Golden Goddess Belly Dance Costume – part 2 – Sketches and Illustrations

This is part two of a multi-part series where I share the design and construction process for a glamorous show-girl style costume I’m calling the “Golden Goddess.”  If you haven’t checked out part 1, you might want to go here to start this series from the beginning.  To start at the beginning of this series click here.

The Design Process

Let’s get real.  Planning, budgeting, sourcing, and organization aren’t the most glamorous parts of costume creation.  So before we can get to the second fitting stage where we have a lovely garment, I need to step through the dull, yet essential planning and prep steps.

Set up Project Boxes

The project boxes are where I stash all the materials and supplies as I source them.  Every project gets at least one box. However, due to the complexity of the design, this project has two boxes.  One holds the fabrics including the cotton lining, micro-sequin, passementerie lace for the bedlah set.  The materials box also contains the skirt’s accent fabric, a polyester mesh with gold polka dots.

This project also requires smaller embellishment box that holds all of the surface embellishments.  For this costume, there’s sew-on rhinestones, sequin-on-string, and rhinestone chain in various sizes. At the end of each project, I sort the leftover materials into their proper storage locations leaving this box free for the next costume.  I think I’ve had this flip-top shoebox for more than 20 years and have used it for hundreds of projects.

Revise the Design

While it’s good to have a preliminary design when you are planning the costume, it’s just the first drawing. While you might have a great concept for the style, cut, and embellishment of your costume, you might find it difficult to source the materials needed to fully realize your design.

For this costume, we selected materials and supplies from various places both locally and via mail order from a variety of websites.  Once the materials have been gathered, it’s time to spread them out and see if the initial design will work.  In this case, I needed to do a redesign, as the large square rhinestones were proportionally too big for my initial design.

In the picture at right, you can see my preliminary costume sketch on the top right of the page.  But once all of the materials were in my hands, I realized that I need to make some adjustments.  The adjusted costume is on the bottom left. We also looked at the budget and our materials and decided to simplify the design.  This is a page from my studio log book that I use to record my project notes.

Communicating with Clients

I use my studio log book to hold all my project notes, measurements, and rough sketches. This is often quite raw and not very visually appealing. So when I’m working with a client, I use a Project Planner form. This document is used for costume planning.

On this document, I include notes about my dancer’s needs, a sketch of the garment, a list of materials and supplies, and preliminary dates for the first, second, and final fittings.   It’s important at this stage of the game to communicate openly and transparently with your client and establish a timeline for the project. You might look at this form and wonder where the financial information is located.  I use a good old fashioned two-part receipt book for financial info.  The customer will get one half, and I will keep the other.   I always date the Project Planner sheet, scan it, and give my client a copy, and put the original in a client binder. If you like this form, I sell it as part of my Studio Log & Planner printable on

Create the Build List

Each and every costume I build is unique, so I always make sure to make a build list or order of construction for the project. The build list steps through the process and workflow of costume creation. From the abstract tasks of designing a costume with a sketch and flat illustration to the more concrete tasks like making the pattern or sewing a seam, the build list helps me keep track of what still needs to be done and where I am in the project.

I refer to the build list before each work session so that I keep on track. Checking off the steps is very satisfying and keeps me on track. Sometimes I realize that I’ve missed something because it’s on the build list and not checked off.  If you look carefully at this list, you will see that I completely disregarded constructing the straps. As I took a photo for this blog post, I realized I had missed them.  I went into the fitting with the client missing straps, so we did the fitting with plain grosgrain ribbon. While this isn’t a great tragedy, it did impact how the costume looked at the time of the fitting!

Although I picked up my current to do notebook in the UK, I have in the past used a similar one like this.  However, any notebook will work for this organization method.

Make a “Realistic” schedule

How fast do you sew?  After working on for clients, friends, family, and on my own projects for more than 25 years, I’ve got a good idea of how fast I can sew.  But I’m limited in how many hours a day I can physically maintain my peak performance sewing.

For this ensemble, I’m spending 16 hours on the bra and belt, and 5 hours on the skirt.  However, though you might look at those numbers and think, “Wow, that can be done in a week!” I have to consider my limited “per-day” requirement.  So I’m allowing a full month to finish this entire ensemble.

Another component of scheduling is planning client meetings. When I’m working with clients, we schedule three meetings. There’s an initial consultation, a first fitting, and a second fitting. We have already had our initial meeting where we decided on a budget and style.  The First fitting will happen next week.  Before the first fitting, I need to have all of the components of the bra and belt finished for this try-on.  If there are any design changes or adjustments necessary, this is the time we make those choices and adjust the production schedule.

Tracking for Business

I use a vertical planner as a time tracker and business log.  As you can see in the image above, when I am working on one or more sewing projects, I assign that project a color.  Then when I’m working on the costume, I log it in my book.  I use a waterproof pen so I can go over the words with a highlighter. Using this system, I can see at a glance how many hours I’ve worked on sewing projects.  If I have more than one project under construction, I will choose a different color highlighter.  Since I charge by the hour, keeping accurate track of my billable hours is essential for me to accurately bill my color.  I’ve been using the Passion Planner for the past several years, but you can find loads of vertical planners and if I were to switch to another brand, I might consider this planner or this one.

If you have any questions about how I track and log my sewing projects, come join the conversation.  I have an active FaceBook group where you can ask questions, share sewing and costuming project, and commiserate over sewing projects.

Happy Costuming,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
February 25, 2019

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Next Post in this series – Coming Soon

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.