October 15, 2012

Bellydance Pantaloons

A friend recently asked for my advice & help making a bellydance costume for her for Halloween. (Squee!) I was of course happy to oblige! :) I convinced her that if she intended to twirl in her big dance skirt, she should probably make some pantaloons to wear with it, to keep modest. I then proceded to blow her mind a bit when I told her we didn't need a pattern to make them. I've made a few pairs of pantaloons in my day, with different variations each time. I've looked online at several tutorials throughout the years, and have come up with my own best-fit conglomeration of how I like to make them. I typed up my destructions for my friend, & thought I'd share them here. Images are courtesy of Shambling Shimmies: http://www.shamblingshimmies.com/2011/02/01/how-to-make-your-own-pantaloons/

Now if you're not familiar with bellydance costuming, you may be wondering, "Just what the heck are pantaloons?" Pantaloons are comfy, baggy pants with an elastic or drawstring waist. They are quite a bit longer than your legs, with elastic or ties at the ankles, allowing them to poof & puddle over your feet. They are great for bellydancing costumes as a way to keep from flashing everyone when you spin. They also make awesome lounge pants.

Good fabrics for pantaloons include cottons that will breathe, such as gauze or broadcloth. Pantaloons are typically worn underneath of at least one skirt. While you can make some beautiful pantaloons with silks, satins, & taffetas, keep in mind that these fabrics don’t allow any airflow and will become HOT. Think of where & when you’ll be wearing this pair of pantaloons (inside, outside, hot weather, cold weather, climate controlled environment, under four skirts, by themselves/with no skirts) & choose your fabric accordingly.

Pantaloons are typically termed by the number of yards of fabric used to make them. The standards in the dance world are 2-yard pantaloons & 4-yard pantaloons. 2-yarders start with 2 yards of fabric total, which ends up being 1 yard of fabric around each leg. 4-yarders end up with 2 yards of fabric around each leg. ATS bellydancers prefer the 4 yard pantaloons, as they look great flaring out under our skirts when we spin.

Look at the pretty pantaloons! We're all rocking 4-yarders here. 


Easy Length: If you get 45” wide fabric, use the full width as the length of the pants.
Precise Length (for those who are rather tall, rather short, or just want to be particular about things): measure from where you want the pants to sit on your hips/waist to the floor. Add 8” for drape & seam allowance.

Crotch Length: Measure from where you want the waist to sit on you in front, down between your legs, & back up to where you want the pants to sit on you in the back.
Divide this number in half, then add 2”. The resulting measurement is the crotch length we’ll use when cutting the fabric.
Crotch Depth: Sit on a hard chair. Measure from where you want the pants to sit on you to the chair’s surface. Add 2”.


Lay your fabric out so that the selveges aren’t touching & there’s no fold in the fabric. Fold in half to make the two cut edges meet. Cut along the fold to get two pieces of fabric.

Keeping the two layers of fabric together, fold in half again to make the raw edges meet. (Ignore the part in the diagrams that refer to an edge of added strips.)

Mark your crotch depth along the raw edge. Draw the curve of your crotch length from the selvege to the crotch depth mark. Cut along the crotch length line.

Now separate the two pieces of fabric. With one of the pieces, fold it right sides together so that the bottom of the crotch curve on each side matches up. Sew down the length of the pant leg.

Repeat with the other piece of fabric. You now have two tubes.

Turn one tube right side out. Place it inside the other tube, right sides together, matching up the crotch curves. Sew along the crotch curve. Turn the pants right side out. They should look like pants now. J

On the bottom of one pant leg, press up ½” to the inside, then up again 1” from the first press line, again to the inside. Stitch, leaving a 2” gap to insert elastic or ties. Insert elastic or drawstring into the casing. Repeat on the other leg.

If you want less bulk at the waist when you wear your pants, pleat the waist before making the waistband casing. Be sure, after pleating, that the waist is still large enough to go over your hips easily.

Press the waist down ½” to the inside, then down again 1 ½” from the first press line, again to the inside. Stitch the folded waistband, leaving a 2” gap to allow you to put in a drawstring or elastic. Insert your elastic or drawstring.

Enjoy your new pantaloons!

The above tutorial is the most basic & easiest way I've found to make pantaloons, but there are other tweaks you can make to the recipe.
  • Make a yoke at the waist. Don't like a lot of bulk at the waist? Want a shiny, slick fabric for the pants but worried your skirt will slip around on it? You can make a band of fabric (cotton works great) that's just big enough to go over your hips. Make it about 4-6 inches tall. Make your crotch depth & crotch curve length that many inches less when cutting out your pants. Make the pants according to the directions above, but instead of doing a fold-over type of waistband, pleat or gather the waist of the pants to match your yoke & sew them together. 
  • Ankle cuffs. Pretty much the same directions, but instead of elastic at the ankles, gather the fabric of the pants & attach to a small tube of fabric. You want the tube big enough to get over your foot. A good cuff height is about 4 inches.
  • Outside slit. A little more I Dream of Jeannie/Cabaret/Night Club/Halloween feel than what the ATS bellydancers go for, but it's a fun variation if you want to show a little leg. Instead of drawing & cutting your crotch curve on a raw edge, draw & cut on a folded edge. This will give you seams on the outside of your leg, rather than on the inside. Sew each pant leg just at the top & bottom of the outside seam. Finish the edges of the side seams however you prefer to keep them from fraying. Finish the waist & ankles as above. I did this variation once as a beach cover-up: White cotton fabric, side slits down the leg, & I made the pants go just below my knee to be reminiscent of board shorts. Very fun, & helpful to keep cool & sunburn-free on float trips!
Questions? Ask away!


  1. I just made a pair using this tutorial and they are wonderful! I chose to use cotton broadcloth for this initial pair. I'm making another out of cotton gauze in order to see which I like more. I did have to add extra length in the legs. I measured waist to floor (37 inches) and added on 8 inches, giving me 45 inches. Once I had sewn the waist hem and tie and pressed the ankle hem as directed, the pants were only about mid-calf long. I added on another 11 inches of fabric to make up for it. After this bit of adjusting, they look and feel wonderful. I'm certainly going to be making more in the future. Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. Thank you so much for replying because I'm 6ft tall and a whole lotta leg. This will save me some stress!

      To Vicky, GREAT tutorial. Thanks!

  2. Glad you like them! Odd that they turned out so short, though! I wonder where the length went to. Between the 1.5" eaten up by the ankle hem and the 2" taken up by the waist hem, they should've still been about 4.5" longer than your waist to floor measurement. It's a mystery! Hope the second pair gives you less trouble! Thanks for following!

  3. I notice after making pleats the waistband is curved. do you recommend making a slightly curved yoke? What would be the difference between using a curved yoke or just a straight band? Any difference in looks or fit?

    1. I've not made these with pleats & yoke, myself, but in theory, either a curved yoke or a straight band should work. Having made straght dance belts & curved dance belts, I can say that a curved band will likely lay better if you are curvy in the hips. I'm swaybacked, so a straight belt digs in at my belly & gaps at my back, but a curved belt does not. All that said, your pantaloons will likely have a drawstring or elastic in them, so gapping or digging in really won't be an issue, either way. A straight band is certainly going to be easier to make!

  4. I just made my first pair, as an experiment with a ripped cotton bed sheet. I am so pleased with the result and can not wait to get some beautiful fabric. I found the instructions easy but will keep my cut out gusset bit as a template for future ones.

    1. So glad your first pair turned out well! Enjoy your pantaloons! :D

  5. I don't know what I did, but mine came out completely wrong. The waist measured about 20 inches, and the crotch was twice as long/deep as I needed them to be. Those went into the trash. I will have to read the "destructions" again (more thoroughly) and try again later.

    1. Oh no! I wonder what happened there. I really hope the next pair works out perfectly for you!

  6. I'm wondering how to measure the beginning of the crotch "J" on the selvage edge? It isn't clear on the de-structions where to mark the top of the "J" on that edge.

    1. I actually don't measure where to start the top of the "J" on the selvage edge!

      I mark where to put the bottom of the "J" on the raw/cut edge - that's my crotch depth.

      Then I take a flexible measuring tape, and starting at the crotch depth measurement, fiddle around with different "J" shapes until the "J" measures the same as half my crotch length, with the top of the "J" meeting the selvage, and the bottom of the "J" meeting the raw/cut edge.

      Does that answer your question? :)