The Beast

I’m working on a costume that really needs a ridiculously massive skirt. There’s a few ways to achieve that much volume, but in this case, the most comfortable and practical way seemed to be a hoop skirt.

At first I thought I’d just use plastic boning, but a few quick tests showed that wasn’t going to hold up the amount of fabric I want in the skirt. Steel boning, in the amounts I needed, was going to be too expensive. Luckily, a quick poke around the Internet (specifically the US civil war reenactment corner of the Internet) showed that people had successfully used plastic pipes to make hoop skirts.

So, I went for a hint around B&Q and found this stuff. It proved to be possibly a little too bendy, I had to spend a lot of time straightening it out and getting it to the right shape. But it’s nice and narrow, and very forgiving to work with. A tube cutter makes trimming it down super simple.

The skirt itself is super simple. I used about 4 metres of plain cotton, cut down to just over a metre. For the boning channels I cut strips of the same fabric. For the placement of the channels I just kinda eyeballed it, putting them closer together where I needed the deepest curves. The top three are about 20 cm apart, the lower ones closer to 30cm. I used six, but ended up cutting the bottom hoop off after fittings. Hoop number really depends on height, depth of curve and the shape you want to achieve.

It was looking far too long at this point, but the puffiness will take up some of the length. To join the hoops, I’d read about people using threaded aluminium rods and strong glue. I wanted something that I could take apart to store, and to keep costs down. I have a load of these little wooden dowels that are pretty much the right size. If I were glueing, I’d use them just as they are. As I want to be able to take them apart, I wrapped them in a bit of masking tape to bulk them out and give more grip. They seem to be working fine, although I’ll probably wrap more tape around the join later.

Now for the fun bit! Feeding the pipes into the channels was an interesting experience. It really does not like doing what you want it to, and is apparently great fun for cats to chase. I stuffed as much in the bottom three channels as I could get away with, the full 4 metres. Using the time tested method of guessing, I added in the top three, trying to get a nice gradual curve. Once they were all almost right, I took them out again to even things up. It’s still pretty huge at this point.

After taking these photos I got to try it on my victim. It swamped her, and was proving quite tricky to get through doors! So, the bottom hoop came off, making it much easier to walk in, and the hoops all got a fair bit smaller. It still looks fairly ridiculous, but it’s a lot more usable. It’s really easy to change the length of the hoops, if I wanted to use it for different looks I could keep multiple sets in different sizes.

Looking forward to making the dress to go on top of it!

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