Hanky Hems for Spring 2010: Easy,Dramatic and Potentially Patternless

What do bellydancers have to do with skirt hems?

 Because right now mainstream fashion is sporting all kinds of asymmetrical hems called “hanky hems’.  The hemline resembles the points a handkerchief makes as it sprouts from a jacket pocket, or when you see someone waving bon voyage.   


 The skirt style is called a handkerchief skirt and bellydancers have been making them for a long time using a tried and true method that can create a very subdued look or one of high drama as dancers take a simple base material for the skirt and then add lavish fantastic trims. 

Bellydancers do not use a pattern. Every Handkerchief Skirt basically looks like this: 


They get the center circle by folding their square into quarters and making an arched semi-circular cut. 


Most instructions call for a 6-8 inch semi-circle cut.   The skirt is gathered by a drawstring or elastic.  

(If you wish you can make a waistband, but that will mean making a placket for the zipper, inserting a zipper and gathering the material into the waistband.  That is why most dancers just use the elastic, but for the home sewer with the time and energy for the extra work, the flat waistband does look very finished. ) 

If after making your cut the circle won’t go over your hips, refold and cut in a little more until it easily goes over the hips.  Since these instructions are for bellydancers and they already wear their skirts resting on their hips, not their waists, the 6-8 inch measurment should work for someone who wants to wear their garment at the navel or on their waist. 

When you understand the basic idea you can begin to have more fun with some variations: 




Here are some links to bellydance costuming sites which provide instructions in more detail and some awesome photos. 

The Costume Goddess 

Celebrations Bellydance, scroll down until you reach the instructions for handkerchief skirts 

ehow, this one is very good even though it isn’t on a bellydance site 

Most dancers use poly chiffon as they often wear harem pants underneath so the sheerness isn’t a problem and poly chiffon is surprisingly tough at keeping its grip on heavy trim.  Drapey soft satiny polyesters that are blouseweight are sometimes used if an opacityis needed.  Or they will layer a sheer on top of an opaque fabric, or prints on top of sparkly, and of course, they will go to town on awesome trim.  

Home sewers can take this method and use it for their own purposes.  

The sky is the limit creatively and the best part is that the actual construction is so simple. Currently daywear skirts are being made of opaque drapey polys in bright jewel tones or in knits.  Going back to those beginning illustrations: 

Standard 4-pointed hem using opaque polyester. The one I saw had matching satin ribbon on the hem.

This one has the arching hemline that adds some drama and more shape. Again it was in an opaque polyester.

This was the most interesting one. It is layered with the points matching but was made of a knit and the hemline did not look finished. The hem actually appeared to be cut into and abused a bit to stretch it out and give it a funky appearance.

This isn’t the first time dance has informed fashion with its flair for the dramatic and I know I am going to be on the lookout for the perfect funky knit to create that last look.

Next Post: Tuesday, April 6, 2010; Kwik Sew 3242 Handkerchief Skirt: Pattern Review


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