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Golden Goddess Belly Dance Costume part 3 – Building the Structure

Take Measurements

Once I’ve collected all the materials and supplies together, I reconnect with my customer for a fresh set of measurements. I also take any specialty measurements that are unique to this particular costume. I use a ready-made client measurement sheet that I label and date.

When I’m finished with the project the measurement chart gets added to my client binder.  This is especially important if it’s been more than three months.  Bodies change through time, so having a fresh accurate set of measurements is essential for getting the best fit.  Studio Log on Etsy

Make the Patterns

The next step in the process is to make the patterns for all of the components of the costume.  For this bedlah set, there are 7 parts to the costume:

  • Bra Cups
  • Bra Straps
  • Bra Bands
  • Belt Front
  • Belt Back

For each of these components, I choose the best approach for making patterns for these components.  In the greater world of fashion and costume design, there are only three main methods for making patterns: drafting, draping, and flat pattern.

Flat Pattern Method for the Belt

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Shalimar before, and I have a good belt pattern.  I like to use manila file folders for their perfect combination of durability and affordability. I create a basic belt pattern using a sloper pattern like the Butterick B5627 for ladies and Butterick B5628 for women’s sizes.

The nice part about using manila file folders is that I then easily store the pattern pieces because they have built-in folds that make them convenient for storage.  Active customer patterns I keep in a filing system.  For customers I work with infrequently, I store their pattern pieces in a large envelope.

Drafting Method for the Bra Band

When it comes to the bra band, I draft the pattern using a clothing ruler.  (I recommend investing in an affordable fashion curve set like this one to experiment with before buying more expensive curves. The curve picture is long discontinued.)

Every commercial bra is completely different so I make a fresh new bra band pattern for each project.

Draping Method for the Cups

My key to having beautifully covered bra is to drape a pattern for each belly dance costume.  For this costume, I used a very simple draping technique like the one I demonstrate in my book “Embellished Bras.”  If you haven’t gotten a copy of this book, you can pick one up directly from me on Etsy or on Amazon.

Build The Structure

One of the key things that separate costume construction from simple household sewing is the high level of embellishment and the durability of the inner structure.  I break down the costume construction process into three major phases:  Structure, Embellishments, and Finishing.  Between each of these sewing stages, I plan a fitting with my client to ensure that the costume fits, and we’re moving in the right direction.

I use the same method of construction for the bra band and I keep the materials and supplies in stock.  To keep the construction costs down, I buy wholesale in bulk and that way I can pass on the savings to my clients.  These are the layers of the inner structure.

  • Buckram – This is a cotton mesh that’s impregnated with starch to make a stiff layer that will support the costume, but also mold to the body of the dancer over time.  I like to buy this in the 10yd bolt.
  • Grosgrain Ribbon – Because the buckram will stretch, I like to use grosgrain ribbon to help control the shape of the costume.  This increases the durability and longevity of the costume. I keep white and black in stock and it saves a ton of money buying it by the spool over purchasing it by the yard in your local fabric store. I also buy discontinued colors when I have the opportunity to save even more!
  • Thickening Layer – Depending on the project I will choose a different product.  Some of my favorites are to use Heat’n’Bond Fusible Fleece which adds a little bit of loft, up to using sew-on white fleece.

I use a combination of sewing and fusing to create the bra bands and belt structure.  Last year I wrote a blog post that has some photos of this structure from a previous costuming project.  READ: “Building Firm Belly Dance Bra Bands.”

Making Straps

For the bra straps, I take a very simple construction route.  I simply use two layers of grosgrain ribbon stitched together.  Because I like to change up the width of the straps on for my designs, I also keep narrower and wider versions of grosgrain ribbon for variations.

Fit the Costume – Client Meeting Three

Next, I schedule a fitting with my client for a fitting after the inner structure is built.  If there are changes that need to be made in fit, this is the time to adjust. My goal is to always have the structure fit perfectly before I cut into my expensive embellishment fabric.

After this fitting, I make any essential fitting adjustments and prep the costume for the next phase of construction.

If you have any questions about the design and construction process, come join the conversation on FaceBook in my Studio Davina Group.

Next week – my favorite part – embellishing the costume!

Happy Dance and Costume,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 5, 2019 

Golden Goddess Series

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