Costume care: how to handwash a bellydance costume

Heavily beaded, delicate fabric, sequins… The best way to clean a bellydance costume is by avoiding washing it at all. But once in a while, a costume really needs more than the occasional spritz with vodka to keep it fresh. This blog shows you how I handwash my bellydance costumes if the need is high.

My white costume is several years old and when I dusted it off for a recent performance in February I noticed that it was a bit dingy. I vowed to myself that I would wash it. Today I had the opportunity to put the intention into action.

My first step is gathering the costume and the accesoires and check for stains. Some stains need a bit of work before washing the costume. For example, make-up stains can be treated with a dab of make-up remover (not oil based!!!) or detergent. Determining the cause of the stain and subsequently pre-treating took me a while. There were foundation stains on the lining.

I then fill a bucket with lukewarm water and detergent for delicate fabric. It’s better to use less detergent as it might cause the dye on sequins and beads to dissolve or run. I dip one edge of an arm band ito the tub to see if strange things will happen, like dye running out, fabric dissolving or the fabric changing color. If all is well, I put the whole costume in the bucket. I keep swishing it around for a couple of minutes, watching the water turn murky and wondering if I really sweat that much during a performance. 


After a couple of minutes I get the costume out of the water and rinse thouroughly with clean, cold water. This removes the residue of detergent and the last bit of dirty water from the costume.


I lay a big, fluffy towel out on the floor and put the costume on it. Another towel goes on top and I roll the costume into a tight roll. This part always reminds me of making sushi 😄. It helps to squeeze the water out of the fabric without damaging the beading. 


After leaving the role for about fifteen minutes, I unroll the costume and put it on a fresh towel. Ideally this would be on top of a drying rack as it would allow for circulation. The floor works great too but then I need to turn it every couple of hours to aid the drying process. I never let a beaded costume dry while hanging and  never store beaded costumes hanging as the weight of the beading will pull on the fabric and change the shape of the costume.

My basic rules for letting a costume dry:

  1. Always lay flat to dry;
  2. Never in direct sunlight;
  3. In a room that is ventilated;
  4. Dry for 24 hours longer than I think it takes to get dry.

The good news is that the costume is white again and ready for the next performance. In the meantime, the weather got betrer and our garden started to bloom. I made progress on the metal mesh costume, almost 2/3 of the belt is covered. 

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