This post was originally supposed to be part of the skirt post but that post got too long so the hoop skirt is getting its own. That being said, welcome to part 9 of my series on the construction of my winning look for the 2023 Her Universe Fashion Show. If you want to start at the beginning, check out this post.
I designed the skirt such that it could still look wonderful without a hoop skirt, but after seeing it over a real hoop skirt and how full and gorgeous it made the ruffles look (see above photo), I had to try and make it work.
The difficulty in this case was the slit in the dress. Most hoop skirts, also called crinolines, consist of circles of hoop boning in casings like the Truly Victorian one I made above (see post about its construction here). The hoop boning naturally wants to straighten out so it is constantly pushing outward in all directions on the circle. This constant force is what helps hoop skirts maintain their shape. If the hoop boning isn’t strong enough, it will collapse, but you typically use thicker boning than you would use in, say, a corset.
If you break that circle as in the top layers on the skirt above, the ends will want to pop out, again, trying to straighten. In the case of the hoop skirt above, the ribbons that connect to the lower layers are keeping them in place. But if you didn’t have the connections at the lower levels, the entire hoop skirt would just pop open flat.
The first thing I did was see if this was something I could order. It was not. The closest I could find was these panniers and a strange cross-front hoop skirt. I ordered both anyways to play around with them.
The panniers collapsed completely upon putting the skirt on. So that was out. Though, truth be told, they used very thin boning wire so I wasn’t that surprised. The hoop skirt fared a little better and I tried playing around with the cross-front bones to open it up and a give me the full slit, but again, they used very light boning, so it wasn’t strong enough to really do anything, but it gave me ideas. I am keeping both for lighter costumes at some point because they do fold up nicely for travel. However, I knew I would have to make my own out of strong hoop boning.
The next thing I did was search the internet to see if anyone had run into this issue. Most of the ones I found still had full hoops for the first or second tier and I need pretty much nothing from the waist down. Open front skirts are reasonably common in anime outfits, so I found a couple of tutorials relating to that kind of cosplay. This one by Cowbutt Crunchies was pretty useful as was this one by isotoria-n-blog that was particularly helpful as it explained how they modified a purchased hoop skirt to have an opening in front with lots of photos.
What I learned from those was that it was key to add boning along the opening edge. However, in both those cases, the end result opening was very wide and I need a much smaller slit. It may not look like it in the photo below but when the skirt weighed down on it, it was pretty narrow.
I modeled my hoop skirt after the weird cross-front one, using the same boning shape with one giant piece that went from the top of the slit to down around the back and back up to the other side of the slit. I ultimately added additional strips of horizontal boning to give it more strength.
I also added a couple pieces of boning going crosswise a kin to how the panniers have ribbon that sits against your legs. My hope was that this would keep the back pushed out to give that bell shape and prevent the back from collapsing in and the whole thing swinging forward. It sorta worked, but I think it was a combination of everything else I did.
To give that point at the top of the slit, I bent over the top of each end of the super long around-the-back boning piece so that they overlapped at the top. However, the front was still swinging very wide open, especially at the bottom. So I took some extra boning and doubled up the boning along each edge of the slit. Finally! This did it. It really just needed more structure in order to support such a heavy skirt.
Unfortunately this point of boning did rest against my hip bone and, yes, I totally had a bruise by the end of the night. Worth it? Obviously. And I didn’t really feel it until the next day (thanks, adrenaline). But that’s also why I was so happy to get out of the hoop skirt for the after party. If I need to wear this again, I will definitely pad that.
The last step was adding both snaps and ties to the skirt so that it effectively wrapped around the edges of the slit. This would keep the hook skirt in place and prevent it from being seen. Why both? Extra security. I didn’t need this getting loose. This part took the longest when getting into the dress. It was only on the bottom 2 tiers, but if the hoop skirt wasn’t situated right, it would pop the snap. After everything was in place, then I could adjust and make sure it all laid properly.
The hoop skirt was probably the least clean part of my make. There were so many adjustments, hand sewing and tweaking casings and boning lengths up until the very end, that it was definitely a bit rough around the edges. Fortunately I had done it all in red so it was pretty unnoticeable even if you did get a peek through the slit as I walked.
Overall, I’m really proud of how it worked out. I wish I had had time to redo it, but it worked and my next one will be even better. I don’t have a strong mechanical engineering background and I feel like I learned a lot with this part of it about how forces push in various directions. It really makes me want to try something super structural at some point.
I’ll leave you with this photo. Due to all the ruffles, you often couldn’t really tell that there was a slit. I had worked so hard to make it a real functioning slit in my skirt so I had to grab a photo at the end showing it off.