Three days in the life of a belly dance costumer

Hello Gang,

WHEW – have you ever had weekends that just seemed to be all work?  Well, I’ve just come off a weekend just like that!  Although it’s been a lot of work, it’s also been a heck of a lot of fun too!  Because I’m self-employed, I try to work 4 long days and take three days to off to R&R.  Loads of people ask me what I do and how I manage my time, so here’s a peek into my past three days.

Friday: Admin Work & 2 Customers

Every morning I spend quality time in front of my computer.  I try to start my day around 9 am, and keep a similar morning routine to give my day shape and help me keep focused on the details of running a business.  Bills to pay?  Check.  Books and products to ship?  Check.  So my morning started with answering email, checking social media, prepping photos and advertising my latest blog post.

Below: Top Left – I Made a square image of Zemira for Instagram to share last Thursday’s blog post using the Layout app on my phone.  There were a few questions through my Etsy store that needed answering and some listings to update.  I made a note that next week I have to rewrite my Announcement. Then I spent some time on my favorite website, Pinterest, adding some pictures to my boards.  After that, I cleared my work table off and set up my kit so I could do some sewing.

Customer 1 – Azura’s Costume Alteration

In the afternoon, I had two meetings scheduled with a pair of glamorous Bay Area belly dancers.   First up on the schedule was a repair job on a costume rehab project I did earlier in the spring. This berry-hued beauty was a modern bedlah set with a bra and embellished skirt.  I took this bra from a full B/C cup, to an ample E or F. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what size it is now because I built the bra to custom fit my dancer.

I put a wire on the upper, inside edge of the bra cup, to support the upper edge.  But after a few wearings, this wire was getting a little pokey!  I opened up the lining and reinforced the edges, and gave them a curl so they won’t poke.  I stitched down the lining back down and she is now ready to take the stage again, perhaps as soon as next weekend!  I did the repair in about 40 minutes while my client waited.

Above: Before and After Bra Renovation
Below: Bay area belly dancer Azura performing at Hafla Adira hosted by Adira Dance and Costume.

Customer 2 – Shalimar’s Pink Rhinestone Bedlah Finished

I’ve spent nearly 20 hours working on this belly dance bedlah set.  It has nearly 600 rhinestones individually stitching down rhinestones between undulating rows of rhinestone chain.  My client, Shalimar, will be debuting this costume next week, so it needed to be perfectly fitted and finished this weekend.  Unfortunately, we experienced style “drift” and the bra and belt no longer coordinated with the skirt.  So, I’ll be making a new and different skirt this week.  Her backup plan is to debut this bedlah with a white skirt.  Later on, I’ll whip up a second bedlah set to coordinate with the orphan skirt.

Saturday Morning: Cleaning the Sewing Room

Once I complete a big costume project, I spend some quality time cleaning up my studio and sewing room. My sewing room was a PIT.  It hadn’t been really tidied up for the past three months of intensive design work.  I decided to roll up my sleeves and dive into this massive cleaning project.  I’m about 1/3 of the way through and after a day-long blast, I’ll be finishing up in hour-long blasts throughout this week.

Below – Sewing Room viewed from the door.  There’s a guest bed under that pile.  On the right, you can see the before and after of my craft bench.  As of this moment, my bed is almost clear and I have another table not shown that is still a tragic pile.

Sunday: Makeup Video and Belly Dance Cheer Team

My co-author Sara Shrapnell organized a “cheer team” to entertain, pose for pictures, and cheer on the walkers at a fund-raising lake walk for the organization Boldly Me.  A group of dancers converged at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, CA.

Since I was putting on a full-face of belly dance makeup, I decided to film a FaceBook live of me putting on what my hubby calls my “Belly Drag.”

The day was beautiful, the scenery was gorgeous and we spent the morning bouncing around in the sunshine. Although we were simply told to dress modestly, we all arrived wearing shades of turquoise, blue, and purple with pops of gold and red.  The photo below of Sara and tribe was taken on someone else’s phone by our spotter Poppy Maya.

The best part about this event was that I got to see some of my work in action!  There is nothing more gratifying than to show up at an event and I get to enjoy seeing a dancer wearing costume pieces I’ve made.  On the left is belly dancer/roller derby queen Demmalicious wearing a turquoise princess-line dress with a simple soft hip wrap.  Sara on my right is paired a red stretch-velvet dress with a super quick and affordable “Made in a weekend” bra and belt set.  We made these pieces for our book, “Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage.”  It was great to see these pieces out and about again!

WHEW!  What a jam-packed three days!  Costuming, cleaning, dancing and finally some quality couch time with a book!  I spent the rest of Sunday working on edits for the next book, “Color Theory with Pencils and Mandalas” which accompanies one of my fashion design classes. I’m going to be porting the class into digital form in the coming months.  You can see me below, happy to have my eyelashes off, in comfy clothes, but taking a breather before heading into the shower.

And though I told myself I would take today off, yet here I am writing this old-school blog post. I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my world.  I hope you have a great week!

Happy Costuming & Delicious Dance
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Sept. 18, 2017





Working with Egyptian Fringe

One of the most glamorous, sparkly, and shimmy enhancing costuming elements is Egyptian beaded fringe.  This sparkly design element is composed of glass rocaille or seed beads suspended on a thick thread from a top rope. The strands are closely packed together, creating a shimmering wall of color.  This fringe can also be cut apart and used as clusters or even tassels around a costume.  The image at the right is the glamorous Bay Area belly dancer Adriana wearing an assiut bra with an Egyptian fringe cluster at the center front.

Egyptian fringe is a handcrafted item, that is generally available in approximately meter-long pieces or in matched sets.  It comes in some basic lengths such as 4″, 6″ and 8″ length drops. Egyptian fringe can be a single colored bead and length like the black hank below top left.  It’s also available with specialty beads, like the gold drops on the tips of the peacock blue iridescent fringe bottom right.

Geometric patterns such as squares and stripes like the black and silver top right.  V shaped sets are also available like the burgundy and gold pictured below right.  Sets often include three V-shaped pieces, one for the front and back of your belt, and one for the bra sometimes with an additional length of short fringe to bridge the gaps between the front and back, or to add to accessories for a cohesive look.

Prepping Egyptian Fringe

One of the ways to make fringe last longer is to seal the knots with glue. When cutting meters into smaller parts for use around a costume, adding glue prior to cutting is essential to prevent losing strands after the cut.  Dabbing a bit of glue on the knotted ends of each strand may sound like a lot of extra work, but it can add years to the lifespan of your beaded fringe.  I am currently using Aleene’s Fabric Fusion which comes in a pen form for precise application, or in bottle form which is a less expensive choice.

Sourcing Egyptian Fringe

I prefer to buy my fringe in person at belly dance events.  When I don’t have ready access to an event but need to get a costume done, I will reach out to trusted dealers who carry top quality fringe directly from the source.

Scheherezade Imports – Although the website has a vintage look, it doesn’t begin to represent the quality and quantity of stock that Lucy, aka Scheherezade has available in stock.  I like to message her using her website with my specific request, and she always responds promptly. Visit their website.

Dahlal International – This beautiful website focusses primarily on ready-made costumes, but has a small, but potent, section on specialty belly dance costume making materials.  I have made many purchases from Dahlal, and have never been dissatisfied with the quality of the products, service, and shipping. Visit their website.

Turquoise International – While I have never ordered from the Turquoise website, I have purchased a lot of beaded fringe from Ali, the proprietor, in person at Rakksah West.  However, I can attest to the quality of their fringe. Visit their website.

Of course, you can find Egyptian fringe available on Etsy, eBay and through specialty dealers worldwide.  Search for the color and length that you prefer, and you will find plenty of sources.

Design Tip:  In the photo above, Zemira aka Alisha Westerfeld, is wearing an imported bedlah, or bra and belt set made with a variety of colors of Egyptian fringe.  You can get this effect by cutting several colors of fringe into pieces and sewing them together and putting them to your costume.

Add Dealers to your Source Book

No matter how you source your fringe, I highly recommend establishing a good relationship with your favorite dealers.  They can help you source unusual colors, lengths, shapes, and also share with you good deals when they get ahold of them.  Be sure to sign up for mailing lists and pay attention to annual sale dates.

As you make more and more costumes, I always recommend that you create for yourself a personal source book where you collect the names and contact information about your preferred dealers.  Keeping track of who’s reliable, professional, and courteous is important information to have on hand when you’re gathering materials for making costumes.

Above Image: Notice the dab of glue placed on the fringe prior to cutting.

Now I’ve gotta run and hand-sew a bunch of fringe onto this belt!   If you have any more questions about Egyptian fringe, how to handle and use it, please drop me a line via email and I’ll be happy to answer any questions for you! Reach me at and include “re: Egyptian fringe question” in the subject line.  Alternately, you if you are a FaceBook user, you can join the conversation over in the Studio Davina group.

Happy Costuming and Delicious Dance!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Sept. 14, 2017




Style File Rides Again

My booklet, Style File, has been out of print for some time.  Today, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve got it for sale on Etsy as a digital download.  Originally published in 2002 to serve as a field guide for belly dance costumes.  At the time, I was teaching two dance classes a week, and I wanted to put together a handy 48-page booklet that a novice dancer could take to an event to help them identify different styles of belly dance costuming.  My goal was to create a small, portable book, that would serve as a jumping off point for discussions about costuming with my fellow belly dance enthusiasts.

Style File Digital Download on Etsy

The original Style File would also serve as a jumping off point for discussions about costuming and researching ethnographic styles.  Over the last 20 years, I’ve used this handy little book as a text for several different workshops about belly dance costuming and style.  I have included a glossary of terms and a small reading list to get a student started with their own personal research.

To facilitate printing, we reformatted the booklet into an 8.5″ by 11″ inch size. This is also easily adjusted to an A4 size in your printer settings.  Many of my students have enjoyed using it as a coloring book, and now you can print out images that interest you to experiment with color, pattern, and texture.  It is also conveniently sized to punch and store in a standard 3-ring binder to use for future reference.

Style File Digital Download on Etsy

Although there have been many stylistic changes from year to year and season to season, Style File presents the core ideas and main styles that continue to dominate the costuming of belly dance.

Happy Costuming & Delicious Dance!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Sept. 7, 2017