General Publications

Essential Costuming Books: on the shelves at Studio Davina 2020

I like big books and I cannot lie!

I recently posted a shelfie and got an email from a reader who asked for affordable recommendations for reference books for a budding costume designer.  When I teach costume workshops, I find myself recommending the same dozen or so books.  So if you are holiday shopping for books, here are my top picks for costuming books.  I’ve included Amazon links so you can find out more detailed information about these books.

If you choose to use the links below, thank you!  Your purchase helps support this blog.  However, I do recommend supporting your favorite local book store. Small businesses are struggling and it’s great to support your local community of independent bookstores.  If you are purchasing your books for yourself, always consider picking up a used book. Buying used books is good for the environment and saves money too – my favorite win-win situation.

If you would like to pick up one of my books, check out my Studio Davina Etsy Store for my current titles in digital and print.  My print books are also available on Amazon and you can check out what’s available on my Amazon Author Page.

Costuming Reference Books: Three Main Categories

When I teach costuming workshops, I always include a reference list of what I consider essential books. These are the tried and true publications that I will find myself referring to again and again. If you have purchased one of my DIY books, you will find much more comprehensive reading lists in the back of my books.  But when I’m recommending reference books for a new costumer, I like to break them into three main categories:

  • Sewing Books – Instructional manuals for the techniques of constructing garments.
  • Design Books – Books with information on the process of design.
  • Illustration Books – Basic fashion drawing skills are essential for designers at all levels.

Sewing Books

The truth is, I own a lot of sewing books, but there are only a few I refer to over and over again. So if your budget is small, focus on picking up one all-purpose basic sewing guide.  But if you have a slightly bigger budget, or already have a basic guide, check out the rest on my shortlist.

Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – Link
This is the book that I personally use when teaching sewing.  If you only get one sewing book – this is it!  Great info on using sewing machines, construction techniques, and finishing techniques. There are many other references that cover these essentials and really only need one in your library.  Here are links to a few other good all-purpose sewing reference books:

      • Vogue Sewing, Revised and UpdatedLink
      • Singer: The Complete Photo Guide to SewingLink
      • The Sewing Book: Over 300 Step-by-Step Techniques by Alison Smith – Link

Costumer Technicians Handbook – by Rosemary Ingham and Liz Covey – Link
This book is essential for anyone who is working or looking to work in a theatrical environment does a lot of cosplay, and wants to do more than “just sew.”  My second edition copy is so beat up, with raggedy edges, a broken spine, and coffee stains from years of use. Here are a few other theatrical and historic costuming books I recommend if you’re working in theater:

      • Costume Designer’s Handbook by Rosmary Inghamlink
      • Fundamentals of Theatrical Design by Karen Brewsterlink
      • Designing Costumes for Stage and Screen – Link 

How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns by Lee Hollahan – Link
This is the book I use in my own costume design classes – very affordable at about $25 and useful for anyone who sews.  But this is especially great for adapting commercial patterns into custom dancewear. I highly advocate mixing and matching pattern pieces to create totally unique garments. This book will help you understand how patterns really work.  This is a great book for students and home sewists.  If you are looking for a more in-depth pattern making or draping book, check out these titles:

      • The Pattern Making Primer by Jo Barnfield – Link
      • Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong- Link
      • The Art of Fashion Draping by Connie Amaden-Crawford – Link

Couture Sewing: Making Designer Trims by Claire B. Shaeffer – Link Here
Many of the hand sewing techniques I use for belly dance costuming come from the world of couture. In this book, you will find all sorts of hand-sewing surface embellishment techniques and machine-sewn construction details adaptable for use on dance costumes. Love this book and refer to it for both design ideas and instruction methods. And it’s a steal of a deal for under $20.  Other great books by Claire Shaeffer in my collection include:

      • Couture Sewing Techniques –  Link
      • Couture Sewing: Tailoring TechniquesLink
      • Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan JacketLink

Design Books

When I’m teaching costuming workshops, one of my most frequently said catchphrases is “Think Like A Designer.”  Design is a process composed of a series of choices.  During the design process, you move through different phases from inspirational spark and research to sewing and the finished design.

These are the books that I recommend to help you build more conceptual tools for approaching design projects.  These books will help you identify what skills you need to develop, help you build your own workflow for your design process, and help you learn to make faster and better choices during your projects. Here are my top three books in print today:

Fashion Design Essentials:100 Principles of Fashion Design by Jay Calderin –  Link
This is referent book introduces different design concepts in a dictionary form.  This book expands on the basic principles and elements of design into a depth and breadth to inspire you to think like a designer.

Fashion Design Course: Principles, Practice and Techniques by Steven FaermLink
Over the past three years, I’ve been using this book for my “Think Like A Designer” workshops.  Although you might only be working on costumes for yourself, if you sew for other people, or have a small costuming business, this would be a great book for your reference shelf.

Designing Costumes for the Stage and Screen by Dierdre Clancy Link
I’ve used this book when teaching costume design workshops for many years. I’m actually thinking of picking up the latest edition to replace my battered old first edition. This is title is a textbook for theatrical costuming classes at the college level.  Highly Recommended!

Illustration Books

There are a couple of essential drawing techniques that every costume designer should know how to do. These don’t have to be works of art, but they should be very informative for you. If you only sew for yourself, think of them as visual notes.  If you work with clients or sew for other people, it’s a way of communicating what’s in your mind.

  • Simple garment illustration – This will show the silhouette of the overall shape on a proportional figure, dress form, or croquis.
  • Pattern Flats – These simple drawings will help you visualize the pattern pieces needed for the garment.
  • Surface Design Patterns – These are illustrations of how you plan on covering the surface of your costumes with beading, embellishments, and fabric manipulation techniques.

Over the long 30 years of my career, my tastes and preferred style in fashion illustration have changed.  Here are my top three books currently:

Fashion Illustration & Design: Methods and Techniques for Achieving Professional Results by Manuela Brambatti – Link
Fashion Illustration books vary in taste and style, and this particular book is to my “Taste” and drawing style. It covers all the basics from establishing proportions of the body, to illustrating various textures of textiles and  I personally love the way they demonstrate skirt draping and ruffles.

Draw Fashion Now by Danielle Meder – Link
This is a wonderful illustrator who presents the same basic content but in the latest illustration style, you can spot in current fashion magazines and design house websites.  A great all-purpose fashion illustration book at a nice price.

Figure it Out!  Beginner’s Guide To Drawing People by Christopher Hart – Link
Rather than a book specifically on fashion, this one focuses on the body and movement rather than on the clothing.  Not geared specifically to costume and clothing, but it’s a fun book that I consider essential for learning body proportions.  It’s also quite affordable at about $18

Wanna spend a little more on fashion Illustration?  Check out these additional titles:

      • Fashion Design Sketchbook: Women’s Wear Fashion by Irinia V. Ivanova – Link
      • Modern Fashion Illustration: Create Trending Stories & Develop a Personal Brand by Holly Nichols – Link
      • Fashion Design Studio: Learn to Draw Figures, Fashion, Hairstyles & More by Christopher Hart – Link

What’s Your Favorite Costuming Book?

Do you have an essential that wasn’t mentioned here?  Come join the conversation over in my Facebook Group “Studio Davina: Behind the Seams” where we talk about my two favorite things, costuming and books.  (oh, and I also post too many pictures of my cats!) Or follow me on Instagram and drop me a line in the DM’s.  I’m always looking for new references and resources, so thanks in advance for sharing your favorites!

I hope that you have a creative and happy holiday season!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
November 16, 2020

General Publications

Catch the Yallah Raqs Podcast

Episode 39 – “Mad About Maud” 

As part of the build-up to the release of the Bellydance Bundle 2020, many of the contributors were interviewed on the Yallah Raqs Podcast.   I’m featured in Episode 39 and Tiffany Noro interviews me about why Maud Allan is so important for belly dance costume historians. If you enjoy my talks, be sure to check it out.

Bellydance Bundle 2020
Goes on Sale – October 21 – 28
Sign up for their mailing list by following this link.

I really enjoy participating in the Bellydance Bundle!  It’s one of the highlights of my year because I so enjoy picking up my copy and spending the year soaking up the knowledge through all of the workshops, lectures, and reading printable .pdf’s.   It’s like attending the BEST belly dance convention from the comfort of my own home.  Unlike an in-person festival with multiple tracks of programs where you have to strategically choose which workshop to take, you have a year to work through every component of the Bellydance Bundle.

The Bellydance Bundle 2020 has an impressive contributor line-up. I feel honored to be included with such an illustrious group.  Many of my mentors, scholars I revered, and dancers I’ve admire are part of this year’s bundle.  This year, the Bundle is broken into three parts.  There is a dance series, a lecture series, or you can get both as a complete package.  I’m part of the Lecture Bundle, and am offering a workshop entitled “Mad About Maud: Salomania & the Birth of Bedlah.”  This is my current research project that will eventually lead to a belly dance history book.

When you consider everything you get at one price, the bundle is an amazing value. There are a whole host of freebies that you get just from joining their mailing list including a series of great informational .pdf’s – even if you decide the bundle isn’t for you, I encourage you to sign up to get the amazing .pdf  “How to Get the Most Out of Online Classes.”  This ebook is a compilation of tips contributed by us participants including me!

Thank you for supporting me in my research projects! 
Happy dance and costuming!
Davina ~ Dawn Devine

ps: Need more info?  Click on the Image Below!

General Publications

Week Two – Bwitchs International Bellydance Festival

Hello Gang!

As I sit down to write this post on June 7, 2020, I’m excited to share the schedule for this week on the Bwitches International Online Bellydance Festival hosted by Leena Viie.

  • To attend these workshops, join the event Facebook Group.
  • Each workshop begins as a Facebook live in the group.
  • Workshops and then available for view for the next 48 hours.

The event is a fundraiser to raise money for migrant workers in India who are being impacted by the global health issues. The rise of Covid 19 has thrown all of our lives into chaos.  But in India, many migrant workers are facing more immediate existential problems.  They are having difficulties returning home, finding shelter to quarantine, or simply finding sources for food and water.

Many of us have found our incomes diminished, but if you have a dime to spare, and find value in these workshops, presentations, and talks, donate what you can.  Every dollar helps.

I’m contributing to this fundraiser with a workshop on Facebook Marketing live on Friday, June 19 at 9:00 am PT and in replay for 48 hours.  Come join the fun, take some informative classes with instructors from around the globe, and contribute to a great cause!

Stay Safe – Stay Healthy
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
June 8, 2020

Belly Dance Publications

Belly Dance Bundle 2019

Hello Gang!

I’m freaking THRILLED to announce that my book, “Zills, Music On Your Fingertips” has been included in a prize package to promote the launch of The Bellydance Bundle 2019.  The line-up of dancers included in this year’s Bundle are really a “Who’s Who” of the intelligentsia of the belly dance world.  My book will be paired with cymbals from my favorite dealers Saroyan Mastercrafts and Turquoise International!

I’m also contributing a workshop to this year’s bundle!

I’m simply thrilled to be part of the Belly Dance Bundle 2019 lineup.  I’ve chosen a topic near and dear to my heart, the history of finger cymbals.  My Facebook theme for September has been Finger Cymbals: History and Technology and I’ve been sharing facts and images from the ancient history of zills.  And bonus, the subject nicely ties into the giveaway too!

History of Finger Cymbals: From Antiquity till Today

So, for this year’s contribution, I’ve put together a digital workshop, an image-heavy slideshow with voice over.  It will include my favorite primary sources that informed the research and the illustrations that appear in my Zill’s book.  If you’ve been picking up the Bellydance Bundle every year,  you are familiar with my Zills book. This talk includes photos of zills from ancient examples, artworks through the ages, early photography and movie clips.  In addition, this lecture includes a printable handout. I’ve also created a links list to museums and archives holding examples of historic cymbals.

Visit the Belly Dance Bundle to find out more the amazing collection of dancers and scholars who are including offerings in this year’s bundle.

Thank you for your continued support of my research!  
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Sept. 18, 2019


General Publications

10 things I’ve learned about Belly Dance Costuming – On the Belly Dance Geek Podcast

Dawn Devine ~ Davina
joins the Belly Dance Geek Podcast
Live on Thursday, August 29, 2019
at 2 pm Pacific Time

I’m pleased to announce that next week Thursday I’ll be appearing on the Belly Dance Geek Podcast!  Come join us for a conversation about 10 things I would tell my younger self about belly dance costuming. Can’t make it next Thursday?  Listen anytime you like on your favorite podcast app.

Did you hear that the Belly Dance Geek has a new leader?  She’s a very glamorous, multi-award-winning professional dancer in Yakima Washington Heather Wayman.  I’ve found her to be a delightful interviewer and am liking the vivacious energy she brings to the podcast.  So I’m very excited to be talking about my favorite subject.

If you would like to join us live next week on Thursday at 2:00 pm, click on the photo above to visit the Belly Geek website and sign up for their mailing list. You will get an alert for my talk and a link to join live.

Third Podcast is a Charm!

This is my THIRD chat with the Belly Dance Geek podcast if you are interested in listening to the other two you can check them out on their website:

Episode 57: Self Publishing for Dancers –

Episode 48: Finger Cymbal History – In this episode, I share some of the content of my book “Zills: Music on Your Fingertips” –

Have you read my Zill book? It’s full of history, technology, and use of finger cymbals throughout history.  It’s on Amazon:  Or get it directly from me on Etsy:

On Belly Dance Costuming – the eBook

This year has been rather hectic, so I’ve had to put many projects on pause to deal with major changes in my personal life.  Consequently, my co-authors and I are taking a break from our next big book “Pose.”  But writers got to write. So instead of a larger collaborative project, I’m producing a series of small ebooks that had previously been living on my hard drive and waiting for the perfect time to emerge. I’m hard at work editing the text, selecting the photos, and laying out the document

As soon as I know more details about this new eBook I’ll be sure to let you know.

Happy Dance and Design,
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
Thursday, August 22, 2019