Costume Planning Sheet: Tool for Designers

One of the most useful things in my arsenal of tools is my Costume Planning Sheet.  This is the place where I record details about each project I work on.  I record the name and contact information of each dancer, title of the costume, materials, embellishments and a sketch.  I also make notes as I work on the project, especially keeping track of the time in the sewing log.  In the notes section, I include measurements I need, and any notes that come up in any fittings.  I almost always make more notes on the back and that’s where I sketch out sketches of the garments laid flat.

Even if you don’t sew for anyone other than yourself, this tool might help you stay organized, efficient and on budget.  Good luck with your next costuming project!


Assiut/Assuit Design General

Assiut One Slice Swing Vest

Making a simple and easy vest out of an assiut shawl

One of the most simple, easy and affordable items to make out of a standard assiut panel is the One Slice Swing Vest.  This graceful waterfall style of vest works best when made from cloth with intrinsic stretch.  Assiut, with it’s strong hexagonal structure, is at once both extremely strong and quite flexible.  However, I’ve made really nice versions of the One Slice Swing Vest out of jersey and fleece.  If you are worried about making a mistake, you can make a sample first and give it a try.



To make the One Slice Swing Vest, all you need to do is cut a simple straight slice down the center of the fabric 14″ to 20″ long.   Position this slice approximately 3″ – 4″ from one edge.  This narrow edge will become the collar and will rest on the back of the neck.   The longer length becomes the back which will rest from the waist down over the hips.

VestDiagramThe one slice swing vest is a great way to integrate assiut into your daywear wardrobe!  You can wear the vest dressed up with a dress, belt and heels, or you could play it down with casual jeans and sandals.

Assiut/Assuit Belly Dance Costuming DIY Design General

Belly Dance Belt Tutorial

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of working on a dance costume for one of my models, Shalimar, for an upcoming performance in Las Angeles.  We were under a deadline, and I had to crank out the outfit soup-to-nuts in 2 days.  Since I’ve been working on the step-by-step construction portion of my upcoming book, The Cloth of Egypt: All About Assiut, I thought this would be a great opportunity to quickly test drive some of my ideas for the photography in the book.

Using my trusty cell phone and the power of Instagram, I very quickly documented the progress.  The result was a series of step-by-steps that really work – but the photos are not quite up to publishing quality.  However, rather than wasting them, I decided to hammer together this quick tutorial on my belt making method.  This is sized for 8.5″ by 11″ so you can print it out if you like.  Wanna see the final costume?  You can scroll down and watch the video of Shalimar in her “test drive” performance on Wed before the big show on Friday night.  We’ll be doing formal photography of this baby in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to spotlighting this ensemble in my upcoming book!



Design General

Essential Pattern Making Tools

Essential Pattern Making Tools

This fall I have taken in two new apprentices, Poppy and Misia. They are learning sewing, pattern making and design techniques.  One stitch at a time we are working on collaborative pieces, that employ the subtle nuances of building a well crafted belly dance costume.   They are learning that a big component of the design process is making custom patterns. Many sewers treat commercial patterns as if they are the word of law, rarely deviating from the way they are drawn. Pattern making allows a designer to work from an existing pattern, modify a sloper or draft something completely new. There are relatively few things that you need to get started pattern making.  Below are the essential tools that you need to make your own patterns.   Along with a few good reference books, and a class to get your started on the basics, pattern making is a very potent tool in the  costume designer arsenal.


Essential Pattern Making Tools
Essential Pattern Making Tools by davinadevine on Polyvore

Assiut/Assuit Design General Publications

The Cloth of Egypt – The Storyboard

Story Boarding The Cloth of Egypt

I’m a one woman shop and I wear a lot of hats.  One of my least favorite hats to wear, (aside from bookkeeper, which just sucks) is that of book layout and production artist.  I know, I could hire someone to do this, but since I’ve spent all my money buying assiut , vintage ephemera like photographs and maps, and all the supplies to make more than a dozen costumes, I’m pretty tapped out.  What this means is that I will have to do all my own book production!  If that sounds like complaining, it’s not, it’s just the name of the game when it comes to self publishing.

Before I start laying out the material for the book using inDesign, I go old school and storyboard the entire project.  My approach is to work in “spreads” two pages at a time.  To make this go quickly, I’ve devised a two-page template that I use to sketch and notate the details of each spread.  I put these into a binder where I can effortlessly flip through the various pages and get a strong sense of what the final document will look like.  Oh yes, and I always always use pencil.  Once I have finished the entire book mock-up, I roll up my sleeves, grab a cup of coffee and fire up inDesign.   Are you an self-published author?   Check out my templates below.