When it comes to bellydance costumes, there’s always a trade-off between how comfortable a costume is, versus how well it holds up to the stress of vigorous dancing. For costumes that are heavy with sequins and beaded fringe, I add straps made of non-stretch fabric like buckram or unbleached cotton. These traps, covered in fabric that matches the costume and most of the time fully beaded, can stand the test of time.
But I’ve also learned to appreciate the comfort of elastic side straps on bellydance bras. This type of side strap became in vogue when minimal beading became the fashion and designers in Egypt replaced the sturdy, non stretch side straps with elastic. It has several upsides:
- The costume is more forgiving to weight changes, and the dancer doesn’t have to move the hook and eyes depending on what time of the month it is;
- Elastic side straps are very comfortable and easy to put on because it hugs your body;
- Elastic side straps are very secure because the stress on the hook and eye closure is minimal, offering dancers the security of not worrying about a bra closure popping during a performance.
The downside of elastic is that it degrades relative fast compared to non stretch fabric. The elastic fiber becomes brittle and stretched out over time, needing replacement after a couple of years.
What do you need?
Bra cups, ready for adding straps (If you want to decorate the bra cups, do this before adding the straps)
2cm/ 4/5″ wide elastic (it’s often called ‘waistband elastic’)
Costume fabric to cover the straps
Covering the straps
The first step is to create a tube of fabric to cover the elastic. I prefer using 4 way stretch fabric, but this also works for 2 way stretch or no stretch fabric. Keep in mind that the tube of fabric should accommodate the maximum stretch of the strap! Take your elastic and stretch it to the maximum. This is the length of your fabric tube. Make sure you cut the fabric wide enough to allow for seam allowances. For these straps, I cut a strip of fabric that was about 7 cm/3″ wide. Fold it over and stitch along the side. Remember to use the correct stitch for your type of fabric on your machine.
In order to turn the fabric tube inside out, attach a large safety pin to the end by pinning it through just one layer of fabric at the end of the tube. Push the safety pin to the inside and through the tube, causing the tube to turn itself inside out.
You’ll end up with neat fabric tube, ready for the next step: inserting the elastic!
Remove the safety pin you just used from the tube of fabric, instead attaching it to the end of your elastic. Push the safety pin through the tube, effectively threading the elastic through the tube.
You’ll see that the fabric will fold and bunch a bit. Don’t worry about it, just keep on threading. Once you reach the end, pin the fabric to the end of the elastic and pull the rest of the fabric tube down to the other end of the elastic. Make sure the seam of the fabric tube is neatly on what will be the inside of your strap, and stitch through both ends to make sure the elastic stays in place.
At this point, I’ll start cutting the longer strap into shorter pieces to create the desired shape of the side strap. Make sure the fabric tube is evenly distributed over the elastic. Mark where you want to cut with a pin and make sure to make a secure straight stitch slightly left and right of your mark. Once you’re done with the straight stitch, cut in-between.
How to cut your straps
My first step is to cut the strap in two: one half is for the left, the other for the right. My second step is to cut each side strap at roughly 1/3. The biggest part will hug around the ribcage, the smaller part will be used to pull the bra cup closer to the body from the side.
Lay the pieces out on the floor and use pins to find the best angle for attaching the smaller strap to the ribcage strap. Lay them next to your bra cups and use that as a guide for the final angle. Stitch the side pieces into place, all the time making sure that the seam in the fabric tube is facing upwards. The seam will be towards your body when you’re wearing the bra.
Attaching the straps to the bra
You’re almost there! Pin the straps to the side of the bra, making sure that the seam is facing towards you. Stitch the straps in place, using hand stitching or machine stitching. In this case, I beaded the bra so I had to use hand stitches.
Congratulations, you’ve just made elastic side straps for your bellydance bra! Have a bit of chocolate to celebrate 🙂 I’m going to leave you at this point as this post is long enough as it is. If you want to know how to cover non-stretch shoulder straps for your bra, check out this post. Examples of finished costumes are the Tropical Pink costume and the Minty Fresh costume.
I am a professional bellydancer and costume-a-holic living in the Netherlands. I enjoy blogging and am expecting my first baby in November 2015. If you enjoyed this post and like to kept in the loop, please like Kyria Bellydance on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Leave your questions or comments in the box below, or let me know through Facebook and I might write a blog post to answer your costuming question.
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