How to Make a Prairie Skirt

buttons on denim image by Kathy Burns from

Prairie skirts are made up of tiers or ruffles of fabric. Typically, prairie skirts are associated with Western fashion and were popularized by TV shows such as "Little House on the Prairie." Ralph Lauren is attributed as the first designer to bring the prairie skirt into mainstream fashion in his 1978 Western-themed runway show. Making a prairie skirt at home can be a rewarding project for beginner sewers and experienced sewers alike as the skirt is extremely versatile and, therefore, forgiving in design.

Measure around your hips with the tape measure. Add 6 inches to the measurement and jot it down.

Measure a strip of fabric 10 inches wide and as long as the measurement you wrote down. Cut it out with fabric scissors. This is the first tier.

Fold an inch-wide strip along one length of the cut material, wrong sides together, and press with an iron.

Sew the folded material in place along the edge to create a pocket for the elastic to run through.

Measure out another strip of material 1.3 times the length of the first and 7 inches wide. Cut out the strip. This is the second tier.

Sew a long running stitch or gathering stitch along the length of the second tier a quarter inch from the top and leave the ends of the thread loose.

Pull the loose ends up with one hand and push the fabric gently in the opposite direction with the other to create ruffles. Even out the ruffles by pulling them along the thread. Ensure that the second tier is now the same length as the first.

Pin the two tiers together right side to right side with the top of the second tier against the bottom of the first tier.

Sew along the edge inside the gathering stitch to ensure it doesn't show.

Repeat this process with each tier being 1.3 times the length of the one before and 7 inches wide until you reach one tier's width before the desired length of the skirt.

Measure and cut out the final tier; make it 1.3 times the length of the previous tier and 10 inches wide.

Ruffle and sew the final tier onto the rest of the skirt as before and create an inch-wide hem at the bottom by folding 2 inches of the material under, pressing and sewing it.

Fold the whole skirt in half width-ways, right sides together, and line up the edges.

Pin the edges in place then sew a quarter-inch seam all the way along and backstitch at either end.

Turn the skirt the right way out. Measure and cut a piece of elastic the same measurement as where you want the skirt to rest on your hips and thread it through the pocket on the first tier.

Sew the ends of the elastic firmly together using a zigzag stitch and backstitch, then pull the elastic through the pocket slightly.

Tie off and snip away any loose threads.