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Byzantium Collection

Hiya-Chaiya wearing a blue mirror and coin Byzantium bra by DavinaThis weekend I went to an event, a hafla hosted by Adira, of Adira Dance and Costume in Willow Glen, CA.  Once a month throughout the summer, Adira transformer her parking lot into a performance space, and invites dancers from all across Northern California to come and dance.  This Saturday, it was my turn, and I took the stage as one half of a duet called “Swirl,” the name I use for all of my group dancing experiences.  Zemira, aka Alisha Westerfeld, my co-author and photographer on Cloth of Egypt.

Well, lo-and-behold, I spied one of my costume pieces!  Alisha got a snap of dancer Hiya-Chaiya, performing with the group House of Inanna.  This bra was part of the Byzantium line of ready-to-wear bra and belts that I started in 2001. I don’t even know how many of these I made!  But here are a few of my favorite pictures of Byzantium bras.

Indian Ribbon, copper coins, and chainette fringe Byzantium bra.Before Istanbul was Constantinople, it was called Byzantium, and I took this name for this collection of easy-to-wear costumes.  The style is tribal fusion, a multicultural blend of textiles, coins, and jewelry components from along the caravan routes of the spice routes and along the silk road of Asia and North Africa.  Ribbons from India, jewelry from Morocco, Coins from Iran, all came together to form these costumes.  My personal mission was to make garments that would hold up to the rigorous life of dancing outdoors at festivals, historic events, on the beaches and around the campfires.  They were sturdy, made from materials that could be hand washed and laid out to dry, ready for the next performance.

Molly and Zemira wearing Byzantium bras designed by DavinaI adored dancing at Renaissance festivals and other living history presentations. At a festival, you might have to wear your costume for 4, 6 or even 8 hours in a row, longer than you would wear a spangled glam costume for a restaurant.  They need to be flexible, and have give.  And, they need to be made from period inspired materials.

Of course, a modern commercial bra isn’t historical by ANY stretch of the imagination, so covering it up with embellishments, and wearing it under a dress, vest, or coat, a period impression is created, without sacrificing modern comfort.  Like these two lovelies on the left, Mollie and Alisha wearing Byzantium bras paired with wash-and-wear cotton tunics.  Of course, a few were so lusciously embellished that they were stage-worthy like the costume below, worn by San Francisco/Bay Area pro dancer Setareh.

Thanks for joining me on this little blast from the past!

Dawn Devine ~ Davina
August 17, 2015

Setareh in pink Byzantium - Photo by Carl Sermon

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