The veil is one of the most famous props in belly dance. Oscar Wilde invented Salomé’s dance of the seven veils and the image of the belly dancer gracefully performing a veil dance is legendary. The belly dance veil is not to be confused with the veil that Muslim women wear to cover their hair, body and/or face.
The use of veil during bellydance performances came into existence due to oriëntalisme in the late eighteenth century. Egyptian dancers in movies from the forties and fifties sometimes involved a veil during the entrance of the dancer. However, most Egyptian dancers discarded the veil after a couple of swishes. Samia Gamal was the exception to the rule, performing gracefully while holding a veil during a whole song.
Belly dancers in America and Europe created new moves and elaborated patterns for veils. They
discovered that the weight of the fabric and the size could make a world of different. The nice thing about veils is that everyone can use them, beginner and professional dancer alike. Create one with the pattern below and have fun practicing and dancing!
You can shape your veil anyway you like, but the most common shapes are rectangular and half circle veils. Use fabric that drapes well and is easy to handle, like chiffon, habotai silk or charmeuse.
You will need:
– suitable fabric, 2,2 – 2,6 meter or 3 – 3,5 yard
– matching thread
– measurement tape
The size of your veil depends on your length or arm span. Both are identical, so if you’re 1,65 m/ 5 foot 5 tall, this is also the span of your arms measured form the fingertips on each hand while your stretching sluiervormen your arms to the side. You need extra fabric to give you a bit of leeway while handling the veil. Add an extra arm length (from fingertip to shoulder). You will probably end up with a length somewhere between 2,2 m/3 yard and 2,6m/3,5 yards
It’s easy to use the fabric width as the width of your veil. Fabric usually comes in two widths: 1,5 m/60 inch or 0.9 m/36 inch. The latter makes your veil look narrow: I recommend using the wider fabric. Make sure you don’t trip over your veil if you’re loosely holding it in outstretched arms. Since you’ll be using the veil to create figures in the air, most of the time it will be above shoulder level.
Cut your fabric!
Once you determined the width and length of your veil, cut your fabric to the right size. Hem edges with a rolled hem: fold the raw edge inwards (app. 0.5 cm/ 1/5 inch) then fold it over once more, rolling the raw edge inside. Finish by stitching with a zigzag stitch to secure the hem. Check the manual of your machine; some sewing machines have a special foot designed for creating neat rolled hems.
Half circle veil
You will need:
- suitable fabric 3 x 1,5 meter / 120 x 60 inch
- matching thread
- piece of string
- fabric marker
- a friend to hold the other end of the string
- extra patience, roll hemming curved edges sucks
You can create a full half circle, or round the edges of a rectangular veil to make it look like a half circle veil. To create a full half circle veil, buy a piece of fabric that measures 3 by 1,5 meter/ 120 by 60 inch. Fold the fabric so you’ll end up with a square piece with equal sides. Lay it out on the floor.
Take the piece of string and tie the fabric marker to one end. Hold the other end on the top of the fabric at the fabric fold. Adjust the length of the string so you can mark the outer edge of the fabric. Draw a quarter of a circle with the marker while holding the piece of string in place to make sure it’s even. Cut the fabric and hem the edges.
If you want to make sure your veil is symmetrical, fold it in the middle and line up the edges. Then cut the fabric. In the image below I laid out a veil with rounded edges, noticed that it was not symmetrical (see the gold part on the bottom). This is an easy way to even out a veil.
Decorate the edges of your veil with sequins or sew sequins scattered over the body of your veil for extra zest. Be careful: trim along the edges makes your veil heavier and reduces the flow of the veil. Mark the straight edge of your half circle veil with a couple of sequins, so you find the right edge blindfolded. This might come in handy if you have to find your veil on a dark stage, or if you loose your grip during a performance.