How to Make a Mermaid Tail

Four Methods:Swimming TailWalking TailThe TopDetails and Additions

Do you dream of being a mermaid? With a little sewing skill and easily obtainable materials, you can make your very own mermaid tail. You can look like a mermaid whenever you want, whether it’s swimming at the local beach or pool or walking around your next Halloween party. Read below for instructions on how to make a tails fit for water or for land.

Method 1
Swimming Tail

  1. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 1
    Purchase or make swim fins. Swim fins are similar to diving fins but are designed to enforce and enable the dolphin-kick style of swimming. They provide greater resistance and thus a greater workout, making them an excellent exercise method. Monofins are swim fins with a single blade, which hold the feet together to encourage proper swimming form.
    • It will be easiest to purchase a monofin style swim fin but a monofin can also be created by duct-taping together single swim fins or making a monofin completely from scratch. The latter two methods are not recommended but are certainly possible if a monofin is not available.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 1Bullet1
    • Monofins and other swim fins can be purchased at swimming and sports stores, as well as online. make sure to buy from a brand that can insure that they can are good to not break when you swim in them as cheap fins can fall apart or be uncomfortable or simply not work for swimming.
    • Try it on. The foot pockets come in two styles: one with a single pocket and built-in heel and one with no heel and a strap to secure the fin to the foot. Either style should feel secure when you kick but it should not pinch or chafe. Your feet should feel comfortable and flexible.[1][2]
  2. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 2
    Make your pattern. With the monofin on, you can simply trace the shape of your legs and the fin onto cardstock or cardboard or you can measure yourself and create the pattern from the measurements. If tracing, get help from a friend. Making a pattern from measurements will require more math but will also be more accurate.
    • In order to make a pattern from measurements, measure the circumference (in other words, all the way around) your waist, hips mid-thigh, knees, upper calves, and ankles, as well as take the dimensions of the monofin. Then measure the length between each section (knee to upper calf, upper calf to ankle, etc.). Divide the circumference numbers in half and then draw your pattern, ensuring the width of each section is the same as the halved width measurements as well as ensuring that the distance between each section is the same as the length measurements you took. The monofin can probably be traced directly onto the pattern separately from your legs, once you know where the feet will be.
    • You may wish to take measurements at more points along your body to ensure a more accurate shape, however, the swim fabric used to create the tail is usually stretchy and will generally conform to your shape so it does not need to be perfect.
    • For the pattern, you can draw it with a seam allowance or without. If you do not draw it with the seam allowance, make sure that when you cut the fabric you do leave room for the seam. Normally, it is better to not make a pattern with the seam allowance, as you can use the lines as a guide when sewing.
    • There are multiple ways to do the fin. The easiest method is probably to leave a few inches of fabric at the bottom, along the bottom edge of the fin, and to leave the bottom open. This will allow you to put the material on like a skirt and then the fins, stretching the fabric over the fins once they are on. The excess fabric at the bottom can be cut to look like the uneven edges of a fish fin. Another method would be to have a zipper along the bottom fin edge, and a clean line. The last method would be to have a single seam all the way around, but this will make it more difficult to get in and out of the tail, as well as creating the difficulty of getting the monofin inside the fabric. This will only work if you have a fin that is in two sections and is fairly flexible. Decide which method is best for your needs and skills and make sure your pattern accounts for the method you have chosen.
  3. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 3
    Cut the fabric. First, you must buy fabric. Try local sewing and craft stores or look online to find fabrics. Use stretchy material suitable for going in water, namely nylon spandex. Look for fabrics labeled as swimsuit material. Thicker material is better than thinner material, as it will give a more flesh-like appearance.
    • Fold the fabric in two, so that the sides you want visible are touching, then trace the pattern onto the fabric using sewer’s chalk. A marker or pen can also be used if you do not have chalk, but be aware that the lines may be visible once the fabric is flipped right-side-out. Pin all along the traced line using straight pins so that the two fabrics are solidly joined.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 3Bullet1
    • Now, cut the fabric. As stated above, make sure that there is a seam allowance when you cut the fabric. A generous 1” allowance is best with this type of fabric. Cut the fabric using very sharp scissors, preferably sewing shears, or any tool designed for cutting fabric.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 3Bullet2
    • Make sure to leave an extra inch or two at the top, where the waist is located, in order to make a hem for the waist. You should also be sure that you cut your fabric appropriately for the method you chose for enclosing the fin.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 3Bullet3
  4. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 4
    Sew the tail. Leaving the fabric open at the waist, sew down one side and then the other, following the drawn line of the pattern. Be careful of the straight pins and remove them when they are no longer needed. If you are going to completely enclose the monofin, simply start at the waist and go all the way around until you reach the other side. If you are leaving it open or are using a zipper, do not sew along the bottom edge.
    • Since the fabric is stretchy, you will need to account for this in how you sew it. Use a ball-point needle on your machine and set the machine for a stretch stitch, if possible. If your machine does not have a stretch stitch, use a zigzag stitch. You do not want to use a straight stitch, since this stitch will break when the fabric is stretched. Make sure you also have the tension on the foot set a little bit looser than normal.[3]
    • When you are done with the sides, put in the zipper if you are using one. Sew the hem of the waist and the flip the fabric right-side-out. Now you are done!

Method 2
Walking Tail

  1. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 5
    Make your pattern. Make a pattern for a long tube skirt on a piece of cardboard of heavy cardstock. This skirt can be more form-fitting or it can be a looser tube. It just depends on your needs and how much measuring you want to do. The bottom should be just above the ankles and the waist can go wherever you want it to.
    • Measure the circumference of your hips. Leave the waist the same size as the hips. An elastic waistband will serve to create the appropriately sized waist. If you want the skirt to be more form-fitting, you can measure at more points as well. Your thigh, knees, upper and lower calves are also good places to measure. Remember that the closer together your legs are when you take the measurements, the more close-fitting and difficult to walk in the skirt will be. Certain cuts may only be possible if using very stretchy fabric. Also measure the distance between the different sections (waist to hips, hips to thigh, thigh to knee, etc.)
    • Draw a center line on your pattern, the same length as the distance between your waist and your ankles. Using the measurements you took earlier between the sections, mark these distances along the center line. Then, take the circumference measurements and halve them. Mark the halved measurements at each section line. Now draw the pattern for the skirt.
  2. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 6
    Cut your fabric. Cut the fabric using the pattern you have created. Use a similar method and tools to the those described above for the swim tail. You will want to leave extra fabric at the top near the waist in order to make the waistband and, as above, you will want to leave extra room when cutting the fabric for a seam allowance.
  3. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 7
    Sew the skirt. Using the pattern, sew the skirt in a way similar to the method described for the swimming tail above. Leave the bottom and waist similarly open, but also the last few inches of the sides as well as the top inch. At the bottom, cut from the center of the panels up to the point on the side where the seam stops. This cut should be at an angle in such a way as to create an upside-down triangle shape at the bottom of the skirt.
  4. 4
    Make the fins. This flared section of the skirt should be made out of a different and contrasting fabric to the one used to make the rest of the skirt. This will give it the appearance of fins. The same fabric will be used to create the waistband. Using a lighter colored fabric is recommended but use whatever color combination you like best.
    • Take a long rectangular piece of fabric, the length of which should be roughly 1.5 to 2 times the distance from the point at the front of the skirt to the point at the back of the skirt, though it can be longer. The longer it is, the fuller the bottom of the skirt will be. This fabric will form one fin. A similarly cut piece will be necessary to form the other side, meaning you will need two pieces total.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 8Bullet1
    • Sew these pieces front-to-front with the rest of the skirt, doing one side and then the other, in such a way that it creates a ruffled or pleated effect. This will make the fins appear full and hide imperfections.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 8Bullet2
    • Cut the corners of the fin fabric so that they are rounded where they meet in the middle. Depending on the fabric you use, you can give the fins very different looks. If using organza, you can cut a wavy edge onto the fabric and finish it with fray-stopping solution. If using a more solid material, you may wish to hem the edges.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 8Bullet3
  5. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 9
    Make the waistband. As stated above, elastic will be used to create a fitted waist. Get a length of elastic and cut it to the size of your waist at the point where the band will be. Then, cut this in half. You may wish to leave a very small amount of slack but it is not absolutely necessary. The elastic should not be stretched when it is measured and cut.
    • With the skirt inside-out, flip the top of the fabric down about an inch or two to form the waist band. How far down will depend on how much fabric you left when you cut it and what your personal preferences are for the appearance. The open inch at the side seam should allow you to form two tubes. Pin the fabric and sew it so that the tubes are formed.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 9Bullet1
    • Now, thread the elastics through the tubes, pinning them at each end. Close the tubes by sewing them together. You should now have a closed, stretchy, complete waistband.
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 9Bullet2
    • Use the remaining contrast fabric to sew a long, wide tube. It should be equal in circumference to the ungathered waistband. Close the tube and then attach it to the waistband. Pinch and gather the fabric and attach it by sewing a few stitches and a decorative item such as a pearl or shell button at the center and again at the back of the skirt. The fabric can then be gathered and tucked into the waistband or left in a draped appearance. Now the skirt is done!
      Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 9Bullet3

Method 3
The Top

  1. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 10
    Bikini top. You can use any bikini top with your new mermaid tail. This can be either a bikini you already own or you can buy one just for the occasion. Stores like Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s often sell bikini tops separately. The color should be chosen to match or complement the tail you have made, in order to give it a natural appearance.
  2. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 11
    Shell top. You can buy or make a shell top. These are easily made by glueing large craft shells to a bikini top. The shells can be painted or left to look natural. If you plan on swimming in this top you will want to use water-resistant glue. You can make a top from just shells and string by drilling holes into the shell but this is uncomfortable and it is easy to break the shell.
  3. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 12
    Custom top. You can use leftover fabric from making your tail to create a top which matches exactly. Many patterns and instructions are available for free online. The style will depend on your needs, personal preference and skill level.

Method 4
Details and Additions

  1. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 13
    Adding extra fins. You can add all sorts of extra details to both the swim tail and the walking tail. Extra fins can be added to both, using contrasting fabric or the same fabric used for the fin. These can be placed along the sides or at the back. Decide in the beginning if you want to place extra fins, as these will need to be accounted for while you are sewing. Look at pictures of fish for inspiration.
  2. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 14
    Adding scales. You may wish to paint scales onto your mermaid tail. If your tail is for swimming, make sure a water-resistant paint is used. You can paint the scales with a brush or with a stencil and spray paint. Keep in mind that this can be time consuming and will require some skill in order to look realistic. It may be easier to use a fabric that is pre-printed with a scale pattern.
  3. Image titled Make a Mermaid Tail Step 15
    Pearls and starfish. You can sew a string of pearls around the waist of your tail or sew craft starfish anywhere that you think looks appropriate. These can be difficult to attach, depending on the materials, but can really serve to complete your look. Both pearls and starfish can also be added to your top or your hair as well.

Things You'll Need

  • A Monofin or swim fins
  • Fabric used for dance costumes or swim fabric
  • Cardboard or heavy cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Tailor's chalk or something similar
  • Basic sewing supplies

Article Info

Categories: Cosplay