Belly Dance Costuming DIY Design General

Costume Design Approach: Line and Cluster

There are many strategies for designing belly dance costume bra and belt sets.  One design approach I use often I like to call the “Line and Cluster.”  In this technique, I begin with a flexible, but linear design element, such as rope, narrow ribbon, chain, or, as in this example, rhinestone chain.  Choose something long and thin with some ability to bend and twist, curving to create undulations in the line.  While my demo piece is pretty high glam with bright fabric and glittering AB rhinestones, you can choose to take this approach in a more fusion or tribal way using chain for the line, and coins and metal fillets for the clusters.

Prepare your Belly Dance Bra

Pink Rhinestone Bra prepped for slip stitching the dart legs. Studio Davina -

We’re starting at the mid-way point in the construction of this lovely pink costume that I’m calling “Stoned Pinky.”  I’m working with the same client who commissioned the “Lavender Garden” bedlah set I designed in the spring.  For that costume, we did a “Stash Attack” and pulled items from storage, recycled from previous projects, and found materials stored in my cabinet of curiosities.  to create a lovely floral-themed belly dance bra and belt.  I posted a 4 part series of blog posts about that project which begins here.

If you would like more information about how I prepared and covered these bra cups, directions and step-by-step photos are in my book Embellished Bras.

Design Approach: Line and Cluster

In this method, you’re essentially “drawing” a series of undulating lines across the surface of your costume. There are three design groups that I find look lovely on a belly dance costume bra and belt set.

Uniformly Shaped Embellishments: Filling the spaces between the lines with one uniformly shaped design motif is perhaps the quickest and easiest from a design perspective.  Remember, though the size remains the same, the color and material can vary.  For example,  you could use rainbow hued rhinestones, or you could use the same size stones of various composition like pearly, stone, and metal.

Repetitive Motifs: One way to tie a full head to toe ensemble together is to use a repeating motif on each of the garments.  You can pull a design from the fabric of your skirt, or your bra and belt, or just pick a motif at

Random Sized Clusters: In this style, I use a variety of different shaped and sized design motifs to fill the area between the lines.  I often will stick to one color, but change the shapes and finishes to create a more dynamic that contrasts with the lines.

Line drawing of three styles of the "Line and Cluster" design approach. | Dawn Devine

First line of the "Line and Cluster" design approach on a Pink Belly Dance Bra. | Studio Davina

Draw your Main Style Line

The most important part of this project is laying in your first design line.  You want to create your ideal amount of “Wiggle.”  If you are new to this method, you can experiment with thread tracing until you find the line you like, and then apply your linear design element.  In this example, I’m using rhinestone on chain.

I like using rhinestone chain for its ability to gently curve, allowing me to draw a sparkly line across the surface of the bra cup.  I pin the design onto the first cup and get it perfectly to my taste. Then using measurements, I recreate a mirror image of the design on the opposite cup.

If you would like to work along with this project, this is the chain size I used for the first and second lines of the design.  I used a smaller 2mm size rhinestone chain for the third and fourth lines.

Rhinestones spread out and ready to sew on using the "Line and Cluster" design approach. | Studio Davina

Choose your cluster style

For this costume, I’ve chosen to use an uneven cluster that I’m going to build up in an organic way. I begin the clusters by working from the largest rhinestones to the smallest.  Think of it like a jar.  If you want to put large rocks, medium pebbles, and sand into the jar, it’s best to put the rocks in first, then add the pebbles and finish with sand. If you put the sand in first, it’s hard to get the rocks and pebbles to fit in.

For this project, I’m using four of these AB rhinestones assortments,  as well as a bag of additional 10mm AB Rhinestones,   I had some fuchsia stones in my stash, but they are 7mm similar to these.

To see what I have to work with, I spread out all the materials on a piece of fuzzy fleece cloth. This will prevent beads, sequins, and stones from rolling away. Sometimes, if I’m using particularly bouncing or rolling prone materials, I will lay my cloth in a box-lid or on a cookie sheet, or tray to prevent the supplies from wandering off.

Sew on the Rhinestones

For the bra, I really wanted to stay as symmetrical as possible, but still loose and free.  Instead of mapping out the whole project, I just worked free-form, but in a symmetrical pattern.  I would stitch down one big stone on the left, then repeat that placement on the right.  I would repeat this process working in clusters of 2-5 stones, sewing them down on the left and then repeating the same cluster on the right, mirroring the placement and pattern.  It’s not an exact match, but with this much bling, is an exact match essential?   If you are looking for tighter, more symmetrical process, I recommend using chalk, or a fabric pen that will disappear (test first on a scrap) and then place your stones in the pattern.  Since my customer has a fixed budget, flying freeform saves time – which in turn saves her money.

Pink Rhinestone bra in progress, demonstrating the "Line and Cluster" design approach. | Studio Davina

Repeat Cluster and Lines

Once the look is established with the first design line, and the clusters have been applied around it, I added the second design line.  Then I repeated the process, laying down the biggest stones first, filling in with clusters around the larger stones.  When the third line was added I pinned the bra cups to my dress form and stepped back to take a look at the bra.  It’s good to get an “audience view” of a costume.  Because Shalimar likes to dance in restaurants with low lighting and a close audience, I dimmed my lights and stood back 8 feet to see the costume in progress.Pink Rhinestone bra made using the "Line and Cluster" design approach. | Studio Davina -

One of the things I like best about the line and cluster approach to design is that it’s very versatile.  It can be applied vertically, horizontally, or as I did in this bra, following the angled line of the upper cup.  At this stage, I need to finish the design all the way to the bottom of the cups and then attach the bands and straps to complete this garment.

Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Aug. 19, 2017

Costuming DIY Design General

March News and Notes from Studio Davina

Hello gang! Because there is currently so much happening here in my studio, I thought I would take a moment to let you all know what’s going on during the month of March, 2017.

“Free Shipping February” Etsy sale extended to March 5

I’m extending the February Sale on my Etsy store until Sunday March 5.  It’s “Free Shipping February” on all books and patterns on my store.  I very quickly ran out of my latest book, Zills: Music on Your Fingertips that I put together with photographer Alisha Westerfeld and Illustrator George Goncalves.   We ordered another batch and have restocked.  If you visited my store during my sale in the middle of February and was hoping to pick up a copy, we they are back in stock!  There are still a few patterns left, and the rest of my book collection as well.  Check out the sale on Etsy.

Lavander Costume on Instagram

Since I’m currently taking a break before diving into my next major book project, I’ve re-opened Studio Davina to work on some costuming for my ongoing clients who have been clamoring for new designs. Throughout the month of March and April, I’ll be working on some non-assiut ensembles.  It’s such a pleasure to be working with soft luxurious fabrics like this frosted lavender stretch velvet.

I am making this lavender bedlah set and matching dress during the first two weeks of march.  This is a “Use Your Stash” challenge project, and more than 90% of the garment was pulled from my closet!  If you are interested in following the progress of this costume, join me on Instagram for photos as I work.

When this costume is all done, I’ll share some of the in progress photos and the finished garment in a future blog post. If you are interested in following the progress of this costume as it unfolds, join me on Instagram for photos of the costume as I work. When it’s all done, I’ll share some of the in progress photos and the finished garment in a future blog post.  Here’s a link to my Instagram feed to take a peek.

April Showers bring Assiut Hair Flowers

While this may not come as a huge surprise if you’ve been following my blog post for quite some time, but I have a LOT of scraps of assiut cloth.  Over the next two months, I’ll be slowly working on transforming these abundant scraps into a garden of assiut hair flowers.  As I work on these little confections, I’ll be taking pictures to create a DIY post about how I use these small pieces to create lovely hair accessories.  I’ll be taking them to one of my favorite local events, Bay Area Belly hosted by Sudeep on Sunday, May 7 at Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City.  I’ll be sharing a booth there with my co-author Sara Shrapnell, and we’ll have our book stall set up to view our books in person, and pick up a signed copy.

Of course, if you are not in the Bay Area, I’ll be adding a collection of these assiut hair flowers to my Etsy store in April once I’ve constructed a pile of them!

I’m grateful to be busy, to have dancers who enjoy wearing my designs,
and for having the opportunity to share my love for costuming and dance with you. 

Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 2, 2017


Costuming DIY Design

Organizing Sewing Tools

Hello gang!

Essential sewing tools: Pin cushion, needles, pins, thimble, thread, bee's wax, sewing shearsOver the long years of my professional sewing career, I’ve moved through many phases of organization in response to my changing needs.  I’ve lived in small spaces that required keeping my tool supply very condensed and contained.  There have also been times when I have worked in theatrical costume shops, in bridal salons, or for small design houses as a pattern and sample maker.  In all of those situations, I needed to have a portable storage solution, with all of my tools organized, labeled and ready to go at a moments notice.  During that phase of my career, I kept all of my tools contained in a tackle box.  I still have that tackle box, and I take it when I’m teaching classes and workshops outside of my home.

Portable sewing tool storage in a fishing tackle box.  Perfect for when you need all your tools in one handy place and ready to take with you on costuming assignments.I’ve also, at times, had the luxury of space.  Twice I’ve had access to shared artistic spaces outside of my home where I could spread out. But that also meant either having a duplicate tool kit or lugging my tools with me on a daily basis.  I chose to duplicate, which means that I now have backups of all my most important gear.

Today, I am lucky to have two-rooms in my home devoted, for the most part, to my business.  One is a sewing room that also serves as a guest room, and frequently looks like a tornado hit it. This sewing room, however, is really easy to put back into shape when guests are due to arrive!  My other business space is a mixed-use room that was identified as a formal living room by the real estate agent, but has become my dance space, library, photo studio, and fitting room all rolled up into one. That is “Studio Davina” where I work with clients, students, and dance associates.

Table top sewing storage idea - use a small box lid to contain your sewing tools.What this means is that I frequently meet to move my sewing tools from my sewing room to Studio Davina.  While my tackle box is mighty, what I really need is something that contains the essentials I need for fittings and hand sewing. This container also needed to be easy to carry, and keep clean and tidy.  The tackle box was great, but it’s pretty big! Here’s a modern version similar to my now vintage tackle box.  But realized that since there is a lot of duplication in my work tools, and I could set up a permanent sewing station in my public space, Studio Davina.

My first experimentation began with a simple upcycled lid from a photo storage box that had gotten damaged in my last move.  The lid survived, the bottom, alas, did not.  The beauty of using this box lid was that it was big enough to hold all my tools, deep enough to contain pins, and made a good target for tossing my equipment back into as I worked.  The downside, as I discovered, is that a box lid is not waterproof.  If you have a beverage nearby, you might loose your container in a spill.  Did I mention I have a cat?  The box lid was destroyed in a cat-tastrophe, and I had to find another solution or buy another box like this one.

Junk Drawer Organizer - for table top sewing tool organization - www.davina.usWhen deciding my next move, I knew that a flat, open top box was ideal. But I also missed the divided trays of my tackle box to keep things from shifting.  So, I spent a few moments calculating.  What I needed was a plastic box with organizing compartments, an open top so I can just throw things in, and sized to conveniently hold the tools I use on a regular basis.  And voila!  It hit me.  What I needed was a junk drawer organizer.

I found this organizer over on Amazon, and was thrilled when it arrived because the compartments were already conveniently laid out.  This is a double-decker model with a top tray that lifts out.  So I put my pins, snips and marking tools in the top tray to allow me to easily move them around. Fittings generally involve sitting on the floor and marking hems, and this removable top tray makes it easy to keep my stuff contained when I’m scootching about on the floor.

I try to clean it up and put everything back into it’s place every other month or so.  As many of you know, sewing tools can get crazy out of hand if not occasionally picked up!  Now that I’m all cleaned up, it’s time to get back to sewing!

Happy Costuming and Dance!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
October, 27, 2015




Belly Dance Costuming DIY Design

The Jewelry Bra – Weekend Belly Dance Costume Project

Jewelry-Bra-BLOG-PINTERESTHello Gang,

Throughout the month of October, I’m finishing up costuming projects for the upcoming book, “Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage.”  Chapter 8 of the book is dedicated to weekend costuming projects.  Many students, hobbyiest, and troupe dancers are looking for fast, easy, and affordable costuming projects.  So we’ve gathered together some simple and easy projects that are low-sew or even no-sew and yet, still pack a visual punch in performance.  Last week, I test drove the directions for the “Jewelry Bra” to make sure they worked.  I documented the process with my cell phone, and posted a few of them to my Instagram account.  These little “behind the scenes” photos give you a sneak peek into the content of our new book, slated for release holiday, 2015.

Jewelry Bra
This bra is exactly what the description says, a bra with jewelry stitched to it. The jewelry bra is one of the several formulas, or recipes you can use to quickly make a bra.  Here’s a quick run-down of the process.  For more detailed information about this style of bra, and several more, be sure to pick up a copy of our new book in December.

• Good fitting, Foam-cup, underwire bra.  Purchase a plunge, push-up, or add-a-size bra which creates the shape prefer.
• Two matching necklaces.
• Two yards of 1″ wide twill tape
• Two rings.
• Upholstery Thread

You probably already have a small, hand-sewing kit pulled together and ready to go, if not, click on the links below which will take you to my favorite hand-sewing tools available on  But remember, the best tools are the ones that are comfortable for your hands.
Bee’s Wax
Needle Puller
Pin Cushion

Order of Construction
1 – Remove existing straps.
2 – Using the twill tape, reinforce the inside edge of the bra cups.
3 – Remove the hook and eye portion of the band.
4 – Add using 3″ strips of twill tape to attach rings to existing band at cut edge.
5 – Jewelry-Bra-IngredientsCut remaining twill tape in half and attach to tops of cups.
6 – Pin jewelry into place and stitch down.

I was able to hammer together this quick and easy bra in an hour and a half.  The tie-back makes it quite adjustable, and removes awkward fitting issues.  Keeping a portion of the existing bra band allows the bra to comfortably stretch around the body.  How does it look when finished?  Here’s Bay Area dancer Shalimar modeling the bra.  This bra cost about $45 total from start to finish.  Depending on your local sources and internet research, you may be able to craft a similar design for even less!

I hope you find this look inspiring.  It’s super easy, super affordable, and comfortable to wear, a complete win-win-win. You can do it!

Dawn Devine ~ Davina
October 14, 2015


Belly Dance Costuming DIY Design General

Costuming Tip: When in doubt – don’t wear black!

Once upon a time, I was invited to dance in a show at a venue I’ve never been to before.  I figured, I’ll wear something simple and easy.  I didn’t stop to think about the potential environment, and choose a costume that was completely black to make some tribal jewelry really pop.  Well – I arrived to discover venue featured a tiny black-box style theater with minimal golden top light and one big spot. Then I remembered the old axiom of the entertainment world. When in doubt about the venue, don’t wear black!  While restaurants are filled with different colors, textures, if you’re dancing in a theatrical environment, the odds of dancing on a black stage with black curtains is very high. Many small theaters use deep flat black for its neutral, non-distracting environment that is affordable to keep up.   I did the show, and got some great photos of myself, if I like floating head shots.  Perhaps my life lesson remembered will help you choose your costumes with better results!

Happy Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Aug. 7, 2015