It has been a busy old month! A horrible dental surgery experiance; snow; a wonderful Majma Dance festival experience; a week’s holiday, then home and MORE snow! In between all this I have been working on creating a dance costume to wear for our troupe performances this season. The brief was ‘harem pants, any top, in flame colours’.
My first attempt at making a costume last year turned out… hmmm, wearable… This year I wanted something much more professional looking and far more glamorous! Having mended the silk harem pants I knew how great they look and feel to dance in, so it had to be silk! Now as regular readers are aware, my average budget for any creative project seldom hits double figures (although this time it did!) and I do love to re-purpose fabric, so where better place to start than eBay and a pre-loved saree? All the way from India wrapped in muslin for £7.99 including postage! Fab. The saree was stiff as a board and needed two soakings in cold water to get the starch out, but at least I didn’t have to resort to the Vinegar Treatment, which leaves everything smelling like a chip shop. Th pants began with Simplicity costume pattern 5359, given to me by a friend. I’ve made three cholis using this pattern and not one of them has fitted me properly. Luckily there’s not much to go wrong with harem pants! Ignoring the pattern instructions I cut the legs so that the saree border made a ‘cuff’ around the ankle, then cut the other border off to make an elaticated waistband. (Elastic from Rose Tinted Rags for £1).
No cholis this time. I wanted a proper belly dance bra! There are so many excellent blogs and tutorials out there on how to make your own out of a regular bra, but I found Sparkly Belly’s How-To series and Naima’s Bellydance blog the most helpful. I dived in and cut up a cheapie bra that I never wear to make a ‘prototype’ with some left-over stretch velvet (from this dress; no, I never throw anything away!). This turned out so well that I’m actually going to use it as part of another costume!Now, everyone says that you should a) buy a padded bra so that it will be sturdy enough to take the weight of all the embellishments, and b) go up an extra cup size because they will shrink once you’ve sewn all that bling on. People, I have NEVER had a padded bra in my life! Much less one that’s too big for me! Blimey…. Back to eBay again and I managed to find a red one that ticked all the boxes for £5.75.
Covering it with the silk was actually fairly easy, and my new non-stretchy straps were made using layers of quilting cotton and interfacing, with some grossgrain ribbon sewn in to re-enforce them (all from my stash). Also taking a tip from various costume tutorials, I bought some extra-durable trouser hooks & eyes for my back closure and the halter strap (£1.50).
I kept trying it on and making adjustments, but it wasn’t until I saw a friend’s self-made costume last week, with wide halter-straps, that I figured that part out and finally got it fitting properly. Then came the fun part. Beads! Sequins! Crystals! Beads AND sequins together! I have been in my absolute element embellishing this costume and I only stopped where I did ‘cos I needed to wear it for ‘dress rehearsal’ last night! This is where I spent the most money, and OK I do have a lot left over of course but I reckon I’ve used £7 – £8’s worth of materials here.
But hey, enough words, right? – Here it is!Oh I am SO very pleased with this! And best of all, I have now done a full 90 mins dancing in it with no ‘Barbara Windsor’ moments! It does feel quite large but I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do all that beading on a non-padded number. I’m not sure about ‘cup shrinkage’ though; this didn’t appear to be an issue, perhaps because I mainly stitched into the padding rather than right through the bra – as you can see from this ‘insides’ pic there’s very little stitching showing (yes I will need to line it at some point!). I ended up having to put some tucks in the cups to get the fit right, luckily with this fabric it doesn’t notice to much. I think next time I’ll stick to my usual size.All in all I’m rather thrilled to have such a fine looking costume that fits and feels good to dance in. A professional costume costs £100s after all, so at under £25 this one’s a winner, plus I’ve got enough silk left over to make myself a headband and some accessories. Result!