my basement art studio!
Last night I stayed up until 3am after my son Arlo went to bed to construct a mermaid tail for my upcoming theater production of “Boat to Nowhere.” This is the first element of a costume that I am still working on, which is written in the play (which I wrote) to be a fish/mermaid/sea creature character. I’m still deciding on what the upper portion of the body will look like, so I thought I’d start with the tail. And who doesn’t want to make a mermaid tail in the wee hours of the morning??! Below are step-by-step instructions on how I did it, in case you might want to make a mermaid tail too!
I watched a couple of interesting (and quirky) youtube video tutorials for homemade mermaid tails. The most useful one I found is the following: DIY How to Make a Mermaid Tail for Under $25. I’ll admit that I didn’t watch the whole video, mainly just the intro, where I got the following measurements:
38″ center height
43″ height to outside edge of tail
10″ tail width
5 1/2″ width on top
3 3/4″ width at skinniest point (knees)
This was based on the size for a 3-7 year old, so I measured the length from my waist to the bottom of my feet and added the additional amount to the center and tail height. I figured my hips are bigger than a 7-year-olds (lol!), so I also added an inch to all width measurements. In hindsight, I should have added at least 2 inches, but luckily stretchy fabric is forgiving!
As per the video, I drew out the measurements on a big piece of cardboard that I happened to have in my art studio. I lay down over the drawing to make sure that the length was correct.
Then, I cut the sketch out!
Next, I placed the center of the cutout on a folded piece of stretchy swimmer/dancer fabric that I bought at JoAnn Fabrics. The center went right along the folded side.
I traced around the cutout with a green sharpie pen, and cut it out. I did the same thing again so that I had a total of two cutouts, front and back.
Then I pinned the two pieces together, with the shiny sides facing in. This was a bit challenging because of the weird shape and stretchiness of the fabric. It was hard to get it perfect, but once again that’s the beauty of stretchy fabric- it’s forgiving!
Next, I sewed the two sides together. I didn’t have green thread, so I used black thread instead. I sewed all the way from one top corner of the waist around to the other. I left the waist open, and then sewed in an elastic band at the top (sorry, I didn’t take a picture of this step).
Last but not least, I put polyester stuffing into the bottom of the tail to give it form.
And there you have it! A theatrical mermaid tail. I personally like that it’s kind-of frumpy looking. When I wear it and walk it’s awkwardly funny, like having two giant feet attached at the heels, with a very limited range of motion in my legs. I will be playing the fish/mermaid/creature character in the production, and the movement limitation will influence the character. I’ll post updates as the upper torso and head of the costume develop. So please, stay tuned!
And let me know if you have any questions about the tutorial :).