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Building Firm Belly Dance Bra Bands

One of the most frequently asked questions over on my sewing circle on Facebook is, “How do I make a solid non-stretch belly dance bra band?”  Because this question has come up so many times, I thought I would take a moment to share my current method, materials, and techniques.

Studio Davina Behind The SeamsFacebook Group 

Back in November of 2017, I wrote a blog post listing all the reasons why I prefer to use a solid, non-stretching bra band in my higher-end costumes.  While it isn’t a necessity to swap out a stretchy lingerie-style bra band, they do have some limitations.  Read “Musing on Embellished Bra Brands & Straps  

Since that post, I’ve had folks ask me about the construction of my firm bra bands.  So without further ado, let’s go.

Three-Part Bra Band Structure

While there are many materials and supplies you can choose for building your bra band, there are three categories of materials that I believe are essential for creating a garment that will stand the test of time.

Supporting Layer – This is the heaviest duty layer, the one that provides the strength and resiliency to stand up to the pressures and forces of rigorous physical movement.  This layer should be a sturdy, thick fabric with a minimum of stretch.  I’ve used a wide variety of materials from heavy-weight denim, cotton canvas, pant-weight twill to recycled jeans and up-cycled woven upholstery fabric.   Here at Studio Davina, we are currently using mid-weight buckram.  If the costume will have a lot of heavyweight embellishments like chain and coin, I will use two layers.  See it here at Joann Fabrics – Buckram Fabric 

Padding Layer – This is composed of either one or two layers of a fabric that will add a thickness to the band to make the costume more comfortable to wear and add gravitas to the finished garment. I prefer to use non-stretch materials, but since this layer is supported, if the fabric has a little give, that’s okay.  However, very stretchy fabrics might sag away from the inner structure, so use your best judgment.  In the past, I’ve used fleece, denim, corduroy, leftover velvet or velveteen from previous projects, and even up-cycled towels.  Today, we stock Pellon TP971 Fusible Thermolam. See it here at Joann Fabrics – Thermolam 

Edge Reinforcement – Once I’ve bonded or stitched together the supporting layer and the padding layer, I reinforce the edges of the band to prevent stretch.  This extra step will also help prevent the edge of the costume from rolling, giving extra support for the dancer.  The bra will lay smoother and flatter across the back. There are several ways to reinforce edges.  When I was first learning my craft, we added 16 or 18 gauge wire to all the edges of the costume.  I still use wire if I’m doing a fancy cut edge.  However, I’ve found that grosgrain ribbon will help minimize stretch and is far more comfortable for the dancer.  It also saves a lot of time because I can quickly stitch it into place by machine.  I like to buy wire and grosgrain from Amazon.com here is what I purchased last time I restocked. Wire and Grosgrain Ribbon on Amazon.

Bra Band Order of Construction

To create the supporting sandwich, I always follow the same order of construction.

  • Cut out all the parts
  • Fuse or Stitch interfacing to the buckram
  • Machine stitch grosgrain ribbon

Once the band is complete, your design will dictate how you will proceed forward with your project.  Some designs will call for a single piece of fabric that covers the bra cup and band seamlessly, and for those designs, you will sew the band to the bra before you cover with your fashion fabric.

If you want your bras to have the most adjustability, you can design the bra and band as two separate pieces.  For those designs, you will cover the bra cups and bra bands individually and then sew them together as the next step.  This makes it easier for future owners of the costume to make fitting adjustments.

Once the bands are completed, I always sew the bra bands to the bra cups by hand using upholstery grade thread. I use a big whip-stitch that wraps around the underwire of the cup for the sturdiest results.

And that’s what’s inside of my firm belly dance bra bands!

Best of luck on all of your costume making adventures!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 6, 2018

 

 

 

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