Turquoise Student-Grade Belly Dance Bra
As we finish up the last few segments of the final chapter of our upcoming book, Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage, I’ve been making a few extra “samples” of simple and affordable student performer quality bras. Because I’m strategic, I purchased base bras that are the size of one of my co-authors, Sara Shrapnell, so perhaps these samples will one day take the stage, even if it’s just an informal student hafla.
I like to divide my my costuming into three levels of production. I call them “Student,” “Lifestyler,” and “Professional.” Student grade costumes, in general have the least bra transformation, keeping the straps and band intact, and look like what they are, an embellished lingerie bra. Many purists find this style to be unacceptable because the bra hasn’t been transformed enough. But the modern reality is that many students want to make simple, quick and affordable costumes to wear to informal performances. The student grade bra is designed to be beautiful for a few wearings in student shows and community events.
In the photo below, you can see that I used two rows of this sari trim from India. When working on a larger bra, this is a great way to cover the upper-cup, and take the trim to what I call the “drop zone.” This is that place on the bra where the cup curves under. It is the ideal space to suspend fringe, coins, and jewelry components allowing them to swing freely. I like to sew with a long milliners needles from the company John James. They are more expensive that many, but worth it if you’re doing a lot of hand sewing.
A “Professional” grade costume is just what you would expect. It’s a firm, solid garment that keeps everything in place and is durable enough to stand up to the rigors of long, vigorous performances and the endless packing and unpacking of the pro-dancer’s life. There is a lot of structure to the professional bra band, the straps and the cups that takes a lot more time and materials to build a sturdy base. Then over the top of this base, are the time and expense of layers of embellishments that give the costume style. Professional grade is a balance between tough and durable, and beautiful.
I personally use a lot of jewelry in my designs. As you can see in the close-up photo below, we’ve chosen a pair of very affordable knock-off India Arts necklaces. For a pro-quality costume, I might choose more culturally specific jewelry components or use more upscale and sparkly rhinestone pieces. I like to use very long, quilting pins to weave in and out of the chain
The “Lifestyler” grade is geared for ladies who want a costume that is beautiful and durable, yet comfortable. These costumes frequently will use the original bra band, but covered to resemble a professional quality bra. Often, bras in this category will feature firmer, more professional straps and more opulent embellishments. Lifestyler grade costumes are built to last, but with comfort and budget in mind.
For this turquoise bra, we wanted to use up all the materials, so we took the chains from the two necklaces along with the hooks, and created a double swag tummy accent. I reached into my jar of bits and pieces, and pulled out a handful of additional coins left over from a past project. These hooks can go into the chain at any place the owner prefers. I always have two pairs of smooth pliers handy to open and close jump rings and chain loops.
In Chapter 10 of Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage, we present some quick and affordable student-grade costumes to inspire the crafty dancers who want to dip their toe into the process of belly dance costuming. This turquoise bra would fall into the “Student” category here at Studio Davina. Sadly, only one photo of this bra made it into the book. Luckily I have these photos to share that might inspire your next costume.
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
September 19, 2016