Making a skirt is a great way to start sewing your own clothes because many skirts feature a simple design and easy, straight seams. But before you begin sewing, you have to select the perfect material for your skirt. So, how do you pick the best fabric for skirts?
The best fabric for skirts includes many light and midweight fabrics like cotton, denim, tulle, rayon, and jersey knits. Different styles of skirts work best with different fabrics. When picking the fabric for a skirt, designers consider several characteristics, like the drape, transparency, and texture of the material.
In this article, you will learn the best fabric for the ten most popular styles of skirts. You will discover the best fabric to pick for a summer or winter skirt. Finally, you will discover how much fabric you need to make a skirt.
Best Fabrics for Skirts
As you pick the best fabric for a skirt, you should think about its shape and determine whether it will hold that shape. For example, midweight wool can hold a straight line to form a pencil skirt, but light cotton would require lining if used in a pencil skirt.
If you plan to sew your skirt, you will want to consider how easy it is to work with different types of fabric besides thinking about how the material will look in the finished garment. For example, you can easily sew on any type of plain-weave cotton, but sewing on a cotton knit like jersey knit requires special stitches and tools because the fabric stretches out so easily.
This guide offers suggestions for the best types of fabric to use with the most common styles of skirts. You may find this helpful if you plan to sew a skirt, but you should also consider the type of fabric used in a ready-made skirt you buy in a store!
A-Line SkirtThe best fabric for an A-line skirt is any material that drapes well, such as rayon or cotton knits, rather than plain weave cotton or wool jersey. The danger of using too thick or heavy of fabric with this style of skirt is that the fabric could stick straight out from you as if you had a hoopskirt on instead of elegantly draped in a gentle flare out from your hips.
An A-line skirt has a somewhat triangular shape like the letter A, with a narrow waist and side seams that flare out. This is one of the best styles of skirts for many body types, as the tapered waist and flared hem make you look like you have an hourglass figure whether or not you do!
Typically an A-line skirt does not look super formal. It usually ends at or above the knee and does not have the more severe lines of a pencil skirt that you would pair with a suit jacket. That said, you can easily pair an A-line skirt with a dressy outfit or even pair it with a blazer in a contrasting color for a business-casual setting.
For this reason, you should avoid using extremely formal fabrics like satin or brocade in this skirt style. Instead, look for casual fabrics like lightweight denim or a jersey knit for a informal skirt. For a dressy style, try a lightweight crepe or something unique like embroidered chiffon.
Box Pleat SkirtThe best type of fabric for a box pleat skirt usually contains a high percentage of cotton or linen because the fabric must hold a sharply pressed fold. If you choose a synthetic fabric like polyester, you will have a hard time ironing the material because you can’t let it get too hot, or it will melt. Midweight twill-weave materials like khaki make one of the most common choices for this style, especially for uniforms.
A box pleat skirt is the type of skirt many school uniforms require, with a fitted waist and wide rectangular pleats flaring below this. For school uniforms, it usually ends at or above the knee. For dressier outfits, aim for a pleated skirt with the same length as your torso, balancing out the upper and lower sections of your body.
Circle SkirtA circle skirt looks great in many different types of fabric, depending on what kind of occasion you plan to use it for! Circle skirts take very little effort to sew and the sweeping, full hemline makes many types of fabric look eye-catching.
You make a circle skirt by cutting out a literal circle of fabric and then removing the center of the circle to add room for your waist. When finished, this style has a super full hem that swishes around your knees or calves, depending on the length you choose. You can also think of this as the 1950s poodle skirt style!
For a casual circle skirt, choose any lightweight printed cotton. But you can easily turn your circle skirt into part of a formal outfit by making it calf-length and using a fancier fabric such as satin or midweight brocade instead.
You want to avoid using any heavy-weight or super stiff fabric with this skirt, as you will lose the elegant swishing effect if the fabric stands out stiffly around your legs.
Maxi SkirtThe best fabric to use for a maxi skirt is any type of jersey knit, such as a cotton jersey knit or a wool jersey. You can also use jersey knits made from synthetics like polyester if you want cheaper material for the project.
A maxi skirt can mean two slightly different things. First, the word “maxi” can refer to any skirt with a length ending below the calf but above the ankle. Second, the term maxi skirt can also mean a skirt in the style of a maxi dress, usually indicating a beach-style long dress made out of stretchy knit fabric.
Depending on which meaning you choose, you can find maxi skirts made out of many different types of fabric. A maxi-length skirt can look super formal when made out of ruffled organza or sleek satin, but it can also look extremely casual when made out of a narrow sheath-style jersey knit.
There is no wrong type of fabric for this style of skirt. That said, you do want to think about the effect the fabric will have on the skirt. A stiffer, more formal fabric will look fancier but feel less comfortable. A softer fabric will cling to your legs, outlining your shape more clearly and looking more casual.
Mermaid SkirtThe best fabric for a mermaid skirt has enough body to hold the line of this uniquely flared skirt. Material like organza or chiffon can look crisp and shimmery for a more formal style, while soft knits can mute the flare of the mermaid skirt and add a more casual vibe to the style.
A mermaid skirt fits closely around the waist and thighs and then flares out with a sharply ruffled or bias-cut peplum around the hem. The name comes from the way the flared hem resembles the shape of a mermaid’s tail! Mermaid skirts can end below the knee or in a full-length style.
Because of the close-fitting style of the upper portion of this skirt, you do want to choose a fabric with some give in it. The most comfortable but also most casual choice would be a stretch fabric or a jersey knit.
You should avoid any stiff or heavy fabric for this style, though, for extremely formal skirts, you may want to add reinforcement to the flared hem, such as interfacing or interlining, to give it more body.
Mini SkirtMini skirts can look great in various fabric types like suede, denim, knits, or even faux leather. Look for fabric with a little give in it for the most comfortable mini skirt because most minis fit pretty closely to your waist, lower torso, and upper thighs.
A mini skirt describes any skirt with a hem ending at the upper thigh. Micro minis may have an even shorter length. Any skirt that falls below the upper thigh is not technically a mini skirt.
One of the keys to a great mini skirt is to make sure the skirt fits you perfectly. If the fabric stretches out too much, the waist will look droopy and you will have to tug the skirt up and down awkwardly as you wear it. A too-tight fit will cause the fabric to wrinkle around your legs, which won’t look good, either!
Because of its super short length, you may want to choose a boldly colored fabric for the skirt to make it eye-catching. Jersey knits, corduroy, or suede in solid colors can look great, but you can get a little more exotic with a fabric like stretch velvet or stretch satin, too!
Pencil SkirtElegant mid to heavy-weight fabrics like woven wool or cotton sateen will look great in a pencil skirt. While you want a fabric with a certain amount of texture and body for this narrow skirt, you should also look for a material with about 3% stretch in it, so it does not feel too constraining.
A pencil skirt has a tailored shape with a narrow silhouette and a hem ending at or just above the knee. Traditionally, this is the style of skirt used in women’s suits and it has a formal, somewhat rigid outline without a lot of extra room for movement within its fitted hem. Because of the rigid shape, most pencil skirts include a slit or vent at the center back of the hem.
These days you can make or buy pencil-style skirts made from stretch material containing a large percentage of elastic. While these do not look as formal as the traditional wool lined with silk, they can feel more comfortable because they allow a wider range of movement.
You don’t often see pencil skirts made of lightweight or transparent fabric like silk or tulle, but you can layer a fabric such as lace over a colorful lining to create a whimsical style of a pencil skirt.
Pleated SkirtThe easiest material for a pleated skirt is factory-set pre-pleated synthetics like polyester or rayon gabardine, organza, or chiffon. You can pleat the skirt yourself at home if you use a heat-friendly fabric such as cotton, but the pleats will not hold forever. Factory-pleated synthetics use a chemical treatment to reshape the fabric fibers, causing them to become permanently pleated.
A pleated skirt often has a full, circle shape made of fabric arranged in tiny, evenly spaced folds. Many pleated skirts technically have an A-line shape with a narrow waist and a fuller hem. Because of the intricacy and visual appeal of the pleats, this style can look more formal than many other A-line skirts and can pair well with a blazer and dress shirt for work wear.
Knitted fabric such as jersey knit will not hold a pleat well. Neither will anything soft and stretchy like a stretch velvet or any fabric containing a high percentage of Lycra or Spandex.
Peasant SkirtThe best fabric for a peasant skirt is any light to midweight woven cotton, linen, or polycotton blend. You can also dress up this skirt by using a cotton eyelet or add a bohemian note by using stretch velvet.
A peasant skirt has a tiered structure, usually with three distinct, gathered tiers flaring out from a tapered waist. The gathered lowest tier creates a ruffled-looking hem that can end at the knee, mid-calf, or ankle. This casual skirt style looks good with floral prints, paisleys, or any intricately patterned cotton.
Because of all the gathering where the tiers connect to each other, this style does not work as well with knits or stretch fabrics. Instead, look for any light or midweight plain weave fabric. You can distinguish this type of fabric by looking closely at the threads and noting whether they cross over and under each other at right angles, like the reeds in a basket.
Wrap SkirtMany different types of light and midweight fabric work well for a wrap skirt, including rayon, silk, denim, linen, or jersey knits. Lightweight fabrics will create a more draped, softened silhouette where the edges of the skirt overlap, and midweight fabric will have a little more body with a hemline that stands out from the legs in a clearer silhouette.
A wrap skirt has a unique shape made by wrapping a flat length of fabric around the body and securing the overlapped edges at the waist with a tie. The top, overlapping edge of this skirt often features a decorative length-wise ruffle or buttons to highlight the open flap.
Because of the casual style of this skirt, it often looks best with less formal fabrics. Stay away from velvet or satin, though silk and rayon can look good in a beachy style with ruffles.
Best Fabric for Winter or Summer Skirts
The best fabric for winter skirts provides insulation and the best fabric for summer skirts provides breathability and airflow. Most of the time, thicker, heavier fabrics work best for cold weather and lightweight, thin fabric works better for warm weather.
Some of the best types of fabric for winter skirts:
- For a skirt with a distinctive shape, such as a pencil skirt, look for soft, thick, woven wool. You can find many fun patterns to choose from, like a Harris tweed or herringbone wool.
- For an informal A-line skirt, look for corduroy with soft raised wales. Corduroy has a nice stretch that makes it comfortable for casual skirts, too.
- For evening wear, choose heavy satin or brocaded, lined for extra insulation. You could also choose velvet for certain styles of skirts, though you will probably want to line velvet for extra warmth.
- While you should avoid skirt styles such as a breezy maxi skirt in the winter, you can still enjoy leg-baring styles like a mini skirt so long as you pair them with warm, lined tights or leggings.
In warmer weather, look for lightweight fabrics that will not trap heat against your body.
- Any fabric made of cotton fibers works great for summery skirts because cotton fibers promote easy airflow. This makes cotton fabrics feel breathable and breezy against your legs. Types of cotton fabric include jersey knit (t-shirt fabric), plain-weave cotton, cotton sateen, and much more!
- Linen also makes a good choice for certain styles of skirts as the breathable fibers and the loose weave both allow excellent breathability, too. The downside here is that linen crumples easily and may not hold the silhouette you want for some styles of skirts.
- Chambray is like a lighter version of denim and can also make a perfect casual summer skirt. Try this material for a wrap or peasant skirt.
Light synthetics such as rayon, nylon, and some versions of polyester fabric can work well for summer skirts. The trouble with synthetics is that they tend to cling to your skin, trapping air against your body rather than allowing them to flow freely away. On the other hand, they also do not soak up sweat like cotton, so you will not need to worry about damp patches on your skirt if you wear a flowing, layered rayon maxi skirt!
How Many Yards of Fabric Do You Need to Make a Skirt?
The amount of fabric you need to make a skirt varies based on the style of the skirt and your dress size.
Before you buy fabric for a skirt, you should check the specifications on the pattern envelope or instructions. This will tell you how much fabric you need in yards for each size.
When you buy the fabric, note whether it comes in a 45” or 60” width. Two yards of fabric in a 60” width will provide much more material than two yards in a 45” width. Most patterns will tell you which width you need.
That said, check out this handy chart to find the average amount of fabric needed for the types of skirts listed in this article!
|Type of Skirt||Average Fabric Yardage|
|A-line||Most A-line skirts take just under two yards of fabric. A knee-length A-line may take just 1 ½ yards instead.|
|Box Pleat||Most box pleat skirts take from 2 to 3 yards of fabric. The box pleat folds around the waistline can take up to three times the measurement of your waist.|
|Circle||The amount of fabric you need to make a circle skirt varies a lot depending on its length, as the skirt grows exponentially wider with increased length. You may need anywhere from two to 4 yards for this skirt, and you will need a 60” width of fabric for a long circle skirt as well.|
|Maxi||Narrow maxi skirt usually only takes about two yards of material, but a fuller maxi skirt could require 3 to 4 yards.|
|Mermaid||Depending on its length, a mermaid skirt can take 2 to 3 yards of fabric. The close-fitting upper portion of the skirt means that it does not require as much material as most longer skirts.|
|Mini||A mini skirt often requires just half a yard of fabric.|
|Pencil||A straight pencil skirt usually takes just one yard of fabric, though you will also need lining material in most cases.|
|Pleated||A pleated skirt usually needs about 3 yards of fabric, though this depends on if you buy pre-pleated material or not.|
|Peasant||A tiered, gathered peasant skirt usually needs at least 3 yards of fabric. For a full-length skirt, you may need as much as 4 yards.|
|Wrap||Depending on its length, a wrap skirt usually only takes 1 to 2 yards of material.|
What Material is Stretchy for Skirts?
Some of the best types of stretchy material for skirts include knitted material such as jersey knit, a stretch fabric made by adding elastic fibers to the material, and fabric with a natural given in its structure like denim and corduroy.
Fabric becomes stretchy in three ways. First, it can contain stretchy fibers. This covers materials like stretch velvet or Lycra, which have a large percentage of elastic fibers twisted into the yarns of the material.
Second, the construction of the cloth can make it stretchy. Knitted fabric contains thousands of tiny loops where yarns interlock. This allows more stretch and recovery than a plain weave fabric, where the threads lie at right angles and do not have a lot of flexibility.
Finally, the construction of the garment can also make the fabric stretchy. For this method, you cut out the individual shapes of the garment on the bias, meaning diagonally along the length of the cloth. This allows more stretch than cutting straight across plain weave material.
You may need an innately stretchy fabric for some types of skirts, such as a mini skirt. But you can also make non-stretchy fabric work for you by cutting it on the bias for other types of skirts, such as wrap or A-line skirts.
The best fabric for a skirt provides the right amount of drape and stretch for each type of skirt. For example, a long maxi skirt should use a soft fabric that drapes well, while a short pencil skirt should use fabric with the body to form a clean silhouette. Lighter, softer fabrics tend to look more casual, while heavier, stiffer fabrics generally look more formal.
As you pick a fabric for your skirt, you will also want to consider how warm or breathable it will feel. For cold weather, look for thicker, more insulating skirt fabrics like woven wool. For warm weather, look for breathable fabrics like cotton or linen.
Have you ever sewn a skirt before? What kind of cloth did you choose? Leave a comment below to let us know!