How to take Measurements

Dear Daisy,

I have been asked by a friend to take her measurements for a costume she is ordering online.  Can you tell me what are the common measurements needed and how to take them correctly?

–          The Measurer


Dear Measurer,

Taking measurements can be daunting task however if you follow a few simple rules I’m sure you will manage fine.


Some websites have their own instructions for the specific measurements they require, while others give you only a basic idea of what they need.  Below is a description of some of the most common measurements you might need to take and how to take them.    Remember that most online stores want their product to fit you when it arrives so always feel free to ask questions if you are unsure how to take a measurement that’s required.  Also make sure you know if the measurements are required in inches or centimetres, most companies use inches but some work in centimetres so it is always good to double check.


When measuring you will need a flexible dressmaker’s measuring tape and a pen and paper to jot down the measurements as you go.  Make sure that all measurements are taken with the measuring tape snug but not tight, if you pull the tape tight you can get an incorrect final number.


When taking measurements get the person being measured to wear either, just the bra and underwear they would wear with the garment they are being measured for, or a very thin t-shirt and exercise pants.  Any heavy clothing or thick waistbands will create inaccurate measurements and can lead to an ill-fitting final garment.


Common Measurements for Women:


1. Over Bust:

Place your measuring tape under the arms and around the chest above the breasts, making sure the persons arms are at their sides and not raised up in the air.  Draw the measuring tape snug then make sure that the person can still breathe normally before you write down the final number.


2. Bust:

Measure around the fullest part of the breasts making sure to keep the measuring tape level  do not let the measuring tape slip higher or lower at the back than it is in the front.


3. Chest:

Place the measuring tape around the chest directly below the person’s breasts.  Again make sure that when you draw the measuring tape snug it does not restrict breathing.


4. Waist:

This measurement is taken at the natural waist which is the narrowest part of the torso and falls between the bellybutton and the lowest ribs.  Note this is not where you wear your pants and skirts, this is your actual waist. Sometimes it helps to wrap a string around the natural waist to help determine where the narrowest point is.


5. Upper Hip:

Measure the upper hip around the hip bones, just below or on where you would normally wear a low ride pant or skirt.


6. Low Hip:

This is measured around the fullest/largest part of the hips, usually 8”- 9” below the actual waist.  Make sure the measuring tape lays flat around the hips and over the bottom and does not tip up or down in the front or back.


7. Back Length:

Measure from the last vertebra in the neck to the natural waist line; remember this is not where you wear your pants.  It sometimes helps to tie a belt or piece of string around the natural waistline while measuring as this gives you a visual reminder of where the waist line really is.


8. Shoulders:

Measure across the back from shoulder to shoulder.  You want to measure about ½” in from the point of the shoulder across the back to the same spot on the opposite shoulder.


9. Arm length:

Measure from the point of the shoulder to just past the wrist bones, along the outside length of the arm.  Make sure to do this with the arm bent at the elbow or the sleeves will be too short when the person goes to bend their arm.


10. Skirt Hem Length:

This is the distance from where you will wear the skirt waist band of your new garment (this varies person to person and garment to garment and is mostly due to personal preference) to where you would like your hem to end.  This can be brushing the floor or as high above the floor as you would like.  Just remember that most skirts can be hemmed up if you decide they are too long but they cannot be let down.  I prefer to take this measurement at the centre front, on the side at the hip, and in the centre back going down over the bottom.  I find that often there can be more than a 3” difference in the skirt hem length from front to back so it is often advantageous to have all three measurements.


11. Shoulder to Floor:

Measure from the top of the shoulder down the back all the way to the floor.  Make sure the person is standing level and does not drop one shoulder while taking this measurement.


These are just some of the basic measurements that you may be required to take.  Hopefully this quick synopsis helps you to feel more comfortable taking measurements and if you have questions please ask them, most companies are very helpful if you approach them politely and are more than willing to describe how to take any additional measurements they might require.


–          Daisy

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Measurement Chart

How to Accessorize for Dance

Dear Daisy

I keep getting told to accessories more when I do solos and was wondering if you have some favourite accessory tips you could share with me.

–          Miss Plain


Dear Miss Plain,

I love accessories; they finished off a costume and give you that polished professional touch.


My number one favourite accessories are jewellery.  Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and hair clips being just a few examples of great items to add to your costume.


Let’s look at a few of them:


Necklaces and Earrings are pretty much a given for me no matter what style of costume I am wearing.  You can keep them small and simple or go for big and dramatic depending on the styling of your costume and the mood of your dance.  I personally believe that as a soloist your costume is simply not complete without at least one of the two, and usually both.


Many full Oriental or Cabaret costumes come with gauntlets, armbands or sleeves so you don’t need bracelets with these costumes.  However many tribal costumes and often bedla sets with a detached skirt do not have such accessories of their own and can be enhanced by appropriate arm jewelry.  Just remember to keep in mind what props you might be using and if you are doing veil, fan veil, or have chiffon or silk skirts don’t wear anything that could catch on the delicate fabrics.


Hair accessories can be tons of fun for a soloist.  Some costumes come with head bands which may or may not flatter your hair style; I often do not wear these as I don’t find they complement my personal style.  If you decide not to wear one or your costume does not come with any hair accessories you can choose from a vast array of alternate options.  For example, flowers, feathers, and rhinestones all come on varying size clips made for different types of hair.  And whether your hair is up, down or half way there is always something fun you can add to give that final little polish to your look.


Experiment and have some fun dressing up in different options before show day.  See what goes well with your personal style and the style of your dance.  Whatever you decide you don’t want any last min surprises on show day so make sure to wear all your accessories to the dress rehearsal, or practice with them on your own before the show, just to make sure they all stay put and don’t interfere with your dancing.

–          Daisy

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Dance Bag Essentials

Dear Daisy,

I recently decided that I am in need of a bag of essential items, to take with me when I go somewhere to perform, and was wondering if you have a list of packable “can’t live with-outs?”

–          Prepared


Dear Prepared,

Yes, absolutely, I have a handy little bag of essential items I take with me to every show.  Here is a quick run-down of what I stow in my bag when I go out to dance:


Costume Emergency items:

–          Static Guard (a must have if you use chiffon or silk)

–          Clear Nail Polish (great for stopping fraying or runs in knit fabrics)

–          Safety Pins, large and small (we all know what these are for)

–          Clear Bra Straps (backups in case one of mine ever breaks)

–          Mini sewing kit (including button thread and mini scissors)


Personal Emergency items:

–          Cover-up (a veil can work in a pinch if you don’t have an actual cover-up)

–          Hand Mirror

–          Towel

–          Foot Undies (in case of carpet or rubber flooring)

–          Makeup  (for touch ups, including eyelash glue and lipstick)

–          Bobby pins and hair spray (for those emergency hair moments)

–          Pain killer

–          Granola Bar or protein shake (for when the adrenaline starts to wear off)

–          Water Bottle (I like the refillable kind so I always have something to drink)

–          Back up copy of music (in case of technical difficulties)


I like to keep most of these items packed into a dance bag that I can grab and go, knowing I have everything I need without the stress of having to pack every time I perform.
For me performing should be as fun and stress free as possible and with a little pre-planning your show day can run smoothly allowing you to forget the little things and dance to your full potential.

–          Daisy

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Bellydance Beading Tips and Tricks

Dear Daisy,

I bead many of my own oriental and caberet costumes and I have notice that it is often easy to tell when a costume is made by a dancer rather than being bought from say Egypt or Turkey.  Can you give me some pointers on how to make my costumes look more professional and less homemade?

–          Crafty


Dear Crafty,

First off, congratulations on beading  your own costumes, it is not as simply as it looks and requires time, patience and lots of practice to get things looking just so.

A few quick tips that will help you keep your costumes looking professional:


1: Never use sequins larger than size 6mm.

You will almost never see larger sequins on imported costumes and this is often a dead giveaway that something was homemade.


2: Use different kinds and shapes of bead for different effects.

Often you will see as many as 6 or 7 different sizes and styles of beads on a professional costume regardless of the colours used.  The most commonly used of course are the #10 seed beads, but you can use larger and smaller seed, pearl, drop and bugle beads for extra effect and texture.

(And yes #10’s are really small but they are worth the time if you want that truly professional finish.)


3: Stick to Middle Eastern patterns.

Go on line or take a look at other people’s costumes that you like and take note of the patterns used.  Not just (5 beads then a sequin) type of patterns but also the finished picture.  Paisleys, swirls, and leaves are common examples of patterns used on professional costumes.  Try to use patterns you see often to get that true middle eastern feel.


4: Map out your plan ahead.

Either use buckram to make appliques or draw your pattern right onto the costume before you start.  If you lift the beads on many professional costumes you can see the drawn on pattern they have followed to bead many of the most intricate designs.


With a little practice, some inspiration from your favourite professional costumes and these basic tips I’m sure you will be able to create beautiful professional looking costumes that don’t stand out as “homemade”.

–          Daisy

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What fasteners to use on dance costumes

Dear Daisy,

I am relatively new to costuming and am wondering if you can give me any advice regarding fasteners.  What kinds work best and what to avoid, that sort of thing.

–          Sewing for self

Dear Sewing for self,

In dance costuming there are several kinds of fasteners available.  Let’s look at some of your options.

1. Hook and Eyes:

Arguably one of the most useful fasteners in the dance costume world they come in all shapes and sizes from teeny tiny to the large skirt hook and corset hook varieties.   I use these for closures on anything that is not stretchy and even some things that are stretchy.  I personally like the really large flat skirt hooks for fastening skirts, bra’s and belts and use the large open corset hooks for anything where there are too many beads and embellishments to make a flat hook practical.

2. Snaps:

I have to say that snaps are not that useful on their own.  They do not guarantee a secure hold and although they offer quick release I feel that is a dangerous trade-off for security.  The main reason I use snaps is as a secondary fastener.  I like to use them behind my hook and eyes to keep garments from shifting.  In this position they do not take load so they are safe to use and they make sure that the fabric can’t move thereby preventing the hook and eyes from coming open.  My other favourite place to use snaps is to fasten the layers of a costume together so everything stays in place.  Snaps are available in a large number of sizes, but for costuming purposes I prefer to use the 13mm, and 15mm sizes as they are large enough to offer a good solid hold.

3. Buttons:

I do not use buttons often however they can come in handy for converting bra’s to ex-backs or for bustling up skirts that you want to be able to wear both up and down.  I also use them as embellishments on fusion and tribal costuming as they come in some super funky designs.

4. Zippers:

These are great on costumes that are not stretchy or do not have enough stretch to make sliding in and out of them practical.  This often happens on costumes where the beadwork is heavy enough to interfere with the stretch or on fitted skirts made of satin or silk

5. Velcro:

Please don’t use Velcro on your costumes.  Anything made of chiffon, spandex, lycra or silk will catch and shred itself on the hook side of the Velcro.  Even if the costume you use it on doesn’t have any of these fabrics one day you will pack the costume in with your veil and get to a show with a major mess.

6. Laces:

Lace up costumes can be very pretty and effective.  Grommets and the smaller one sided version Eyelets make nice solid holes for lace up costumes.  Just remember to factor in change time as it is often a lengthy process to get in and out of a lace up costume.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions on what options are available.  So, happy sewing and I can’t wait to see lots of new costumes on stage soon.

– Daisy

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Flattering the short curvy figure

Dear Daisy,

I am very short with luxurious curves and am having trouble finding costumes that really flatter my figure.  Do you have any suggestions that might help me look my best?

–          Ms. Curvy

Dear Ms. Curvy,

Do not despair; there are lots of costumes that look good on your figure.  The trick is to remember a few very simple rules.

#1:  Avoid heavy fringe, it is not your friend.

I’m not saying “No Fringe” just keep it moderate.  Super heavy or long fringe will accent your curves and minimize the length of your torso making you look shorter and wider.  If you have a short torso as many curvy women do, then long heavy fringe is the fastest way to a costume disaster.

#2:  Always keep it simple.

You have the curves already you don’t need to overdo it to make yourself look luscious.  Those of us whom nature shorted need the help but you can keep it simple with nice clean lines to show off what you’ve already got.

#3: Long lines are the key to giving you that added illusion of height.

Dresses, and slim or no sleeves are a great way to keep lines long.  Don’t think this means you have to go tight, just keep skirts a single length, preferably to the floor and don’t forget that full length costumes always help to give someone height as they do not cut you across the middle the way a bra and belt do.

So happy costume shopping, and if you keep these rules in mind I’m sure you will find plenty of costumes that make you look your best.

–          Daisy

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Colours in Dance

With recital season really ramping up and so many costumes on the go I got to thinking about what makes us choose certain colours over others for our costumes.

Why do we gravitate towards one colour and reject another out of hand?  So I did some hunting and found some interesting incites into colour and the emotional impact it has on people.



Best Colours for Dance

Dear Daisy,

Can you give me some pointers on choosing the best colour to wear for an event?  Should I just wear colours that look good on me?   Or is there a better way to choose colours for a performance?

–          Ms. Colourful


Dear Ms. Colourful,

Choosing the best colour costume to wear can be a challenge.  There are a few things you need to take into consideration.  Let’s look at some of them and how they can affect your final choice of colours.

Where are you dancing and what kind of lighting will you have?

Is it indoors, outdoors, an intimate party, a restaurant, on a big stage?  Will it be bright sunshine, dim mood lighting, full spotlights?

Knowing where you are dancing can give you some ideas on what colours will look best.  Often light and pastel shades look better outside in the sun than inside under harsh florescent lights, where darker more dramatic colours look better under the bright lights of a full stage.  Bright colours look good almost anywhere but if the lighting will be very poor you might want to consider something both bright and shiny that will reflect extra light and help people to see you dance.

What style of dance are you doing and do you have a strong point you’d like to accent or a weakness you’d like to minimize?

Lots of styles of dance have traditional colours attached to them however many styles leave the choice of colour up to the individual dancer.   If you are looking at accenting or minimizing something a good rule to follow is this:  “If you do not want someone to see something dress it in black.”  Unless you have a coloured backdrop or very good lighting chances are your audience will have trouble seeing and following anything in black.  This applies as well to your body as it does to gloved hands or black shoes.  The reverse is true if you want something to stand out.  Make it bright and colourful, so either leave your skin bare (under stage lights this will look white) or choose a bright colour that will stand out against whatever backdrop you are dancing in front of.

Although dark and rich colours suggest drama, and light, bright, or pastel colours suggest happiness and joy you do not have to use black to make a statement.  Rich purple, royal blue, or blood red can work just as well to set a dramatic mood and often show up better both on and off stage.  This is not to say do not wear black, as long as you remember that it is hard to see it can make a good backdrop for embellishments or can help to minimize something you would like people not to notice.

So think about where you will dance and what look you are hoping to offer your audience and I am sure you will come up with some new exciting combinations that your audience will enjoy.

–          Daisy

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