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Hints for Making a Simple Costume   How to Make a Costume  Costume Style & Shape  Costume Design  Simple Skirt Styles  Tight Skirts  Veils  Mixing & Matching Costumes   Face Veils  Body Coverage  
What Costume to Wear  American Tribal Fusion  Costume Patterns & Ideas   Bellydance Costume Cheat Sheet  Costume Alterations   Keeping Costumes in Good Shape  Questions & Answers  

How to Make a Costume

It seems my design hints for making a simple costume got people motivated! I received many questions about how to make a professional costume, so this time around letís focus on that.

First, give yourself lots of time depending upon how experienced a seamstress you are. Beginners should start at least a month before you intend to wear the costume. Once completed, practice in your costume to check for any faults or problems. You donít want your costume to fall apart the first time you perform in it!

Circle skirts are traditional and easy to make. They are made using two or three panels of the same size material. If using 3 panels (for more fullness), sew two together (along the seam) to form the back and one for the front. You will need between 6 to 8 yards of material, depending on how many panels you wish to use and your height. If you are an inexperienced sewer I would suggest using a slightly heavier fabric like a polyester blend. Many of the polyester blends out there are thin, almost transparent, and flow very nicely. Chiffon is very difficult to control and sew.

To make a circle skirt, three measurements are used: A) your waist to whatever length you want your skirt to be, B) your hips to this length and C) the difference between your waist and hips. Starting at one end of the material, mark measurement A (along the seam), plus an inch for the hem. Fold the material in half, so that you have two equal sections of this length. From the folded corner, draw a semi-circle using measurement C. Draw another semi-circle using measurement A, plus an additional inch. The area between these two semi-circles is B, which is the length of your skirt. Cut along the two semi-circles to form one panel. Repeat once or twice more depending on how many panels you plan to use.

The waistband for the skirt should be made of gros grain ribbon or other sturdy material. You can also use elastic if you want. If using gros grain ribbon the length should be about two inches longer than your hip measurement around. Leave an inch of extra space on each end, so you can alter the skirt should you gain weight. Sew each panel onto the waistband, slightly gathering the material. Remember to leave space between the back and front if you want slits. If using two panels, sew each panel from hip to hip at front and back. If using three panels, sew the back panels (2 sewn together) close to the middle-front of each thigh. The third panel will form the front of your skirt. Attach belt or eye hooks to the waistband for the skirt closure. Itís a good idea to use two hooks in case one loosens while dancing. If using elastic you will need to make a casing to fit the elastic through. Make sure the casing length is an inch or two bigger than the widest part of your hips. Cut the elastic a few inches shorter than your hip measurement. Sew the skirt panels onto the casing as above. Slide the elastic through keeping one end pinned to the edge of one side. Once the other end is through the casing, sew the ends together and finish of the casing neatly.

For a neat finished look, try to buy gros grain that is about 1 to 2 inches in width and matches the colour of the skirt. Fold the gros grain in half, length-wise, place the top of the panels inside the fold so the gros grain covers both sides and sew. Since the material is cut on the bias, it will stretch so hang up the skirt for a few days before hemming.

For the top, you will need a good quality support bra. You want a bra with solid cups that will hold the weight of the fringe and beads, which can become quite heavy. Sport and lacey lingerie bras are not what you should use. Choose a bra with underwire for support. If you are small and want to have a fuller look, use a push-up bra, but remember to try on the bra to ensure a good fit. If you require extra support, line the inside of the bra cup with buckram or a stiff bra cup, such as those used for swimsuits, for added strength.

Cut bra straps off and create your own with buckram, gros grain or other sturdy material. Make the straps a little wider, so the bra looks more like a top. Donít be afraid to try different styles such as crossover, halter or T-back. You can keep the original sides or create your own using the same material as the straps. If you decide to keep the original sides, I would suggest cutting out the inside nylon or lace as this material stretches and is very difficult to work with. Another alternative is to attach buckram or heavy interfacing to the sides for support. If making sturdier sides out of buckram, use the original sides for your pattern. Cut the sides off, stretch out and trace the shape onto buckram. Cut two pieces for each side. For comfort you can add an extra piece of soft, yet sturdy material like jean material between the pieces of buckram. Make the sides a little longer than the original, as you will sew the sides onto the bra cups and need some overlap. Attach two sets of belt or eye hooks for the clasp of the bra. Two hooks are used to prevent your bra from opening and exposing anything!

Itís best to cover the bra with material first before adding sequins, beads or fringe. Try to use the same material as the skirt, or if your skirt is chiffon, use a slightly heavier material. To cover, cut a piece of material about an inch larger than the cup size. Pin onto bra cup, folding the extra inch of material over the cup edge and sew into place. If the material you are using is not stretch, you will have to create a dart for a smooth look. A dart is just a slight fold or crease where the material overlaps. Cover the bra sides and straps using this technique. No darts will be necessary on the sides and straps. Attach straps to the bra after all pieces are covered.

When sewing sequins, beads and other appliques onto the bra cup, try to keep the shape of the cup by creating a fist with your hand. Donít force the needle through the cup, be gentle and patient. Donít sew the thread too tight or you will decrease the size of the bra cup and alter the shape of the bra.

Belts can be any shape and size. The back should be at least 1 ľ times larger than the front as there is more to cover. You want a nice smooth line that covers everything, not something that sticks up and is distracting for those watching you dance. Use newspaper or pattern paper to create your belt pattern. Measure the area around your hips where you want the belt to rest. Make the belt about an inch wider at both ends so it can be altered should you gain any weight. Cut out your trial pattern and pin it around your hips. Add darts at the sides and back to create a good fit. The curvier you are the more curve will be in the pattern. Once you are happy with the shape, make a good copy of the pattern. Fold the front and back sections in half to ensure that the pattern is symmetrical. Use this pattern to cut the actual material. Save the pattern to reuse for future costumes.

Belts should be made out of heavy material to support any beads, fringe, sequins or jewels that will be added. I normally use buckram or heavy interfacing as support and cover it with the same material I use for the bra. Cut 2 pieces of buckram the size of your belt pattern. For comfort you can add an extra piece of soft, yet sturdy material like jean material between the pieces of buckram. Cut the fabric you are covering the belt with an inch larger. Place the belt fabric over the buckram, fold over the extra inch and sew all around for a neat finish. Sew belt or eye hooks where you would like the belt to attach, whether itís at the side, back or front. Again, use two hooks for extra support in case one hook opens while dancing.

Line both the bra and belt with felt or cotton to protect them from your bodyís perspiration. Replace when the material gets soiled. This, of course, is done once you have sewn on all appliques and fringe.

Use my design tips from the winter issue with whatever makes you excited, to cover your bra and belt. Try to use a similar design on your wristbands and headpiece to create a connection with your whole costume. In no time you will have a magnificent, self-made costume of your very own to be proud of. Donít forget to send Mid-Bits a picture. Weíd love to showcase your hand-made costumes in a future issue!


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