Green velvet costume part I: The beginning

I recently have time to work on personal projects, and one of those projects is costuming. One of the other projects is trying to reduce the amount of clutter in the house, so instead of starting on a new costume project, I decided to dig deep into the fabric vault and finally get some unfinished stuff done.

For the green velvet costume, we have to go back in time to about 10 years ago. Look through the window of my tiny student room and you’ll see me, practicing with the only bellydance dvd I could find at the time: Veena & Neena’s. In the performance and on the front of the dvd, the twins proudly stood there, wearing a velvet bra and belt set decorated with gold beading. I later learned that the costumes were made by the Cairo designer Madame Abla. It was similar to these costumes:

That image burned itself into my brain: this was what pro dancers looked like!

Another jump in time, now to the year 2006. That was the year I decided I wanted to be a professional dancer. I was still living in a student room, albeit a slightly larger one then the one before. I made a couple of costumes before, but wanted to try something new. The image of the velvet bedlah (Egyptian Arabic term for a bra and belt set) was still haunting me in the back of my head. At the local fabric market I found green stretch velvet, the perfect base for my costume. On a local hafla I’d seen my teacher wear a lycra costume and some online searching helped me find more images of costumes without a belt, but with a beaded skirt instead. Remember that Dutch dancers at te time were not wearing the newest costumes from Cairo. To be honest, very few are wearing the latest fashion now, though the numbers are growing. I had never seen a lycra costume up close, or how the beading was done from the inside. Embarking on the quest to making a costume from stretch velvet was a real challenge!

In the summer of 2006, I made a mermaid skirt from the fabric and marked the beading pattern with white thread. I made the waist sightly assymetrical, but ran into trouble when I wanted to add the zipper and/or elastic to the top. Should I made a casing? It was not the best option for an assymetrical waistline. Should I sew elastic onto the velvet? But I didn’t know how. The skirt ended up in my unfinished projects pile and I moved on to other endeavors. While I soon afterwards mastered sewing elastic into lycra skirts, I also discovered the joy of online purchases and lurking on the Bhuz swapmeet. In the meantime, the skirt was sitting there, alone but not forgotten.

Back to 2011, a new year and a fresh start. In the past five years I’ve become a professional dancer (yay!), finished a Master’s degree and worked full-time in a completely unrelated day job. It’s time to get the old ghosts out of the closet. I started digging in my unfinished business and found this skirt. I have a strong emotional attachment to this project, because it reminds me of who I was not so long ago. Throwing away was not an option, I had to finish it.

Honestly, I don’t know how often I will wear this costume once it’s finished. And truthfully, my taste in costumes has changed since then, so this costume is not typically me either. I’d classify this costume as an intermediate costume, not a pro costume, looking at today’s market. Despite all that, it’s still a fun project to work on and one I want to finish.

In the first week of january, I finished the skirt an started the beading on the back. In the second week I did the front beading and added clusters of fringe. The skirt before (but finally with zipper and elastic):

With beading, but no fringe yet. The back:

And an action shot to show the shape of the skirt when moving:

I’m happy that I’ve finished the skirt. Next I’ll focus on making the bra and gloves.

Episodes of series watched during beading: Legend of the Seeker, X-men: Evolution
And in addition: 2 hours of learning Egyptian Arabic (Pimsleurs set)


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