Assiut/Assuit General

Assiut Mask Project: Part 1 – Project Planning

Back in April, I started making cotton masks for my friends and friends here in the Bay Area. At that time, we had no idea how long we would need to wear these trendy fashion accessories.  I wrote a blog post about it and included a link to a pattern and some basic directions. Click on the photo to the right or read the past blog post here

However, as time has passed, it’s become clear that we will be wearing masks for quite some time and perhaps it’s time to glam it up a bit!  So I pulled out two bins of parts and pieces, scraps and off-cuts from past costuming projects.  The result, enough assiut scraps to make quite a few masks!

Making Assiut Masks

I recently shared a photo of a group of masks I made on commission. Several folks in social media noticed this lovely purple assiut mask.

First one, then a couple, and then many people have inquired if I have assiut masks for sale. After much thought, and knowing we will be wearing masks for a long time, I’ve decided to press ahead and take some mask commissions.

Over the next weeks, I’ll be taking you along on the process of planning and organizing a new product.  

Product Ideation

The first step is coming up with the idea. This is the first step for every project I create. This spring, as I watched the unfolding health crisis, I wanted to help in some small way, so I designed and made a mask pattern.  My goal was to made masks for my family and friends. But as I worked, I decided that to share the mask pattern with everyone. If you need to make a mask please give this pattern a try.  You can use as a starting point for creative exploration, to perfect their own cut and fit, and if you are inclined, to use to make your own masks for sale. I released my pattern to the public domain. You can find the pattern and a .pdf with basic directions. They are available for download here.

In a nutshell, here is the process:

  • Identify a Need – In this case, it’s cotton masks for health protection.
  • Design Research – How areother people making this product?
  • Draft a Pattern & make samples to perfect the fit.
  • Make a Test Batch, give to beta testers to get feedback.
  • Refine the Pattern – Use the feedback to perfect your final pattern.

Materials List

Now that I’ve decided to make a large batch of masks for sale, my next step is choosing the materials and supplies for the project. These are not “medical grade” masks, and offer the basic protection that 100% cotton masks can provide.

  • Assiut Cloth – Using Scraps from past costuming and sewing projects
  • Cotton Backing – This layer needs to be 100% cotton in a coordinating color
  • 18 or 20 gauge Wire – This wire will go over the bridge of the nose for a customized fit
  • 1/4″ Elastic – These masks are designed for over the ear wear
  • Coordinating Thread – Check to make sure that all colors are in stock

Inventory & Shopping List

After I figured out what fabric, supplies and notions I need to produce this product, I conduct an inventory.  The mission is to use as many supplies on hand to clear out my studio!  The only things I need are:

  • Cotton Backing – I need to pick up some colors I don’t have on hand and I’m choosing to shop at an independent local store – Eddies Quilting Bee.
  • Thread – I need two colors of thread that I don’t have on hand and I hope Eddies has the colors I need in stock, otherwise, it’s off to Joann’s
  • Wire – I have a lot on hand am not sure if I will go use my stash.  I’m leaving it on the list as a potential need.  If I do need this, I will look for a coupon and pick it up at Michaels.

Other things I need include a box of Thank You cards to use as my primary shipping method.  I can send a mask in a gift card for only 1 first class step with an additional .25 extra ounce stamp.  For the people who wanted to pick up a book at the same time, I already have mailers in my stash.

Calculating Pricing 

Once I have a list of the costs of materials, I work through a sample as a time test.  I use the product log that comes as part of the Studio Log.

I pay attention to how long it takes me to make several masks and I find the average time and mark it down to calculate my labor. Each mask takes me approximately 45 minutes to go from layout and cutting to ready to mail.  I calculated these masks on a $20 an hour rate, making my labor costs $15.

Since I’m using upcycled scraps of assiut, I’m not including that cost in production.  But I am including the cost of all the other basic supplies that I will need to purchase for the studio.

You can see that I’ve included in the “Expenses” section the shipping supplies.  I picked up a pack of 48 Thank You notes to ship individual masks.  And I’ve already got a bunch of stamps but I know I will run out and buy more.  When I am ready to purchase stamps, I’ll be sure to note that in the Product Log.

In the next post, I’ll share the next phases of this project!
Best of luck in all of your design projects,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
July 1, 2020

Assiut/Assuit General

Who’s That Girl in Assiut: Feiruz

Taheyya Kariokka | Studio Davina •

During the 1950’s, the Egyptian movie industry was obsessed with Hollywood style musicals. Egyptian filmmakers developed their own style of musicals with dramatic action taking pauses for traditional songs and dances. Directors created opportunities for musical by setting scenes in entertainment venues, outside during festivals, or at celebrations.

In this 1951 movie entitled Feiruz Hanem (Mr.s Feiruz), the Egyptian child star Feyrouz appears with belly dancer Taheyya Kariokka. In this scene, Feyrouz wears a beautiful assiut shawl draped over her head while she sings and plays the riq. Her traditional floral pattern dress is peeking out from under the shawl.

It makes my researcher’s heart skip a beat when I can locate a video clip that matches a movie promotional still like the one at left and below. If you are a fan of vintage Egyptian dance clips, I highly recommend checking out Vimeo and the feed of The Classic CaroVan.  There are dozens of fantastic movie excerpts to watch and enjoy.

Over the past few years, I’ve made a Vimeo playlist of both classic and more contemporary dance performances featuring costumes made from assiut. It makes a great jumping off point for your own assiut costume research.

Feiruz Hanem

Taheya Karioka and Fairouz Arteen (1951) from TheClassicCaroVan on Vimeo.

Taheyya Kariokka | Studio Davina •

Here’s another promotional still of Taheyya Kariokka

Are you interested in more information about this beautifully metal embroidered fabric? There’s a lot more history in my book, “The Cloth of Egypt: All About Assiut.”  You might also enjoy one of the other posts in the “Who’s that Girl in Assiut” series.  Including vintage film stars Vilma Banky and Lyda Borelli.

Good luck with all of your costuming adventures!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
November 9, 2018



Assiut/Assuit General

Assiut Cloth in Early 20th century Opera

In the early 20th century, costume designers chose assiut cloth operatic productions set in the Middle East.  Plays such as “Salome,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” and “Lakmé” featured exotic costumes and sets that evoked an imagined exotic opulence of these far-away places set in the distant past.

Opera singer Constance Collier as Cleopatra 1906 | Studio Davina •

Above: Constance Collier as Cleopatra, 1906

Assiut shawls started reaching Europe and America at the turn of the 20th century. Costume designers quickly adopted the cloth for use on the stage.  The gilded shimmer and shine of the foot-lights ignited the metal stitches epitomizing the wealth and standing of the characters. The cloth’s natural drape and flow made it an excellent choice for long body-skimming gowns. A knowledgeable audience would instantly recognize the fabric and accept the implied authenticity of the material. But above all, assiut was compelling to look at and evoked a standard of worldly taste that would appeal to a sophisticated world-traveled audience.

Above: Opera Singer Maria Jeritza c. 1910

Throughout the first quarter of the 20th century, Opera-goers enjoyed these orientalist themes.  But as their popularity expanded, vaudeville singers would pull individual songs from these high-brow productions to add a touch of class to their repertoire. Salome became such a popular and iconic figure to portray, that dancers would extract just the dance scene from Strauss’s opera to perform.  Sometimes it’s often difficult to separate the dancers from singers, just by looking at the surviving photos.  See some more of my Salome collection in this blog post.

Singer Lottie Collins c. 1912 | Studio Davina •

Above: Popular singer Lucia “Lottie” Collins as Salome, 1912

Both Maria Jeritza and Lucia “Lottie” Collins above wear costumes designed in the “Salome Style.”  This costume formula features a sheer skirt, circular bust plates, belt, and accessories made from pearls. This costume was so closely connected to the role of Salome, it’s easy to see these images and jump to the conclusion that these performers are dancers.  However, if you look carefully at Lottie above, you will see that she’s wearing a dance-preventing corset under her “pinks.”   Pinks were a full-body covering that would create the illusion of nudity under sheer costumes. To ensure the audience could see at a glance the performer was covered, pinks often didn’t match the performers’ skin.

Yvonne Gall as Herodiade | Studio Davina •

Above: French Opera Singer Yvonne Gall as Herodiade
For more information on Yvonne, check out this blog post

I look forward to catching an assiut clad “Cleo” or “Herodias” at a modern opera production. Until then, I will enjoy collecting postcards and ephemera.  Want to see more vintage images?  Check out this blog post “Actresses and Dancing Ladies” or “The Merry Widow.”

Happy Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
August 8, 2018


Assiut/Assuit Belly Dance General

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

Assiut/Assuit Belly Dance Costuming DIY General

Mixing Faux and Modern Assiut

Swirl is my informal performance group composed of my proteges and myself.  For our spring performance at HaflAdira in Willow Glen, CA, we put together a set of coordinating costumes using a combination of existing costume pieces, faux assiut, and modern assiut.  Here’s how these costumes came together.

Pulling From the Closet

Before we started costuming, we decided to do individual costume inventories.  Zemira had this gorgeous black “Bessie” skirt from the Fat Chance Bellydance studio. in her collection and this was the perfect opportunity to integrate into our trio.  Vakasha owned a Melodia “Mythica” skirt in the black and silver colorway.  I have a Melodia skirt in the same fabric but in the “Cleopatra” cut.  Since these three skirts coordinated beautifully, we decided to use these as our starting out point saving us time and money!

To make a complete a head to toe costume, we decided to unify the look by using matching body stockings.  Zemira and I already had these in our wardrobe and Vakasha picked up hers from Dahlal International.

Faux Assiut from Melodia Designs

It became clear that we were going to have to craft a trio of bras to out of the glorious Melodia faux assiut fabric.  As a team, we invested in an Infinity Scarf to be our sacrificial garment.  I took this tube and cut it apart.  There was enough fabric to create all three bras with a significant amount of cloth left over.

Zemira also bought an Infinity scarf to wear as a hip treatment over her solid black skirt. Since her scarf didn’t have fringe, I elected to use a similarly shaped piece of modern assiut to echo the shape.  Vakasha used a pair of V-shaped assiut triangles for her hip treatment, and when viewed together, they worked in visual harmony.

Custom Bras to Coordinate

To craft our faux assiut bras, we began with underwire and padded bras either from our wardrobes or new from the store.  I really feel that it’s important to get the bra that really works not only for your size and shape, but also to give you the coverage and support that you are happy with.  No two commercially made bras are the same, and the only way to find one that works for you is to go shopping and try on a lot of bras.

Once the bras were in my workbench, I pieced the faux assiut fabric onto the cups, to create three different styles.  Each bra is laid out symmetrically, from different parts of the assiut pattern.  Before I sew, I pin both cups into place to ensure that they match as closely as possible.  Then I hand sew the fabric into place.

Embellishing with Saroyan Coins

Once the faux assiut was appliqued onto the bra bases, we decided to pull some silver coins from our collections.  Vakasha had some leftover Saroyan silver “Nefertiti” coins left over from a previous project. I had some “Venus” coins and together we pooled our resources and used what we had to embellish all three bras. These coins are currently discontinued, but there’s a small quantity left on the Saroyan website.  If they spark your interest, be sure to head over there soon before they are completely gone.

These costumes are comfortable, stylish, and were actually quite affordable.  I was so happy that we shopped our wardrobes and worked together as a team to create these ensembles that we can wear together or alone.  I feel like I have a new capsule wardrobe that I can use as a base to create a variety of different looks.  I’m excited to experiment with different options in the future.

Do you like these costumes?  Check them out in action below.  And remember, if you go to YouTube, be sure to like it if you like it!

Now, I’ve gotta get back to the studio to make another costume!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Monday, June 11, 2018

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