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Assiut Belly Dance Gig Dress

I often talk to dancers who are looking for that perfect gig dress.  The perfect garment to wear to shows, parties, and events. The Ideal dress has to fit loosely, without any compression at the waist. Ideally, it should be dressy, give a great first impression. Extra points if the dress is easy to get in and out of, resists wrinkles, and is washable.  However, the main goal is to appear glamorous, completely pulled together, and expensive.

Alisha and Shalimar wearing assiut garments to a belly dance show.

Above: Photographer Alisha Westerfeld on left wears an assiut cocoon coat.
Shalimar on right wears a swing dress made of modern assiut.
Photo snapped at the Marrakesh in San Francisco.

Turquoise Assiut Dress on stand | Studio Davina - www.davina.usMaking an Assiut Dress

While we had a great time at the belly dance show that night, the amber-hued lights of the restaurant have impacted the color of the dress. The photo on the left gives a better idea of what the dress looks like in daylight. The key to making an effective assiut dress is to keep the design lines simple and let the imported hand-crafted fabric be the star.

Buying Modern Assiut

Often, the most difficult step in making a dress is finding a nice assiut shawl to work with. Search for all the major keyword variations of assiut, assuit, and tulle bi telli.  There are many dealers to choose from, so pick the best deal for you.  I always recommend using a credit card with buyer protection should something in the transaction goes awry.  As you shop, pay careful attention to the length of your piece. in an ideal world, your shawl would be double your back neck to hem measurement.  For the dress above, the shawl was about 4″ too short.  Consequently, I had to piece the shoulder line in order to get the desired look.

Lining and Notions

In addition to the assiut shawl, I choose to use an aqua-hued swimsuit style material to line the garment. This bouncy, comfortable, and easy to wash fabric offers a stretchy lining that allows the assiut to give and move but unlike the assiut, the lining will snap back to shape.  In addition to the lining, I purchased to finish the garment was a package of single-fold bias tape and a spool of thread.

MacCalls Pattern #M7432

Pick a Pattern

While my design was made from a customized pattern, it’s a very common style that virtually every commercial and indy pattern company offers.  Look for very simple lines that are sized for stretch fabric.  Avoid patterns with complicated features such as collars, darts, and unusual necklines.  If I were going to buy a pattern to make another dress of this style, I would pick up the McCall’s M7432.  However, if you already have a collection of patterns, remember to shop your stash before you go shopping.

Finish the neckline and arm openings with bias tape. Step one: Machine stitch the bias tape.

Cutting and Sewing

I always make a sample dress before I cut the final fabric.  For this turquoise dress, I made the test sample out of the lining fabric and Shalimar tried it on to ensure that the pattern fit. Even when working with a commercial pattern, a sample and test fit will allow you to fine-tune the fit and make design adjustments.  If your assiut shawl is too short to make a dress, this is the time when you will make a plan to extend the garment.  For this dress, I needed to add assiut at the shoulder line in order to make the pattern match on the sides of the dress. Photo Left: Prepping the bias tape for machine stitching.

Finish the neckline and arm openings with bias tape. Step Two: Fold bias tape to the inside. Press and pin, then hand-stitch.

Using your favorite sewing machine and a regular straight stitch, sew the dress together.  I made all my fit adjustments on the lining and then stitched the pieces together at the shoulder.  To keep lining and dress correctly aligned, I stay-stitched around the neck and armhole.  I used bias tape and a warm iron to press a curve into the tape as I pinned it to the outside of the dress.  Next, I machine stitched the bias tape.  I folded it to the inside and hand stitched the bias tape to the lining.  Photo Right:  Bia tape prepped and ready to hand stitch to the garment. 

Black assiut cocktail dress by Dawn Devine | Studio Davina

Above:  This assiut dress has a slight cap sleeve and since
the assiut panel was wider, it has a fuller hem. The front is lined with
bathing suit fabric and the back of the dress is solid black.  

Finishing Tips

Once your dress is lined and the shoulder and neck seam finished all that’s left is the hem.  For the best result, I like to hem the lining slightly shorter than the assiut to reduce the risk of it showing when the wearer is standing still.  In the aqua dress at the top, I elected not to hem the assiut, but rather cut it even and left it to swing free.  On the black dress, I hemmed the assiut at the bottom edge of the triangular border design.  My preference is to hand-hem through assiut designs to minimize the appearance of my sewing.

Final Thoughts

I love making these swing assiut cocktail dresses. If you are looking for inspiration for making an easy and comfortable assiut dress, I recommend checking out my “Assiut Garments” Pinterest board. If you’re contemplating making a dress and have any questions, join the conversation in the Studio Davina – Behind the Scenes Facebook Group.

Best of luck in all your costuming adventures!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
July 25, 2018

Belly dancer Poppy Maya wears an assiut cocktail dress. | Studio Davina

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