it’s perfect, too… making another as soon as the fabric arrives!

  22. Deb says:

    I just made two of these. So quick and easy! Too bad one of my fabrics did not work out so well but the other is perfect!

  23. I’m so VERY glad I found this!!! Theses are my absolute favorite skirts to wear and have been wanting to try to make my own. Thanks for teaching us how and in such an easy layman’s way to get it done. I’ll send pics when I have mine made!

  24. Jane says:

    I just finished mine and I love it! I, too find the fuller skirts not very flattering. I love the waistband- so comfortable!


    Deby, I love this skirt! I have a couple of questions and I apologize if I have overlooked the information. How many skirt seams are there? It looks like you will have 4 skirt pieces, or is it two (cut on a fold)? In the diagram, is the right side straight and the left side is angled out? Hoping I already have suitable fabric for this. Thank you once again for a great design.

  26. k says:

    Love it, do you have one for wovens? Wonder if a knit band or wide elastic can be used on retro Indian/hippe type fabrics, often with bottom borders. I like the small print colors and coolness of batiks and rayons, not so much those Loud knits seen in RTW.

    • Deby Coles says:

      I think I know the sort of thing you mean. I had a half-plan to make something light and breezy in a gauze, double layers and maybe a handkerchief hemline. But then when I thought about it, because its a woven, it would need to have a waist as wide at last as the hips so you could pull it on. I wasn’t too sure about it after that, not sure if there would be too much bunching to draw in the waist with the wide knit band. That look doesn’t suit me, to add too much extra fabric around my middle. This was my inspiration (obviously not this print!) – what do you think?

      • k says:

        Ooo, can’t remember when I had a waist like that!
        That looks like you could do a print tablecloth wrap-skirt type from it.
        Just laying out such fabric is challenging, then wrap skirts turn out so wide at bottom and flip open. Patterns with a few diagonal pleats part-way down from one waist side on an overlap are flattering. I don’t tuck anyway!
        I will resort to some zippers I guess for your woven “stride-length” skirts.

        Have you sewn a RTW tank top to the skirt bottom for a dress–as seen with your pink top?
        How do you figure out the blousing/waistline for it?

        • Deby Coles says:

          No, I’ve never joined the two together. But I did make the Two Becomes One dress which looked like a t-shirt with a skirt and a stretchy waist for a bit of shape. Thats always an idea. Join the top to the top of the skirt with the fold over waist over the top of the join.

  27. Suzanne Alexander says:

    Oh wow oh wow, I needed this so much! Thanks for coming through again, Deby!

  28. Lori M. says:

    Thank you Deby for the tutorial, this is the perfect skirt for me…….I am shortwaisted and love the fold over waistband as I can have it hug my hips or rollover to shorten if needed….I just had more surgery for cancer and I will be wearing a couple of new skirts from your tutorial….

  29. Kathleen says:

    This looks do-able! I just might try this one day. I like that there are no gathers; I just hope I can make it so it isn’t clingy in all the wrong places 🙂

    • Deby Coles says:

      I was worried about the same thing Kathleen. I’m ‘heavier’ in the lower hips and tops of my thighs and wanted it to be a close but not tight fit there. This way of doing it worked out well for me, as well as a little heavier weight fabric which tends to be less clingy and show less lumps and bumps.

  30. craftimummy says:

    Great tutorial, Deby, and I always seem to love your fabrics – where do you shop for knits?

  31. I generally don’t wear maxi-skirts because I’m short but I do have a couple one has godets triangle shaped inserts) that create a trumpet shape and the other has slits on the sides up to my knees. They both are slightly flared but neither is the full on gypsy skirt that I would have worn in my more hippie-dippy days. I still love tiered full skirts but they feel more costume-like these days.

    Love the color of your skirt and it’s a great tutorial.

    The overly narrow long skirt is nothing new, hundred years ago when hobble skirts were all the rage, some women actually wore a belt around their legs to contain their stride!This article has a photo of one lady practicing walking with a belt tied on her legs! I love the part where they cite what grandmother thinks.


  32. d says:

    Thanks Deby I look forward to making some of these!!

  33. Anne says:

    did you add seam allowances to the waist band?

  34. Carole says:

    Deby Thank You, yet again another brilliant tutorial, you are so very generous sharing your expertise. Please don’t go anywhere me and my sewing machine need you!

  35. Jane says:

    Deby, The skirt looks great and I love the idea of the foldover waist to adjust the length. After reading your posts about the Sewing with Knits course on Craftsy, I signed up for it and made the yoga pants with the fold over waist. I am very short waised but like my pants to come all the way to my waist. I used this waistband concept but made it half the width. (of course it wouldn’t work for an adjustable length) It is very comfortable. I may never put in another elastic waist.
    Thanks for another great pattern tutorial! I always look forward to your latest post.

  36. I haven’t worn a maxi skirt for many years, but I used to have a couple that were very difficult to walk in – had to take tiny steps… LOL!!! Yours looks great, Deby.

  37. Sunshine Vaughn says:

    Where did you get this fabric I would love to find it.

    • Deby Coles says:

      Sorry to say it was just a scrap from my local shop. They buy in fabric remnants by the pallet, so you never know what will be in there, and there is never the chance to get any more. Sorry I can’t help.

  38. I love this skirt!! I made a similarly shaped maxi skirt for myself several years ago, though mine is fuller at the bottom as a counterbalance to my ample hips. It is consistently my favorite skirt to wear. I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for tomorrow evening that links to your tutorial:

  39. Vicki says:

    Nice tutorial. How much fabric would I need to buy? I wear a size 2.

    • Deby Coles says:

      So long as the piece of fabric is wide enough to wrap round you and give you enough room to make a big stride, then the fabric needs to be as long as the length of your skirt, plus twice the width of the waist band plus a little extra for hem allowances. So that depends on how tall you are. As a very rough guide, if you measured to the floor from your armpit, that would probably be about right.

  40. Judie S. says:

    Hi, Deby. Is this a knit fabric? Looks like it, but I just want to make sure. Thank you again for well-written instructions. They are always so clear!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Yes, it is a fairly firm and thick knit – I’ve never come across one like it before. It was just there unlabeled in the scraps bin and was perfect for this skirt. I have the skirt fitted at the hips so the stretch is needed for the ‘spreading’ as I sit down, and also so that the waist will stretch enough so can pull the skirt on up over my hips.

What do you think?