CLOTHING TUTORIAL: Geometric Tribal Skirt

This past week, I decided I wanted to create my own geometric and tribal inspired skirt, using an existing skirt and adding design elements to it. I headed to the closest Goodwill to search for a suitable skirt. I came across a black iridescent skirt with black iridescent feather trim. It was $5 + tax. While there, I also found purple pleather purse that will be suitable for another future project...same general concept, but with paint. After a lot of finicky cutting and sewing of twill tape ribbon, pleather, PVC, and textured foil fabric elements, this is the finished skirt. You probably have an old skirt in your wardrobe (or could easily find a plain one at a thrift store) that could use a makeover. You might not be a fan of the geometric and tribal current trends, or gothic styling, but you could use these techniques with different fabrics and trims to create your own style.

The total cost for this project was about $10...$5 skirt + bits of fabric (not much really), a spool of thread (which you won't use all of), and a spool of ribbon (which I used almost all of). I had all of the extra stuff to add to the skirt already, so I'm estimating roughly $5 worth of materials. I only had to purchase the skirt. Your cost will fluctuate based on if you have an existing skirt or how much one from a thrift store will cost you...sometimes they have great sales! Also, the materials cost can fluctuate based on how many elements you want to add and how much those cost. This is a great project to use up scraps...the pleather was left over from my last clothing alteration...cropping a jacket. This took me several hours, and I have a sewing machine. Most of the time was spent cutting and pinning pieces...and yelling at the terrible quality of pleather scraps.  This isn't a project for novices. This is for people with a lot of sewing experience. On to the general tutorial...because with a lot of sewing experience, I hope you'll understand it and I won't have to pretend like you're a beginner. I might do beginner skill sewing projects in the future.

The finished skirt.

What I started out with. My skirt had a little stain (about the size of a quarter) on the front, so this applique idea is a perfect solution to fixing it!


  • A plan skirt - Mine has feather trim, but construction of the skirt portion is simple enough to work with. Mine has lining, which I probably should have removed
  • One spool of black 1" wide ribbon - I had a twill tape that I liked because of the thickness, stability, and weave pattern. A grosgrain ribbon would work well too. Do not use soft ribbons like satin or chiffon. You must use a ribbon that has bound edges, not cut edges
  • Various fabrics - For this design, I didn't need much fabric. I used left over pleather from the jacket alteration, PVC, and a textured foil fabric (it has a stiff fabric back that the foil is fused to...hard to explain)
  • Matching thread - Black for mine of course
  • A sewing machine - You could do this by hand, but it would be a very long process
  • A Teflon foot - If you are working with the fabrics I used, you ABSOLUTELY MUST USE THIS! It is worth the money to buy if you don't have one already. This will prevent the fabric from sticking to the sewing machine foot. Alternatively, you can place tissue paper over the fabric, and rip it off after stitching...but I don't have time for dat...hehe. Plus that costs more time than money...just buy the darn fancy foot.
  • Scissors - There is a lot of cutting in this project
  • Straight pins - Lots of pinning too
  • Chalk or a white pencil- For marking out the shapes and placements. Don't fret, it rubs or washes off easily
  • A ruler - For easy straight lines
  • A seam ripper - Always handy in case you make a mistake with sewing
  • Paper, a pencil, and an eraser - For creating a sketch

These will be general, as the likeliness of you replicating this EXACT skirt are low.

1) Before you dive into cutting fabric, sketch out your design. My skirt has two front seams, two side seams, a waist band, and a side zipper. I kept all of these elements in mind when designing the applique and ribbon placement. After I started working on my design, I altered it based on not having enough pleather, and deeming the velvet too flimsy...enter the textured foil fabric. A sketch just gives a general idea of how you want the design to look, but can change as you start creating it. This is ok.

2) Using the ruler, I measured one of the front seams. I took the chalk and made a little mark at the center of both front seams. I determined where the half was point of that (the quarter mark) was on the top and bottom of the side seams. I used the chalk and ruler to draw straight lines onto the skirt, to match up each triangle's dots. I placed the PVC fabric scrap verse side up over one of the top triangles. I carefully transferred the lines to it, by folding the fabric where the triangle edges on the skirt were, and marking that with chalk. I used the scissors to cut out this PVC triangle. I used this triangle as a pattern piece to cut out 3 additional PVC triangles...totaling two for the top front and two for the top back.

I did the same transfer and cutting method for the front and back triangles. They are slightly larger than the top ones, because of the curve of the hips.

3) I carefully pinned the coordinating triangles over their chalk marks. The back of the skirt didn't have chalk marks, so I eyeballed the placement of them. This is not an exact thing, and that's ok, as the ribbon trim will hide all of the edges. I lined up the shortest edge of the triangles to the seams they go on. They are butting not overlapping them. Where the triangles meet on the sides, I made sure the tips were even with each other...which you can see in the 2nd of these photos.

4) Using my sewing machine, threaded with black thread, a Teflon foot, and the longest stitch on my machine, I carefully sewed the triangle fabric pieces (appliques) to the skirt. I used the longest stitch, because I just needed to attach the pieces well enough to easily handle the skirt before adding the ribbon trim with a shorter topstitch.

5) I used the same sort of transfer and placement method for the front triangles using the black textured foil fabric. The center pleather diamond shape was a pain to do, but with a lot of trimming and reshaping of the worked out.  I pinned them all down flat, and stitched them down just like I did for the other fabrics.

6) Time to cover those fabric edges, and add another texture design element...the ribbon trim! I carefully placed the ribbon, overlapping it where possible, and keeping in mind the placement, so in the end, all the raw edges would be covered. This is tedious, but take your time! By the zipper, those edges are folded at an angle. As you can see, there is a lot of pinning. Pinning is essential to getting everything to overlap and lay nicely! I did one side and part of the front...then stitched them...then cut and pinned more ribbon for the other side and front sections.

7) Using a topstitch length on my machine...slightly shorter than the longest stitch and longer than a regular stitch...I carefully stitched the ribbon on, turning at corners and keeping the stitching going where possible, so I have less back stitching marks and try to conserve thread. That was sort of a fun part. Keep that Teflon foot on your machine, as you might glide over some of the applique fabric. The smoother the stitching, the better.

This is partially done. I had to add more ribbon to the other side to finish edging the appliques. I just wanted to show what the two sides look like with and without the ribbon trim.

8) It's time to finish off the skirt. Taking that remaining ribbon, you want to trim off the hem (by the feather trim) and the waistband. Starting on the back, by one of the seams, overlap the ribbon end on the seam. I didn't pin, because this was easy straight stitching. With my machine, I stitched the ribbon to the waistband following an edge of the ribbon, making sure to stay along that seam and cover the raw edges of the ribbon from the applique trimming. When I got towards the end, I cut the ribbon with a 1" overlap of starting seam. I folded over that ribbon end, so it matched the seam, and stitched it down. I turned the skirt, stitched down that fold over, and stitched back around the skirt, following the other edge of the ribbon. I did the same thing for the ribbon along the hem/feather trim edge, starting at the same back seam. I used almost a full spool of ribbon for this project. Glad I had an unopened one to play with!

The finished skirt.

Finished an on my body!

Different side views.

Ok everyone that's it for today. I'm leaving for a week long vacation tomorrow. I'll have internet access there, so I'll be making travel fashion and adventure posts while I'm gone. Should be fun overall...if my little family doesn't make me crazier. I'm going to lock myself in the large bathroom with the Jacuzzi if they do. I'm going to wear this skirt out tonight to a private goth club with friends, but I can't promise any photos. Sorry kids.


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