Belly Dance Costuming DIY General

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!
Step 3 – Lavender Belly Dance Bedlah – Belt Base and Bra Covering 

By Davina

Davina ~ Dawn Devine is a belly dance costume designer, dance instructor and author of more than a dozen publications on Middle Eastern dance.