Dear Daisy,

I am narrow shouldered, not well endowed, with lots of hip happening.   This causes me some problems when costume shopping, as many costumes are not flattering and simply accentuate my imbalances.  Do you have any suggestions on costume styles that would flatter my unique figure?

–          Ms. Unbalanced

Dear Ms. Unbalanced,

When looking at costumes there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Anything with sleeves especially flowing, puff or cape sleeves that are big right from the shoulder will be more flattering on you than just a Bra.  Even an open front or Turkish vest will help give you more up top especially if worn with drape sleeves or arm bands.
  2. Consider getting a bra or top that has some fringe or movement, or consider purchase a bra that is one cup size up from your normal size and have it professionally stuffed to fit you.  This will add a little more curves to the top of your costume and help draw the eye upwards.
  3. Try wearing larger than normal necklaces and earrings, as this can also help to balance the overall effect of your costume by drawing the eye up.
  4. When looking for skirts, try to get something with long lines and hem embroidery.   Go for a snugger fit at the hips and looser lower down staying away from big Gyspy skirts or anything with a lot of bulk or fringe at the hip as these will add width.
  5. When wearing a bedla try to match your belt and skirt colours or choose a skirt and sleeve colour lighter than your belt as this will help eliminated the horizontal belt-line effect that draws the eye to your hips.
  6. If you are going for a baladi dress get one with big sleeves and a straight skirt.  Consider something in a natural colour, maybe with vertical stripes to slim your hips.  Then go super bright with lots of fringe and glitz on your Bra.

There are lots of costume options out there for women with this figure type just remember to accent the top and minimize the bottom and you will get that overall balanced effect that is so pleasing on stage.

–          Daisy

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Dear Daisy,

I am wondering if you have any suggestions for cleaning my belly dance costumes.  I am always afraid of damaging them and would love some advice on a safe way of keeping them fresh.

–          Curious

Dear Curious,

Cleaning costumes depends on the type of costume and what material went into the construction.  Most non-beaded skirts, pants, and tops can be hand washed separately in cold water and then hung or laid flat to dry.  Always check first for colour fastness if your costume may have come from overseas (especially Egypt or India) as many foreign dyes are not colour fast and will run.

If your costume has bead work and sequins you may still be able to hand wash it by placing it in cold water and gently swooshing it back and forth.  Always test a small hidden spot for colour fastness first though.  When hand washing, use only very gentle liquid soap as powders can be hard to rinse out and can leave white residue.  When you have finished washing your costume do not wring it out simply take it straight out of the water, lay it on or wrap it in a towel and gently squeeze out the extra water then hang it or lay it flat to finish drying.  If you lay it flat remember to turn it over to make sure each side gets a chance to dry properly.  If the costume is stretchy or very heavily beaded do not hang it as it can stretch while the fibres are weak from being wet.

I don’t recommend dry-cleaning costumes with plastic beads, sequins, rhinestones or specialty fabrics.  They can melt with the dry-cleaning chemicals making a horrible mess of your costume.

If you do not want to risk washing or your costume is not colour fast you can either purchase a sport style, bacteria killing, fabric de-odorizer or mix 1 part alcohol to 1 part water in a spray bottle.  Very lightly mist the inside (only the inside) of your costume making sure not to get any spray on the sequins or beads.

Another option is to lay your costume inside out in the full sun for a few hours; often this will be enough to freshen things up.

To help maintain your costumes freshness, never pack them in plastic.  Always make sure to air them out after every use and then pack them in a breathable container or garment bag.  If there is any moisture in your costume you can find yourself with a bad case of mildew next time you go to wear it so make sure it is completely dry every time you put it away.

-Daisy

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Dear Daisy,

My bra fastens with hook and eyes and every now and then I am afraid these fastenings let go and leave me in a bit of an embarrassing situation.  Do you have any suggestions for helping make sure that the closures on my bra cannot come un-done?

–          Inadvertently Undressed

Dear Inadvertently Undressed,

There is a very simple solution to this unfortunate situation.   The most common reason for hook and eyes to let go when dancing is that in twisting and turning your body becomes smaller than it was when you hooked your bra up letting the hook and eyes push apart.  To prevent this from happening you will need to place a large snap behind the hook and eye fastening on the inside of your bra band where the two layers overlap.  This snap (use a big one, say 1/4 -1/2”) will stop your bra strap from moving in and out with the movement of your chest making sure that the hook and eyes stay firmly where they were intended to be.  This also works very well on belts or skirts that fasten with hook and eyes and do not like to stay done up.

–          Daisy

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Dear Daisy

I have several nice costumes but somehow I am never completely satisfied by the results I see on show night.  So I am looking for suggestions on how to give my performance costumes a more professional air.

–          Stageward Bound

Dear Stageward Bound

The simplest way to add professionalism to any outfit on stage night is to accessorise.  Must haves are a Necklace and Earrings but also worth considering are hair accessories like flowers, headbands or scarves.  And in some cases even bracelets, anklets, rings, or feathers can make great additions to your overall costume.  Other things to consider when planning a costume are nail polish, both toes and fingers (even clear can add that little extra finish to your costume.)  Appropriate makeup and false eyelashes can also make a difference.  If you are not sure how to apply proper stage make up consider having a lesson with a professional makeup company.  Also important is to remember to tailor your costume, jewellery, and accessories to the style of dance you are performing and your choice of music.  If you’re not sure what’s appropriate do some research, look at other performers and professionals, or ask your teacher for advice.  An appropriate style of costume, that fits your theme and music, can make a nice performance into an amazing performance.  Whatever style you chose, remember to view your costume as a whole.  A costume is not just a top and skirt; it is everything from whether your hair is up to the colour of the nail polish on your toes.  So be creative, look at the bigger picture and know that with a little hard work you can walk onstage looking your very best.

–          Daisy

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Here is a recent interview featuring Daisy of Turquoise Pearl speaking about Sacred Centre Dance Company of Victoria’s recent production of Emerald Oasis.

How was Emerald Oasis different than previous costume work you’ve done?

Daisy: Emerald Oasis was different from most of my previous work in several ways, the biggest being that I was not only designing and making the costumes, but I was also dancing in them.  Usually I design and sew costumes for troupes and never have a chance to wear them myself.  Having the opportunity to dance in a design or even in the prototype simplified my job and helped me to understand how the costumes would look and feel during the actual show without having to rely on another person’s description.

Another big difference about Emerald Oasis was that I was given a much longer lead time for designing the costumes than normal.  Often directors do not give enough thought to the costumes until late in the production process.  Nath brought me on board over 5 months before our show date which gave me plenty of time to work with him and the rest of the dancers to iron out all the quirks well before show time.

What were some of the technical challenges?

Daisy: Probably the largest technical difficulty we ran into with the costuming for Emerald Oasis was the sequins.  Nath did all of the beading and sequin work for this show himself and unfortunately the company we originally ordered the sequins through shorted us on the order and then informed us later that the colour we had ordered had been discontinued.  We were able to get a different colour of sequin in the same size, but unfortunately Nath had already finished two of the skirts and was forced to undo all the bead work on those skirts and re-do it with the new colour of sequins.   Because we had started so early this did not end up being a large problem: it was more a disappointment for him due to the work he had already put in going to waste.

Describe the process in designing the look for the show.

Daisy: Nath already had a very good idea of the overall look of the show before I was brought on board.  He already had colours in mind and the basic effect he hoped to create with the costumes for each stage of the show.  Because of this we were able to sit down and basically sketch out all three of the main costumes for Emerald Oasis at once.  Then I did up full sketches and basic prototypes.  Because Nath already had an idea of colour, choosing fabrics was fairly simple.  I showed him samples of things I thought would be suitable and he chose the ones that fitted his vision for the show the best.

I think that the fusion aspect of the show really comes through in the costumes.  And we were able to use colours and fabrics that helped depict the Asian influence throughout the show.

From the original sketches and designs we only changed one thing and that was the drapes on the copper gowns. Nath’s original vision was to pair the copper with red however when we were draping colours we accidently paired up the copper with the shimmering green and that was it.  We just knew that was the colour that had to be in the show.

I feel that when a show starts to lend its own aesthetic to a designers work you truly have something to be proud of, and that definitely happened for me with Emerald Oasis.

What would you have done differently in hindsight?

Daisy: I would have ordered more fabric than I thought I needed.  Not because we ran out for the show, but because so many people loved the fabric that I ended up needing to order more to make other things.

Getting to wear the costumes on stage there are a few minor points I would change, but on the whole I’m pretty happy with the way this show went.  It was very smooth beginning to end.

Emerald Oasis turned out to be a completely sold out show! What do you think contributed to this?

Daisy: Tons and tons of hard work and planning.  Nath started promotion of this performance quite early and because I was able to start the costumes so early as well we were able to preview numbers from the show in costume at other events throughout the summer.   I think that this gave people an idea of what the show would be like and once they got a taste they didn’t want to miss it.

So, what’s next?

Daisy:  Nath and I are already in the planning stages for his next production called Raqstar.  This will be a very different show in both the costuming and the dancing from Emerald Oasis.  Raqstar is all about the soft feminine lines, flowing skirts and silver sparkle.   We already know that this show is going to need lots of chiffon, rhinestones and sequins and I’m very excited to see where these elements take us.  No matter what, it is going to be challenging, beautiful, and tons of fun.

For more information and pictures please visit www.TurquoisePearl.ca or www.SacredCentreDance.com

-Sahda Magazine

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Dear Daisy,

I am looking at purchasing a new Bedla and am wondering if you have any advice on finding the perfect fit?

–          Costume Shopper

Dear Costume Shopper,

The number one most important thing when buying a bedla is cup size.  Everything else on the bra can be altered to fit you with relative ease, cup size is much harder and much more expensive to adjust.  When ordering something online remember it is easier to make something smaller than to make it bigger.  If the cup size is a little roomy it is easy to add a little padding and voila, instant fit.  To make a cup larger is often extremely expensive and never gives the same perfect lines as an unaltered original.  The belt is also much simpler to make smaller.  Often there is lots of room to overlap the sides without losing the basic shape of the belt while adding extensions can be very expensive or impossible depending on the belt style.

Remember that many tailors do not understand the fit of this specialized garment, so If you need alterations once you have your new costume, make sure to take it to a professional who understands how belly dance costumes are supposed to fit.   After all your comfort and security on stage are the most important thing.

–          Daisy

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Dear Daisy,

I have lots of lovely new practice clothes for the new dance season.  They always look so great for a few months however then the elasticity starts to go and they get pilled and old looking.  Do you have any suggestions to keep them looking new a little longer.

–          Fashionable for now

Dear Fashionable for now,

The most common cause for the loss of elasticity in both spandex and lycra practice wear is putting them in the dryer.  You should always wash your practice wear separate from your normal laundry as many stretch fabrics especially nylon mixes will pill if washed with cotton.  Also many stretch fabrics can only be washed in cold water on gentle.  Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for laundering practice wear; however, you should never machine dry stretch fabric even if the tag says it is safe to do so.  Machine drying can substantially shorten the life span of the elasticised fibres.

–          Daisy

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Dear Daisy,

I have a very nice costume set from Egypt, however it is older and some of the beads are starting to come undone.  Do you have a suggestion on thread to use for repairs?  I have used regular thread in the past and had unfortunate results so am looking for a tougher alternative.

–          Miss Beadless

Dear Miss Beadless,

There are many kinds of thread out there made especially for beading; however, I use synthetic, unbreakable, outdoor, upholstery thread.  It is strong enough to withstand the most energetic dance moves and will not breakdown with sweat the way that cotton thread or some non-outdoor upholstery threads will.  Also it is readily available at all fabric stores and sail shops, and comes in a myriad of colours perfect for all your costuming needs.

–          Daisy

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