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Veils

Part of the belly dance costume that is often overlooked is the veil. Even if you aren't accomplished with the veil, you should have one as part of your costume. Walking on stage with the veil raised and flowing behind you or wrapped around your body, slowly unwinding it to reveal your costume is all you need to set the atmosphere. The most common type of veil is rectangular, but there are also semi-circular and 2/3 circular veils.

The standard length for a rectangular veil is 2 - 3 yards of material. The width of the material is usually 45 inches. Taller dancers can use 60 inches and shorter dancers 36 - 40 inches. The best way to gauge how much material you will need is to measure from one ankle up your body, around your shoulders, down to the other ankle while standing upright. If you have already bought material, just drape it over your shoulders, let it hang down to your ankles and measure using the front edges.

Material should be light and flowing. Make sure the material is not too light or too heavy. The best method for determining flow is to unravel the material from the bolt and flick it in the air. If it bunches together, it's too light. If it falls, not floats, down it's too heavy. You want to look for airy, rippling movements. Rayon / polyester chiffon blends, georgette and China silk are good. Some silks are too light and difficult to work with, so beginners may want to avoid it.

Making the rectangular veil is easy. Once you have decided on your desired length, cut the veil about an inch or two longer. Hem the raw edges by folding over twice and sewing with a straight or rolled stitch. This can be done by hand easily. Fold each end in the same direction, so you have a good and not-so-good side. That's it!


Semi-circular and 2/3 circular veils are shaped like a circle skirt. These veils are usually made of heavier material and silk or chiffon is not recommended. Circular veils are used for specific dance moves and styles that would not use a rectangular veil. Good materials for circular veils are lame, chameuse, liquid foils and georgette. Satin, brocade, linen, etc. are too heavy to use.

Semi-circular veils on average have a width of 54 inches, but according to your height you may want to make it smaller. The safest width of material to buy is 60 inches and you will require 3 yards. Fold the material in half with the selvages on top and bottom. Measure 54 inches from the corner fold down along the folded edge and all the way around to the top selvage edge forming a circular shape. Cut along this curve and open the material. You will have a semi-circular shape of material with the selvage edge straight across. The raw, circular edge will have to be hemmed using a straight or rolled stitch. If you can't find 60 inch wide material, depending on the width of your material you will have to buy 2 - 3 more yards of material. Measure 54 inches across twice (108 inches) and cut the material here. Fold this piece in half as above. Fold the remainder of the material in half and place at the bottom of your original piece to add width. Measure as stated above and cut out. You will have to sew the two pieces of material together first, then sew the raw edges of the circular veil. Alternately, you can sew the material together first to widen the width before measuring and cutting out. You don't need to hem the selvage, as it is already sturdy and won't unravel.

A 2/3 circular veil is made using the same pattern as a 3-panel skirt, except only 2 panels are used and no waistband is made. It's very similar to the above method, except two measurements are used. Usually a 7-inch measurement is used to cut out the corner or waist curve and the width of the veil is 52 inches (again it varies according to size). That is, once the material is folded in half, 7 inches are measured from the corner to fold and around to the selvage edge, then 59 inches are measured along the same area creating a width of 52 inches. The 7 inch and 59 inch circular lines are cut. This is your first panel. Cut out a second panel and sew the edges of the two panels together, at one end only, to form the middle of the veil. The top and bottom edges will be raw and require hemming, but the ends will consist of the selvage and require no hemming. If using 60 inch wide material, 6 yards will be required.

For both circular veils I suggest taping newspaper together to create a pattern that can be re-used. The pattern can be measured ahead of time to ensure you buy enough material.

Circular veils require trim to give them added weight and movement. Use heavier trim along the curved edges and lighter trim along the straight edge Rectangular veils can be adorned or not. I would avoid adding trim to silk veils as the trim can tear the material. Trim can be sequins, beads, corded, etc. Be careful using sequin trims as the sequins can get caught in your hair or catch on material and tear it. For a professional look, add trim to both sides of the veil. Silk veils can easily be dyed to whatever colour you want, but they will shrink a bit in the process so buy extra material.

 

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