7 Bellydance Costuming Tasks to do During a Down Time

As I write this in March of 2020, virtually the entire world has gone into quarantine as a preventative health measure.  With a bit more free time, you can now do some of those pesky chores that always seem to fall to the bottom of the list. So to help combat the overwhelm of the situation happening throughout the world, I’ve created a list of costuming and wardrobe maintenance tasks that regularly need to be completed.

Five-step plan to tackle these projects:

1 – Grab your favorite beverage
2 – Put on your headset and listen to a playlist of upbeat music, an interesting podcast or an audiobook.
3 – Choose a project from the ideas below
4 – Work on it until it’s done or you need to stop.
5 – Stand back and admire your work!!   If you’re on social media, why not take a set of “Before and After” pictures to share with your dance friends.
Now you might already have a to-do list and schedule for your costume wardrobe maintenance.  If so, I applaud you!   I have quarterly objectives that I have set reminders in my Google calendar.  These “not so fun” tasks can be difficult to make room for in my calendar, but then offer me so much satisfaction when they are done!

Update (or Start) your Costume Inventory

Years ago, I would keep a spreadsheet of all my costume pieces.  But now, in the era of the smartphone, I simply keep an album of me wearing each and every costume I have in rotation. So if you’ve gotten new costume pieces since you’ve done your last inventory, nows the time to add them.  The same goes for things that have been removed from your inventory.  Delete them from your spreadsheet or move the photo from your “Wardrobe” gallery into your “Archives” so that you can save the memory, but keep your wardrobe inventory accurate.  These costumes are embellished with acrylic sew-on stones I picked up from Amazon.

Do the Laundry

If you are like me, you probably have a veil that’s been through the wringer or a skirt that’s been worn one too many times. Now is a great time to wash those pieces and get them clean and fresh for when the gigs start pouring in.  In my world I hand-wash silk veils using baby shampoo, I machine wash assiut pieces in a lingerie bag on the gentlest cycle (which on my machine oddly says “hand wash” and I make sure that all of my spandex wear is washed in cool water and hung dry to preserve the spandex.  What do I use to launder my assiut and tel kirma pieces?   I use Orvus, which I think is the choice for vintage cotton textiles.

Clean and repair Jewelry

In our dance form, jewelry can take a real beating. So it’s time to give your jewelry some TLC.  Give everything a good polish and shine.  Identify and repair any jump rings or missing pieces that you can.  While you have everything out and cleaning it, why not take photos for your inventory while you have everything out and on display.  I use a jewelry cleaning cloth similar to this one to wipe down stones, cones, and chains.

Re-line Bra and Belt Sets

Linings can get pretty gross.  They might get makeup on them, sweat, and oil from contact with our bodies.  Periodically I like to remove the old sweaty lining and replace old padding in the bra. Then I spray with disinfectant – I use 2/1 vodka/water.  Let the bedlah pieces dry thoroughly. Then I install a new lining into the garment.  These Dritz ready-made bust pads are quick and easy to install, but you can always make your own.

Make Repairs

Every wardrobe is completely different and unique, so ya never know what exact tools and materials you will need to make repairs on your garments. But I have a well-stocked sewing kit, and I try to keep a “repair materials” kit for each of my costumes.  That includes a selection of beads, rhinestones, coins, and other surface embellishments to make repairs. For touching up my shoes and other craft projects, I keep a collection of Sharpie markers in various colors in my tool kit.

Clean Storage Boxes & Gig Bags

Since you will be pulling everything out of their storage containers, this is a great time to wipe them down.  While you’re at it, it’s also a good time to clean out and wipe-down your class and gig bags too.  I have owned this canvas tote bag from Lands End for more than 25 years, and it’s still going strong!   But it no longer is completely white – even after cleaning.  I kinda want to get another one, the new styles have an outside pocket, but this one has a lot more life in it!

Makeup Stash Clean and Inventory

Oh you know it’s a chore to go through and clean up the old makeup stash.  First, focus on the tools and toss the dead tissues, clean the brushes and sponges.  Next, go through your products to get rid of anything dried out, outdated, past its prime. If you haven’t used it in the past year, you might want to usher it out of your collection. Be sure to check all of your bags, purses, and pockets for hidden lip products.  And don’t forget to wash the boxes, bags, and cups that you use to store your tools and products.  Most of the brushes in this cup come from BH Cosmetics and Real Techniques.
I hope that your time off is at once quiet and uneventful! 
Stay safe and be well!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 20, 2020

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Six Hand-Sewing Essentials for Belly Dancers

Every performing dancer should have a sewing kit handy for doing minor repairs, replacing hooks and eyes, and putting in fresh lining pieces to their belt.  Although I’m a professional seamstress, I find myself always reaching for a small box with just my hand-sewing essentials.

Bees Wax

Probably my most essential product is beeswax.  It serves as a conditioner, that prevents the thread from twisting on itself, getting bunched up, or even knotting. It literally will cut my sewing times by significantly reducing the hassle time.  I like to support my local community by purchasing cakes of wax from the honey vendor at my local farmer’s market.  But you can buy wax from the fabric and craft stores or at myriad places online.

Hot Tip:  I like to pre-load a number of needles and run them through the cake of wax and then hit them with a hot iron.  This helps the wax penetrate the thread and the needles are ready to just quickly grab as I work.  Batch prepping saves time.

Needle Puller

Hand sewing through buckram, my favorite supportive inner layer, can be tough.  Add a couple of layers of interfacing, fleece, fashion fabric and embellishments, your hands can get a serious workout!  So enter the silicone needle puller.  These small textured round disks add grip to your fingertips, allowing you to more easily grab and pull stuck needles.

Hot Tip:  For those most intense stuck needles, I keep a jewelry-making plier in my kit. I prefer a smooth needle-nose variety that won’t damage the surface of my needle when I pull.  Most of the time, the silicon circle does the trick, but for those moments when I need it, the pliers are there!

Small Scissors

As many of you know, I’m a historian by education. So I love this nod to the past with a pair of tiny vintage-looking embroidery scissors. Small scissors to cut threads are essential, but I recommend if you sew a lot, pick the tools that make you happy.  I find this pair to be a visual delight!

Hot Tip:  When I’m pressed for time and have a lot of sewing to do, I pick a different tool.  Thread snips don’t require putting a finger into rings and the dual action of opening and closing the hand.  Instead, it’s a quick and easy, grab-and-squeeze action.  While this might not save a lot of time on single cuts, if you’re working on a big or fast project, this is the tool to choose.

Thimbles

I always use a thimble when I sew.  The goal is to have a firm surface on your “pushing” finger, which for me is the middle finger of my right hand. A good thimble protects the surface of your finger and gives you a solid surface to really push you thimble through.  It can take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it can make hand sewing both more comfortable and less tiring. My favorite is the Dritz “Slip Stop” thimble.

Hot Tip: Assemble a thimble wardrobe to suit a variety of situations and needs.  I personally like a silicone thimble for easy sewing.  For heavy-duty sewing through buckram and grosgrain, I use a metal thimble with a ridged tip.  Some seamstresses prefer leather.  Have long nails?  Get a thimble ring instead. There are many to choose from and they are fairly small and affordable.

Needles

If you are first starting out sewing, or a road warrior who takes their projects to events, keeping a good all-purpose needle kit. Pick a kit with a variety of styles and sizes of needles.  When you’ve been hand sewing for a while, you might have determined you have a favorite style.  For instance, I prefer to sew with milliners needles which tend to be longer, have a slightly bigger eye, and are quite flexible.  I also have learned to buy quality and prefer the rather posh brands, John James and Richard Hemming.

Hot Tip: Play with every needle in the pack.  Ignore the “titles” of the needles and figure out what needle is best for you.  When you’ve determined what style, size, and a needle company you like, you can buy individual kits containing just your favorite and most-used style.  Then refill your big kit and go.

Thread

Last, but by no means least, buy the best quality thread you can afford.  Cheaper and older spools of thread are less supple and break easily.  When I’m hand-sewing belly dance costumes I do the bulk of my sewing with either “upholstery” or “button and carpet” thread for speed, strength, and overall durability.  While you might not want to spend more money on specialty thread, it will save you sewing time and make your costume stronger.

Hot Tip: One of the sewing lessons I learned working in professional theater is to keep a spectrum of grey thread in the styles I prefer in stock.  Match the shade of grey tonally to your costume color.  So pale grey with yellow, charcoal grey with deep blue, etc…

Handy Storage Box

I like to keep my hand sewing kit in a small portable box that I can quickly grab and go.  I do hand-sewing not only at my main worktable, but also at my desk, on the kitchen table, and even at events.  In addition to the items listed above, I also have an assortment of safety pins, stick pins, fabric clips, and a few hooks and eyes.  Customize your box to suit the size of your individual tools and project needs.

And see that wooden handle in the box? That’s actually a custom-made seam ripper made by my brother Joe of Wicked Mojo Designs.  I love it and I’m totally biased!

I hope this rundown of supplies will help you get your own effective hand-sewing kit set up and ready to support your adventures in costuming!

Happy Dance and Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina

March 16, 2020

 

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Makeup Swaps – Replacing old products

Hello Gang!

Over the last three months, I’ve been slowly winnowing down my makeup kit.  I’m not a makeup artist, nor am I a beauty guru.  Instead, I’m just your average belly dancer over the age of 50 who needs to be realistic about the quality, quantity, and age of the products in my personal collection. As a belly dancer, my “showgirl” face requires products that I don’t use on the daily.  The result is that I’m simply not using them up before they “age out.”  So I’ve had to ditch some lipsticks that were smelling funky, toss some cream products that were separating, and pitch some powder products that were losing their luster.

Cosmetics, like food, go bad with time.

It’s good to do a yearly inventory and inspection of your products to keep them fresh and in good condition.  Using super-old and expired makeup can lead to breakouts and irritation.  There are guidelines available on websites all over about how long particular styles of products last.  I even included a small chart in this previous blog post.

Makeup is one of the 5 Layers of Belly Dance Appearance

However, I couldn’t just toss a bunch of old products. Instead, I had to think strategically about what is essential for transforming daily Dawn into high-glam Davina, and immediately replace the items that needed to go.  For my makeup technique, it’s essential that I have a bright red glossy lip, a face paletted with blush, bronzer, and highlight, and an eyeshadow palette in shades of grey.  These were the three essential products that needed replacing during this year’s makeup purge and inventory.

Have you taken my free class, “5 Layers of Belly Dance Costumes and Appearance”
over on the Belly Dance Business Academy?

Showgirl Red Lipstick

For performance, I will layer on the lip products to build a rich saturated red.  I start with a long-wearing stain, use a lip liner to get the most perfected shape, and then top with a bold red lipstick.  This three-step layering ensures that my lipstick will look it’s best under the stage lights and be seen from the back of the audience.  However, on my way to and from gigs, I like to have a soft balm-like lipstick in a bold red.  This type of lipstick doesn’t hold up well, but it does a great job of bringing moisture to my super dry lips before and after the showgirl beat.

This year, I picked up a L’Oreal Colour Riche Shine in the shade “Enamel Red” to replace my nearly gone – and now discontinued – Almay Butter kiss in the shade “Red-Medium.”  It feels so good and comes in a variety of different shades to get a red that’s right for your look.

Face Palette with Blush, Bronzer and Highlight

Since I’m over 50, one of the things I do to keep my skin looking as dewy and youthful as possible, is layer powder face products over a cream base.  For many years, I’ve relied on my trusted Rimmel London Face Sculpting Kit in shade 1.  I really loved this product, and I would have simply replaced it if I hadn’t decided to find something with a few more color options.  So after doing research on YouTube, I decided to pick up the “California in a Box” by Catrice.  I’m really enjoying this new palette and because it has a more matte finish, I’m actually also using it for daily looks too!

Eyeshadow in shades of grey

I’ve spent many years using this Wet N Wild five-pan eyeshadow palette in “Tunnel Vision” and would have simply picked up a replacement, but it, like many things, has long since been discontinued. The case was broken and two of the shadows I’ve had to repress after breaking.  When Colourpop announced it’s new grey palette last fall, I snapped it up.  As a bigger palette, I can achieve some different looks.  The Blowin’ Smoke palette includes the best silver eyeshadow I’ve ever used called “Starstruck.”

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for using the affiliate codes in this blog post.  They help me cover the costs of this website so I can continue to bring interesting information and inspiration.  Your readership and support mean the world to me, thank you so very much!

Happy Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 9, 2020

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