About seven or more years ago, I bought a gorgeous, ornate turquoise sari and matching skirt. I had attended a few Diwali events and thought it would be so beautiful to wear to a future such event.
Well, it seems each time from then on, the weather was either too cold or too rainy to attend the “Festival of Lights.” So after missing several Diwalis, the sari and matching skirt ended up in a box under my bed.
Somehow from my Greek/Mediterranean heritage I discovered a love for belly dancing while I was in my forties. I taught myself how from tutorial videos and only belly danced for myself and my parents, who loved my dancing. I made a goal to go to Renaissance fairs so I could watch the belly dancers perform.
Since my forties I’ve put on some weight and gotten a bit older. I am 67 plus now. But I love that dance! So I decided to learn formally from a local performer and instructor, named JiJi Maribi. I learned several routines which I thought were pretty and challenging.
One day my belly dancing instructor asked if I would like to perform in front of an audience. Nervously I agreed. I knew I needed a costume and knew exactly what I wanted to do. I just had to figure out how to do it.
I knew the turquoise sari would make a beautiful belly dancing costume. Here is the sari and skirt before I cut it up.
In my twenties and thirties I used to sew various projects on my sewing machine. But as I grew older I sewed by hand because most sewing was for repairs. The last time I sewed something major was years ago. Since hand stitching was what I knew best, I hand sewed the bra parts together.
I knew I was going to need some advice. So I joined a group named “Sparkly Belly” administered by Mao Murakami, on Facebook. This is a wonderful site for other seamstresses or tailors(?) with the same intention but with experiences ranging from new seamstresses like me to professional belly dancers. Everyone was so supportive and gave great advice. She also has videos on YouTube under “Sparkly Belly.”
After watching the videos on YouTube by Mao Murakami, I learned how to measure myself, and how to measure for each of the parts of the bra. First I cut the ornate ends off of the long sari to use to cover the bra parts.
I bought two cheap bras of slightly different sizes. I cut the first bra in pieces to enable me to prepare the pieces with varying thicknesses of iron on or sew on interfacing. The thicker the interfacing the more support would be provided by that bra part.
First I chose the widest material with the wavy lines. I ironed a narrow strip of medium interfacing down the middle of each strap and then folded the edges over, sewed them in place then sewed a firmer interfacing on and then sewed some brogan ribbon over the interfacing so it would be soft against my skin. The interfacing gave the material strength and body.
I had measured the center piece between the cups and the side straps and covered them with interfacing and then the sari material. Then I covered the outer surface of the bra with the material.
It took time to make the patterns fit the same on each cup, each side piece and even to some degree the straps. Then I sewed the middle piece between the two cups.
Before I sewed the straps to the bra, I pinned the bra in place to see what the Facebook group thought. Several in the group thought a larger bra would be better. So I removed the sari material from the cups and tried to cover the larger bra cups with the material from the smaller bra.
But when I did that, the turquoise material didn’t completely cover the larger bra cup.
So I got creative after studying other belly dancing costumes on the internet. I covered the cups of the larger bra with cloth from a silver scarf. Then the smaller pieces could fit in the same position they were in before on the smaller cups!
Then I had to cut a larger centerpiece to fit with the larger cups. After all was covered with sari material and sewn together I sewed the straps onto the bra. The bra fit better but still needed some work on it. But with a date for a performance looming ahead of me, I had to do the finishing touches and go with the fit I had.
I found a silver net shawl with fringe. So I cut wide strips from the ends of each shawl and used them to cover the cups and placed the fringe so it hung from the bottom edge of the bra.
I didn’t have a belt to add so I used a simple white shawl with fringe around my hips. The instructor thought a long blond wig with longer, darker hair in back would look good and be fun to add to the costume, so I bought one.
It took me about four months of off and on working on the costume. I had times when I was just tired of looking at the pieces or got frustrated and had to put it aside to study or think about how to resolve problems. But I finished the whole costume. I also had a veil that matched perfectly.
I am very proud of my work and though it is not perfect, it is perfect to me as my very first created belly dancing costume. This is the finished product.