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Fusion Belly Dance Costume – Upgrading Coins

Belly Dance Fusion Costume: Coin and Drop UpgradeLast summer, I had the pleasure of working on one of my costumes. This vintage cream bedlah set is lovely, and I was very pleased with the final results. But after seeing it completed and on the dancer, I realized that it needed more oomph in the caboose area!

After a talk with the new owner, we decided to put some larger jewelry components on the belt to enhance her dance. 

to perform an upgrade of the coins and jewelry pieces on the back of the belt. In this blog post, I’ll share with you the steps in this process in case you are considering

Costume Evolutions – Choosing to Alter

The process of design begins with an impulse or desire to make a change. Before you just dive in and start cutting your old coins and pieces off, it’s a good idea to take the first few steps in the design process. Here are a few questions to answer before you begin your redesign project: 

  1. What is your goal? Define your goals, your budget, and your time right at the beginning so you can use these end goals to help define your design brief.
  2. Are you trying to improve a costume’s look or fit?  Will you be simply adjusting the shape to fit? Will you need to allow time to add or remove embellishments?
  3. Do you have the materials and supplies? Figure out what you will need to complete the project and pick up those items before you start ripping out stitches.
  4. Do you have the skills? Once you have figured out the parameters of your project, set a budget, and have sourced materials, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions. Do I have the skills to complete this project? Do I have the speed to get this project done on a deadline? If you need to study and learn some new methods, be sure to factor that time into your timeline. 
  5. What is your timeline? It’s critical to have a good understanding of how fast you can complete the project. Work backward from your due date and use realistic time estimates for each phase of the design process. Do you know how fast you sew? Do some time trials to figure it out.

Sourcing Supplies: Finding Coins and Jewelry Components

Once you’ve made the decision to alter or upgrade your costume, your next mission is to source some new jewelry coins and jewelry components. Sourcing specialty belly dance costuming supplies is a fun pursuit but can get frustrating if you are working on a deadline. Always start by investigating your own stash to see if you have supplies on hand. 

If you don’t have what you need on hand, begin by asking your friends in dance first to see what’s available locally in the stashes of your colleagues in dance and costuming. Then, If you need to expand your search, be sure to check with your favorite vendors, before expanding to general internet shopping sites such as Etsy and eBay. For tribal supplies, I always start by asking Tribal Bazaar, for beaded fringe, my go-to source is Scheherezade Imports. But I also always check at which gets in a wide variety of costuming styles and price points.  Check out this blog post on treasure hunting with Tribal Bazaar

Fusion Belly Dance

Plan and Execute the Deconstruction

Once you’ve sourced your supplies and have them on hand, it’s time to move forward with the project. But before you do any cutting, it’s important to carefully examine the existing construction. 

Find a good light, lean in, and take a really good look at your piece. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How were these coins and jewelry pieces applied?
  • Can you see the stitches? 
  • Will you have to reinforce parts before you cut?

Once you know how the original designer applied these embellishments, you can plan your approach to remove the old pieces. In this case, I was the original costumer, and I knew that I had applied this row of coins on a cord. This method provides more support for the coins and is much faster to apply than stitching each coin on individually.

Cutting the Cord

To perform this particular upgrade, I had two choices. I could either remove all the coins from the back, taking off the original cord and all the coins. 

However, time is always of the essence, so I decided to save the sewing time by cutting the cord. First, I reinforce with stitching before I cut it, so the cut end stays put. I then unpick the stitches to release the cord and the embellishments. Next, I slide off the coins and jewelry components and then clean up the cut thread pieces.

Position, Pin, & Sew

Once all the new elements are in place, I pin everything in place and hand sew the cord back into place. When sewing heavy embellishments, I choose to use heavy-duty thread. it’s white upholstery thread, and a whip stitch that I knot on the back after every stitch. If the thread should break, the dancer might lose a piece, but not the whole row.

Take it for a Test Drive

Once you’ve completed any alteration, it’s time to get dressed up and dance! Taking your costume for a serious test drive will ensure that any loose threads, uncompleted areas, or fitting issues like tightness and looseness happen before you hit the stage. If you dance with props, be sure to handle your props too. You never know when your veil, sword, or tray might catch or bang against your new embellishments. So be sure to get into full costume and use your preferred props.

Document Your Work

When your project is finished, be sure to document your “after.” I personally like to do both flatlays, dress form, and model shots so I have a variety for my own archive and to share in social media.

 I hope you find this method useful and perhaps it will save you some time in your costuming workflow in the future. Always keep in mind that there’s more than one way, to sew the right way!

Happy Dance & Costuming, 
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 28, 2022

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