Designing a Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah Ensemble – Part 2

Hello Gang!

This is the second installment on the design and construction process for a classic two piece bedlah sets with matching skirts and a dress.  In part 1, I showed you my digital mood board, initial rough sketch, and the “kit” of materials had gathered together over the years.  My client loved them and we decided to press forward into the serious design phase of the costume.

Taking Measurements and Gathering Info

Before I can start work for myself or for a client, I begin by collecting contact information, style data, and take body measurements. Bodies change for a wide variety of reasons from major life events, such as having a baby, to intentional weight loss or gain, changes in muscle definition due to workouts and fitness programs, and simply through the passage of time.  To facilitate capturing and storing this data, I use a series of forms that I’ve honed to meet the needs of my costume and design business.  I offer this set of downloadable printable forms on my Etsy store. Sewing Log & Project Journal pages are available for sale on Etsy.

Lingerie Bra as Belly Dance Bra Base

Part of my mission as a designer is to make costume pieces that my costumers feel happy and powerful, joyful and athletic, but especially covered and secure. So when I am working with a client, I ask them to bring me a perfectly fitting lingerie bra to use as a base for creating a beautiful, and well fitting belly dance costume design. Every body is different, and everybody prefers a different fit, amount of cleavage and coverage.  Proportions vary radically, and so I have my client try on their lingerie bra and we talk about strap and band size and placement and I make notes in my studio log book.

Making a Pattern for the Belly Dance Bra Band

Once I know that the bra fits and has all the features necessary for the project, I begin working on the costume.  My first step is to remove the bra band and straps of the lingerie bra base.  Because dancing is a vigorous activity, I try to always remove flimsy components and stretchy lingerie bands and straps. Lingerie bras are, are often designed to accomplish the lift and shaping a belly dancer craves, but using comfortable materials that allow women to move with ease. Dancers have more intense structural requirements.  I add firm bra bands and straps to keep the bust line under control, completely covered, and securely strapped down.  When making the new pattern for a bra band, I like to use a manila folder for the job, tracing the outer C shape of the cup.  I like to make the bands 2-4” longer than a dancer needs to allow for overlap and potential future expansion.

Simple Straps

Perhaps the easiest part of the bra is constructing the straps.  I like to use a double thickness of Grosgrain ribbons machine stitched together.  I then wrap it like a package in the fashion fabric and proceed with embellishments.  Because my client is a restaurant performer, and wants to achieve maximum lift and shaping of the bust-line, she has chosen a halter style strap. If you have a larger or heavier bust-line, you may find halters are uncomfortable and a traditional strap placement, a V shape in the back, or even an X-back will take the pressure off your neck.  I prefer to hand sew the straps, wrapping them with the fashion fabric, folding the raw edge under and slip stitching with sturdy thread.

Machine Sewing the Belly Dance Bra Bands

For the structure of the band base, I like to use four layers of materials.  I begin with buckram as the inner core.  I use two layers of fusible heavy-duty pellon, which I iron onto both sides of the buckram to add strength and stability with a minimum amount of thickness.  I then reinforce the edges that might stretch with a row of grosgrain ribbon machine sewn onto the bands. Once the inner structure is completed, I wrap the fashion fabric around the base and hand sew into place.  Use whatever sewing stitch you find quick and sturdy for this location.  Once we completely line the project this area will not be seen.  In the image above you can see both bands at different stages of construction.  The bra band on the left is ready for covering with fashion fabric.  The bra band on the right is ready for hand sewing.

RULE OF THUMB – Keep your costume as “flat” as possible for as long as possible.  I like the ease of fitting and alteration that comes with having separate bands.  However, sometimes you will want to cover your bra and band at the same time to avoid a side-seam line.  In that situation, you would sew the band onto your cups and have a fitting to ensure the proper angle and length, and then sew the band onto the cup.  While this style makes for stylish, seamless construction, having the extra length can make embellishing the cups and band more cumbersome.

Because I find bras more exciting to make then belts, I like to set the bands aside and work on the belt bases next.  I’ll pick up with that process in the next post.

Happy Costuming & Delightful Dance
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 21, 2017

Designing a Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah Series
Step 1 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Planning the Design
Step 2 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Bra Bands and Straps – You’re Here!


Designing a Lavender Bedlah Ensemble – Part 1

Hello Gang!  During the month of March, I’m working on three costume projects.  The first project of the month, I’ve given the title Lavender Garden.  It’s a five-piece belly dance performance ensemble that includes a bedlah set composed of a bra and belt which are covered with lavender stretch velvet, purple and pink appliques, and sprinkled with sew-on rhinestones. In addition, there is also a backless halter dress and two coordinating skirts.  The entire project, except for the bra and the fabric for one of the skirts, is being constructed using left-over materials, vintage “from the stash” fabric, and items bought many years ago and stored for the perfect moment. Over the next three or four posts, I will share the development of this costume from concept to finished stage-worthy performance belly dance costume.

Lavender Garden Mood Board

Lavender and Purple floral bouquet mood board made using PicMonkey | Dawn Devine of Studio Davina -

I made this floral mood board digitally using the free software at

One of my strategies as a budget conscious designer is to shop creatively and strategically to build and maintain my stash.  I begin with broad, sweeping visual concepts, and then over time, when I see something that will fit with the color scheme and style of the project, I pick it up and add it to the project kit that fits in with my overall idea.  If I get the materials home, and they aren’t quite right, or seem imperfectEmbellished Bras - Front Cover, I still add them to one of the kits.  If they don’t fit, they get added to the Triage box for sorting at a future date when more items come together to create a project kit.

These kits will include all sorts of items.  This kit began in 2004 shortly after finishing the bra for the cover of the Embellished Bras book.  I had purchased far-far too many appliques, but not quite enough to make a second costume.  So they were the first elements added to the new kit.  Over time, I tucked in more appliques, jewelry components, rhinestones, fringe, and fabrics.  This kit was pretty full and ready to be turned into something magnificent!

The Client Pitch + Rough Sketch

When a continuing client comes to me and asks for a costume, and doesn’t particularly know where to begin, I will pull out some of these pre-planned kits to show them what is possible.  I like to share with them a mood board that catches the color story, texture, and vibe that I envision for the costume I intend to create from this kit.  Having all the materials together can help non-sewers imagine what a final costume will look like.

I will also do quick croquis sketch or two to give them an idea of the drape of the cloth, where embellishments will be placed.  This is where I get to share my design vision.  You don’t have to be a great sketch artist to do this.  Find a croquis, or fashion drawing figure, and print one out and draw right over the top of it. This eleimantes the stress of having to create the body proportions and form.  You can dive straight into the drawing of the costume.   For this quick sketch, I started with this line art from the book “Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage.”  Available on Amazon or Etsy.

When working with a customer, you can use this rough sketch to start discussions about color, shape, line, motifs, and any other feature of the costume you desire. When working on a costume for yourself, a sketch can help you identify the supplies and materials you might still need to get, and help you create a build list based on the needs of this particular costume.

I showed my client my “Lavender Garden” project kit. We spread out the fabric and all the materials and she chose to give it a go!  If I were working in a more formal atelier or bigger costume shop, I would have put together a presentation board and affixed swatches and examples of the rhinestones and sequins together.  Instead, I spread them out on a table, let my client touch and feel, and then took photos to document the items I have in mind.

Gathering the Materials and Supplies

Image of materials and supplies used in the creation of the Lavender Garden costume ensemble | Dawn Devine of Studio Davina -

Once I had met with my client, and she was onboard with the plan, she purchased a perfect lingerie bra to convert into a costume and I began work on the sewing part of the project.  The least glamorous part of a costume project is gathering all of the inner structure materials and supplies together.  While it’s fun to look at a luscious pile of rhinestones, beads, and appliques, it’s much less fun to gather up the buckram, interfacing, and grosgrain ribbon that we use to build the inner layer of the belt and bra straps.

Materials for the structure of a belly dance bra and belt set. Buckram, Heavy-weight non-woven fusible interfacing, grosgrain ribbon, and industrial strength hooks and eyes. | Dawn Devine of Studio Davina -

Now that I have all the materials at hand it’s time to work on the pattern for the belt, bra straps, and bra band.  We will continue on with the development of this costume in my next blog post.

Happy Costuming – Glorious Dancing,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March, 10, 2017 

Designing a Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah Series
Step 1 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – You’re Here!
Step 2 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Bra Bands and Straps 


March News and Notes from Studio Davina

Hello gang! Because there is currently so much happening here in my studio, I thought I would take a moment to let you all know what’s going on during the month of March, 2017.

“Free Shipping February” Etsy sale extended to March 5

I’m extending the February Sale on my Etsy store until Sunday March 5.  It’s “Free Shipping February” on all books and patterns on my store.  I very quickly ran out of my latest book, Zills: Music on Your Fingertips that I put together with photographer Alisha Westerfeld and Illustrator George Goncalves.   We ordered another batch and have restocked.  If you visited my store during my sale in the middle of February and was hoping to pick up a copy, we they are back in stock!  There are still a few patterns left, and the rest of my book collection as well.  Check out the sale on Etsy.

Lavander Costume on Instagram

Since I’m currently taking a break before diving into my next major book project, I’ve re-opened Studio Davina to work on some costuming for my ongoing clients who have been clamoring for new designs. Throughout the month of March and April, I’ll be working on some non-assiut ensembles.  It’s such a pleasure to be working with soft luxurious fabrics like this frosted lavender stretch velvet.

I am making this lavender bedlah set and matching dress during the first two weeks of march.  This is a “Use Your Stash” challenge project, and more than 90% of the garment was pulled from my closet!  If you are interested in following the progress of this costume, join me on Instagram for photos as I work.

When this costume is all done, I’ll share some of the in progress photos and the finished garment in a future blog post. If you are interested in following the progress of this costume as it unfolds, join me on Instagram for photos of the costume as I work. When it’s all done, I’ll share some of the in progress photos and the finished garment in a future blog post.  Here’s a link to my Instagram feed to take a peek.

April Showers bring Assiut Hair Flowers

While this may not come as a huge surprise if you’ve been following my blog post for quite some time, but I have a LOT of scraps of assiut cloth.  Over the next two months, I’ll be slowly working on transforming these abundant scraps into a garden of assiut hair flowers.  As I work on these little confections, I’ll be taking pictures to create a DIY post about how I use these small pieces to create lovely hair accessories.  I’ll be taking them to one of my favorite local events, Bay Area Belly hosted by Sudeep on Sunday, May 7 at Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City.  I’ll be sharing a booth there with my co-author Sara Shrapnell, and we’ll have our book stall set up to view our books in person, and pick up a signed copy.

Of course, if you are not in the Bay Area, I’ll be adding a collection of these assiut hair flowers to my Etsy store in April once I’ve constructed a pile of them!

I’m grateful to be busy, to have dancers who enjoy wearing my designs,
and for having the opportunity to share my love for costuming and dance with you. 

Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 2, 2017